Wishes for 2017

Only a stable democratic system where participation of ordinary citizens in the decision-making process is a key element will stop the wholesale loot and plunder that is the order of the day. Pakistan's sham democracy has no intention whatsoever of permitting the effective participation of the citizens in the affairs of even their own community.

Posted on 01/1/17
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek
Sun sets on the hills in the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan's federal capital. (Photo by ViewsWeek)
Sun sets on the hills in the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan’s federal capital. (Photo by ViewsWeek)

With our citizens continuing to be fair game for terrorists and extremists inspite of the great sacrifice by our soldiers, coupled this with rampant nepotism and blatant corruption and one gets the general perception of negativity and gloom. Only a stable democratic system where participation of ordinary citizens in the decision-making process is a key element will stop the wholesale loot and plunder that is the order of the day. Our sham democracy has no intention whatsoever of permitting the effective participation of the citizens in the affairs of even their own community. Appointing bureaucrats to control Local Bodies ensures that democracy will remain a convenient camouflage for the horrible practices prevalent in a feudal society. Elected on an imperfect electoral system, our leaders continue to deny the democratic aspirations of citizens at the grassroots level.  Is this “Constitutional” and according to “the rule of law”? Ironically Martial Law regimes ran effective local governments.


Without electoral reforms providing a level playing field for all political stakeholders we will never be able to fight poverty, feudalism and extremism. Moreover indirect elections are a farce, the Senate is a shameful symbol of our present sham democracy.  Can those not elected by adult franchise be truly representative of the Federating units. Compare our Senate to the Roman Senate whose glaring deficiencies  contributed to the decline and the fall of the mighty Roman Empire.  All Senators from Federating units must be directly elected to be truly representative of the Federation.


Transparency and accountability being the central pillars of governments, leaders responsible for Pakistan’s destiny must accept responsibility for not only committing acts of wrongdoing but of condoning it. Year after year Transparency International (TI) labels Pakistan as being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. With minimum time in jail, if any, they are free to enjoy their looted billions, in many cases to loot again after going back to the posts they had held. The obnoxious “plea bargain” which allows public office holders held accountable to walk away free must be done away. The perjury law is hardly applied despite  the telling of blatant lies by public figures in august forums, the superior judiciary chooses “not to hear and see any evil”.  Given that any aspirant for public office has to declare his (or her) assets, the best gift that Asif Ali Zardari could give us is that he wants to be an MNA. Have you heard anything more ridiculous than his being “Constitutionally” allowed not to declare his assets while running for and being President? As an MNA aspirant he will have to declare his many assets and off-shore accounts as well as the taxes he has paid over the years, both at home and abroad.


The term ‘Joint Investigation Team’ (JIT) is widely used in divergent forms of law enforcement investigative cooperation around the world in Pakistan. Once a JIT does all the hard work and concludes its investigation, it is shut down, not being allowed to function as per its mandate. This farcical state of affairs must change so that JITs bring the cases to their logical end. The final report submitted by a JIT must be treated like an Affidavit and its findings accepted as being legal, including any video evidence they might have.  What is the restriction in letting us see what Uzair Baloch, Dr Asim Hussain, etc said to the JITs? Our politicians keep harping on the mandate of the people, let the public then decide guilt or otherwise.


One of the enduring benefits of Gen Raheel Shareef-initiated Operation “Zarb-e-Azb” is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an economic game-changer not only for Pakistan but also for the region, ie if Afghanistan does not keep playing Indian games.  That the CPEC brought about significant geo-political changes can be seen from the first-ever joint Russian-China-Pakistan meeting in Moscow recently.  The military momentum reducing signifying terrorist attacks must continue, but now directed in the Pakistan heartland, particularly in southern and central Punjab. Thanks to the sacrifices of our soldiers Pakistan today is a much safer place that what it used to be before the most successful counter-insurgency in the world in the present time. The new COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa must ask himself this question, will his rhetoric match his deeds or will his soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives so that politicians can continue living like Emperors in foreign lands on the money looted/money-laundered from Pakistan? Indeed what about conducting self-accountability among his own khakis, ridding the Army of not only those who have disgraced the uniform with their insatiable greed but also those crooks now living in gilded retirement?  You have shown yourself to be firm and decisive, Qamar, emphasize that quality by clearing out the stables.


Exercising the influence of arbitrary power or wide discretionary power in practice today, the rule of law must prevail in Pakistan. Equality before the law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary laws of the land must be duly administered by the courts. The legal justice system being practiced today is very defective. Moreover justice being prerequisite for peace and harmony in any society, it must prevail so that the rich and powerful (and the guilty) can be held accountable and subject to law. Criminals and terrorists must be not able to get away with murder, rape and pillage, the accused must not be allowed to take advantage and hide behind technicalities that clever lawyers exploit with ease the wording of the law. Our courts must cater for the spirit of the law instead of strictly adhering to its wording.


The calibre and integrity of the incoming Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) of the Supreme Court (SC), Mian Saqib Nisar does not merit the insidious slander campaign on the social media.  His predecessor said a lot of good things in public forums but did little about it in the Court.  History does not forgive those who favor expediency and personalities over principles.  One of our outstanding jurists, Justice Munir, is remembered in posterity only for authoring the infamous “Doctrine of Necessity”.  Justice is represented by a blindfolded Greek God favoring neither friend nor foe, imparting justice equally for the rich and poor. The poor can hardly afford glib rich lawyers who play with words to circumvent the spirit of the law.  Given his track record, one knows that the incoming CJ will not be deaf, dumb and blind, selectively.


CJ-to-be Mian Saqib Nisar is literally Pakistan’s last hope, he must remain true to his integrity, character and his calling.


The author is a defense analyst.

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