Original Articles

Ziaists are terrorizing the democratic space – by Junaid Qaiser


Due to General Zia Ul Haq’s long dictatorship — it was undoubtedly, the darkest period in the history of Pakistan’s polity — Pakistan has become the land of turbulence and crisis. Today, we are facing insurmountable problems like terrorism, democratic crises and political instability. It’s really sad fact that General Zia’s followers political [PML-N] and non-political [banned extremist organizations] are continuously terrorizing the democratic space in the country.

On the one hand Political followers are issuing deadlines to democratically elected Pakistan Peoples Party led government and on the other hand non-political followers are bombing mosques, churches and shrines, killing innocent people.

It is a logical fallacy to believe that things have changed since Zia, as his thinking and mindset dominate and prevail in the media, religious/conservative political parties and judicial system. It is true that we have seen some opening up of society, but with this has come also a hardening of lines.

The Ziaist style of PML-N politics plus undemocratic approach and conservative mindset of it’s chief boss continuously threatening democratic process. He is still resisting the removal of General Zia’s doctrine and spirit from the political landscape. Democratic forces are criticizing the PML-N (and especially its chief boss) over its sudden change in stance and recent statements against civilian government.

Nawaz Sharif once again exposed his desire to derail the democratic reform in Pakistan; previously he used to use Army to get to the power now totally relaying on judiciary, he is really trying hard to get “premiership” through undemocratic means. PPP’s Central Information Secretary MNA Fauzia Wahab has rightly raised this important point that “Why Nawaz Sharif always needs someone’s shoulder; like (this time) of lawyers or judges to do politics? Why he does not trust himself? “Mr Sharif must not forget that at the end of the day he too will get nothing. Has he forgotten and learnt nothing from Oct 12, 1999 coup as he is indirectly inviting the army,” MNA Fauzia Wahab said while talking to media.

General Zia’s legacy is haunting Pakistan and that is why the country has not been able to get out of the quagmire he left behind in the shape of undemocratic mindset, sectarianism, extremism, establishment friendly judiciary and right wing media- even though more than two decades have passed since he died

General Zia’s legacy and PML-N’s undemocratic approach

General Zia Ul haq and General Pervaiz Musharif used Islam as a shield for protecting their rule. General Zia Ul Haq after taking over the charge as chief executive of civil as well as military organs, founded a factory of ordinance and acts on the wishes and will of Muslim clerics. The Majlis e Shoora(Parliament) consisting of hand picked un elected people rather unworthy of being elected, started stamping the ordinances of Zia Ul Haq as laws and also gave great leeway for Zia Ul Haq to corrupt the constitution of Pakistan, the scared document of the Pakistani nation. Consequently, many corruptions in the name of Islamization were made in the constitution as well as in the name criminal law of the country.

During General Zia’s regime, the true spirit of 1973 Constitution was badly undermined; lots of undemocratic amendments were made to perpetuate the autocratic regimes, Article 58-2b has been used as a political weapon to destabilise democratically elected governments. Unfortunatly, establishment’s intervention has not allowed nurturing the democratic process in Pakistan.

Once Mian Nawaz Sharif’s political father stated that:

“What is the Constitution? It is a booklet with 10 or 12 pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today, the people follow wherever I lead. All the politicians, including the once-mighty Mr. (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto, will follow me with their tails wagging. But is that good for the country? No, I have no political ambition personally”
(Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, quoted in Working with Zia by General (retd) K.M. Arif).

Nawaz Sharif extended Zia’s program of Islamization. In 1991 the government passed the Shariat Law the required the laws of Pakistan to be consistent with the holly Qurran and Islamic precepts. There were more fundamentalist parties which were members of his coalition (IJI) that demanded such measures.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has, throughout his political career, by and large shown little respect for constitution, parliament and democratic norms and traditions. Because of these ‘virtues’ (lack of respect towards constitution, parliament and democracy), the nation always regarded him as a true heir of General Zia-ul-Haq.

He has once again proved through his latest statements, actions and activities designed by the establishment that the traditional perception about him is right and he is a real heir of General Ziaul Haq. He is playing havoc with the nation and country by portraying non-issues as issues. He is not doing issue oriented politics, just mudslinging against PPP-and now it’s obvious that Punjab based PML-N’s gang leader is a biggest threat to democracy and federation, as he is not ready to accommodat and accept democratic realities. It is a historic fact that most arrogant politician [Mian Nawaz Sharif] in Pakistani political history had not only served as Ziaul Haq’s man in the past but also attacked the Supreme Court.

The power hungry Nawaz Sharif is just focusing on mid term polls or early elections. during recent “secret dates” Powerful lobbies ensured PMLN leadership that despite losing support in masses, PML-N will win Punjab and it’s rule will continue in big province. Powerful lobbies recently helped PMLN to win by polls. So there fore Mian Nawaz Sharif is not showing any interest, seriousness and responsibility in present political system, parliament and its proceedings.

PMLN even betrayed its voters, during election campaign PMLN promised that after winning election, it will work for the supremacy of parliament and strengthened federation but now PMLN is once again standing with establishment, as it is only talking about independence of judiciary and forget parliament’s supremacy.The nation has been disturbed by the sudden apprehensions raised by the PML-N about the constitutional elected civilian government.

The years under the late General Ziaul Haq and the disastrous involvement in the Afghan war are of course key factors in creating this mode of undemocratic and extremist thinking. A former ISI official, [late]Khalid Khwaja confirmed the nexus between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, right wing political parties and banned militant outfits, he claimed that he arranged at least five meetings between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. He also claimed that Osama bin Laden had provided him funds to hand over to the incumbent Punjab chief minister Mian Nawaz Sharif to overthrow Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government.

