Family of the Heart - DIALOGUE & DISCUSSIONS 


Jawaid Manzoor


In what could have better been a peace time exercise, the proposed charter of democracy effecting a range of issues needs a closer look given current developments in Pakistan.


 Provincial autonomy has been contentious issue often faced a paralysis given sordid events in history and as such generally avoided. Purely from governance, decentralization is better focused as the motivation through a nationalistic furor that can be more productive while the material benefits can be shared by all. Yet provinces could be overzealous in demands, whether control of natural resources and insistence upon contradicting jurisdictions or other subjects they are ill equipped to handle on their own. Unfortunately, once things are gotten out of hand the center is left with the inalienable responsibility to make over with often harsh measures. Sectarianism is serious national unity issue tied both with economics as well as the law and order situation now squarely at the back of the center and likely to remain so for sometime. Many problems stem from there.  Often struggling governments become vulnerable to pressures giving way to decisions not conducive in the long run. Thus the answer, no matter the time, needs non partisan debate visible at all level, particularly the national media assuming its own responsibility.


In separation of powers, purely as an exercise to clamp on president Asif  Zardari’s powers, it is also to be reminded that he holds the party leadership and can fight next election for the office of the prime minister to regain his powers. Late premier ZA Bhutto himself changed his office becoming the prime minister, and as lately Mr. Putting of Russia, somewhat circumvented an exchanged role for effective powers.


As a discussion:  While PPP was founded by Late Bhutto, new leadership hopefuls may also have emerged within the party with independent vote bank who may well be eyeing their own position causing Mr. Zardari to contest his legitimacy as the party heir apparent. There again, despite his baggage, he has also demonstrated his political acumen where a successful charter package may now buy him enough time for a future challenge. As to his tormentor, Mr. Nawaz  Sharif, played himself Mr. Good, to now  sit comfortably in waiting for a third term, he may yet have to see the last of Mr. Zardari’s legendry surprises - no mistake about that.


In Pakistan, the presidential powers to bring down the government, and done with impunity, is a rare clause borrowed from the British parliamentary system under a sovereign and once applied some years back in Australia dismissing an elected government. Yet, in Pakistan, president is largely an appointee as protector of the constitution. However there are essential elements to his role in concert with the supreme judiciary including consultations with the army dealing with national security. Is it possible to create a national security apparatus reporting directly to a non partisan president which would also prevent national intelligence agency from becoming politicized?  Again, national emergency is an indispensable option when necessary. Here in Canada, War measures Act was applied in Quebec 1973, under a full fledged democracy in concert with a sitting parliament.


Interestingly, unelected General Musharaf was handed out these powers by self serving politicians that he never applied. Instead, unhappy with Premier Jamali, PMQ leadership offered him Shaukat Aziz as a replacement preventing dissolution of the parliament and avoiding fresh elections. With some adjustment, this seems a plausible solution for a party dissatisfied with its leader to call for internal review even re- election within the party. Leadership review is not uncommon phenomenon in a democracy.


Today, there is also increased trend towards coalition governments, and  where warrants,  even friendly opposition. Committees are now actively participated by the opposition members. Majority governments enjoy a leeway for a tenure but also become authoritarian. This is no less for a lackluster minority government rarely able to deliver while opening doors to pay offs to gain support. Coalitions can help form a broad based government while provide for continuity.  A friendly opposition though, despite cooperation, must exercise essential elements of opposition based on its own platform and ideological leaning whether: Conservative, liberal, Social, if this to include religious parties in Pakistan.


As the political dynamics has substantially shifted in Pakistan internally as geopolitically, charter of democracy may resolve time honored commitments just as the return of Chief Justice Chaudhry. At the end of the day, whether this will have also provided for solution to some serious problems at hand, will be known.


(The writer is a long time  free lancer on issues of the day)


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