All extremist banned organizations[voters of PML-N] are against democracy and PPP led govt in center. Mr Shahbaz Sharif rightly and proudly declaring that we have same background/philosophy and muddle headed law minister Rana Sana Ullah says that organizations are banned but their voters are not banned [what a laughable argument].

Conservative and right wing media:

Mostly, TV talk show hosts and Ziaist brand analysts i.e Irfan Sadique, Haroon Rashid, Ansar Abbasi, Kamran Khan and Shaheen Sehbai are seen to be duty bound to peddle anti American anti democracy conspiracy theories and bash parliamentarians. The right wing style media has been vociferously running stories of corruption, nepotism and malpractices of politicians and leaders in the parliament, and connect all these bogus stories to President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s government is portrayed by the media as too deferential to the United States. Several anchor persons exhaust all their energies in presenting the prejudice of US against the Pakistani nation. Pakistani journalists who unconditionally support their establishment started the campaign against Kerry Lugar Bill and coalesced anti-Western politicians, and Muslim fundamentalists — implausibly claiming that Pakistan’s sovereignty was undermined and the country could end up as a U.S. neo-colony.

Corporate plutocratic media, as a sole grand savior of the nationalism, sovereignty and morality, seems to be fomenting instability and despondency in the society. It is imposing and thrusting hard line teaching, eulogizing dictatorship and count demerits of democracy. The stories have been written and presented to provide only one dimensional approach, world view and restrict the other independent thought process of readers/viewers. Turning a blind eye towards these obscurantists tendencies might prove costly to the nation.

Some talk shows and journalists have implicit sheer bias against the PPP government and parliament and they only counts it’s demerits, they are packed with illogical and fact-less stories of corruption and falsifying evidence on important democratic issues. – some TV anchors have launched vociferous campaign against PPP government exposing corruption of ruling politicians. They not only instigate Army and Judiciary and suggesting ways, means and method to opposition parties-that how they can overthrow civilian elected government.

From Kangaroo to [Sharif] court:

The PPP never fled from facing legal (fake) cases and the leadership of Party is ready to face the fake and politically-motivated cases in the [Sharif] courts. A free and independent judiciary is indispensable for parliamentary democracy to work within the limits of law and constitution. Unfortunately, the judiciary has with rare exceptions been facilitating the military regime.

The acceptance of the doctrine of necessity has on critical occasions undermined the judiciary from working as the guardian of the constitution and protector of the sovereignty of the parliament. In Pakistan, Judiciary is identified as power broker. It has been facilitator under the cover of the Law of Necessity.

There have been many hurdles in the path towards democracy and Pakistan’s history is full of the immense struggle waged by the people against military dictatorships and authoritarian rule. Whenever there has been a coup by the military, it has always been supported by other state institutions, especially the judiciary that has regularly endorsed martial laws over the years. Presently, the military is in no position to directly intervene, but there is no guarantee that the extra-constitutional collaborators are not actively at work trying to undermine the democratic process.

Chief Justice (CJP) of Pakistan, Iftkhar Muhammad Chaudhry, took oath as CJP under Mushrraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), and legitimized the military coup. The question here, how can judges be independent if they are ever willing to facilitate the military rulers and civilian dictator?

The Supreme Court in 2000, declared that General Mushhrraf’s extra –constitutional coup d’etat of 12 October 1999 was ‘ validated on the basis of doctrine of State necessity.The Supreme Court or the high courts of Paksitan,has always rejected the cases which had been filed against military dictators disfiguring the Constitution. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has provided a legal umbrella to Musharraf’s regime. Musharraf’s referendum was upheld by the Supreme Court. On 12 May, 2000, the Supreme Court legitimized his action by ordering the government to hold general elections by October 2002.

All presidents cum dictators accused democratic governments of not listening to their advices, widespread corruption in the government the breakdown of law and order situation in the country and for seriously endangering the integrity and ideology of Pakistan,and deviation from the Constitution. After presidential dictatorship, now so called independent judiciary assumed a supervisory position over the elected government and “judged” its performance according to its own political interests??

Parliament is supreme and courts should respect the representatives of the people. [Active] judiciary should use its activism towards providing justice to the people and not just to target the President and PPP. Suo Moto creates unnecessary threats for the government and that discourages the initiatives and innovations.

Good governance will come with a time and courts should allow this evolutionary process. Now people are openly raising questions that, if court has to take all decisions and set the rules of the game, then there is no need of this parliament, political parties, elections and democracy. Parliament has authority to change the fundamentals of the constitution and the judiciary can not interfere therein nor the Supreme Court can declare the amendment null and void. The bench of court of which Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was member had delivered judgment in lawyers forum case in 2005 that parliament had full powers to change basic structure of constitution and court could not make any interfere in it.

The so called independent Judiciarydirectly challenges the sovereignty and supremacy of that august representative body. After a long period of time in our history, parliament is trying to establish its supremacy. It cannot, and should not be held hostage by anyone, be it the judiciary or the executive.

PPP-Punjab acting president Samiullah Khan advised the PML-N to move the Supreme Court to reopen Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan’s case that would help bury the ‘controversial’ chapters. Besides, he said, the parliament and media were other forums it could use to clarify its position on certain issues.

The PPP is sincerely committed to continue the reconciliation process for strengthening democracy in the country, restore the 1973 Constitution according to its democratic, federal spirit and strengthen the constitutional framework.

PML-N should support a democratic continuity and refrain from becoming a tool in the hands of the establishment to dislodge the PPP government in the Center. Mian Nawaz Sharif sahib, whole nation is requesting you to leave your political legacy aside and make your personal interests subservient to those of democratic institutions, be member of parliament and work for the success of democracy.

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Abdul Nishapuri

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