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Sri Lanka’s election results and their implications

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Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini & Mahitha Lingala*

The Sri Lankan election result, was closely observed, not just for its likely impact on domestic politics in Sri Lanka, but it’s impact on geopolitical dynamics in South Asia. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Former Defence Secretary, and brother of former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa,  won by a massive margin, defeating his opponent Sajith Premadasa (son of a former President who was assassinated in 1993). He was sworn in on Monday, November 18, 2019 as President.

While Rajapaksa, the candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Party) polled over52% of the vote, the runner up Sajith Premadasa of the United National Party (UNP)polled 42% of the votes. It is pertinent to note, that the UNP did much better in North Eastern districts of the South Asian country, which are dominated by Muslims and Tamils.

Analysts believe, that the triumph of the former Defense Secretary, is likely to result in Sri Lankamoving closer to China – as was the case during Mahindra Rajapaksa’s term (which ended in 2015, Rajapaksa lost to Maithripali Sirisena, the latter had served in Rajapaksa’s government but in  2014 he decided to part ways and was the Presidential candidate of the opposition).There is a belief however, that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, may not veer as much towards China, as his brother given the changing ground realities.

Sri Lanka’s tilt towards China during Mahindra Rajapaksa’s tenure

During Mahindra Rajakapsa’s tenure, Sri Lanka took a turn towards China, much to the chagrin of India. While one of the reasons cited for the same, was China’s economic prowess, and ability to deliver fast on key infrastructure politics. It would be pertinent to point out, that there was an equally, if not more important reasons for the Former President warming upto China –Beijing turned a blind eye to the Human Rights violations (an estimated 40,000 Tamils – which included journalists and opponents) were killed in operations against Tamil separatists)

 New Delhi-Colombo ties also took a hit, during Rajapaksa’s tenure, due to the opposition of regional parties – AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) — from the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Political parties from Tamil Nadu  have been constantly alleging Sri Lankan govt failed to follow their 13th amendment (which sought to provide devolution to the Tamil Community and reduce the harmony with the community) and also allege, that many innocent civilians were killed during the war for which Mahinda Rajapaksa must be held accountable. The previous Congress led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government voted against Sri Lanka in 2009, 2012 and 2013, supporting a US passed resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN. In 2014, India made a slight change to it’s approach and rather than voting directly against Sri Lanka, New Delhi abstained from voting against Sri Lanka. In 2013, Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh due to pressure from Tamil Nadu’s regional parties did not attend the Common Wealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting in Colombo.

In 2015,  when Mahinda Rajapaksa lost elections, Tamilian parties including the BJP TN unit in India termed it as a victory of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Indian PM, Narendra Modi had invited Mahindra Rajapaksa for his swearing in as PM in 2014 and also congratulated Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Modi also invited the newly elected President to visit India. The new President is likely to visit India on November 29, 2019.

Economic tilt towards China under Mahindra Rajapaksa

Colombo’s economic tilt to Beijing, was strongly reiterated by the Hambantota Port project, which was handed over to China, and given on lease for 99 years. The port was built with 85% of the funds coming from Exim Bank in China. After money shortage in 2017 in regard to this loan, Sri Lankan government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of associated land to China Merchants Port Holdings for 99 years. This was cited, as one of the strong instances of China’s ‘Debt Trap’ Diplomacy. US drew attention to this, and so did a report by the Centre for Global Development (CGD)but Sri Lanka has rejected this fear while admitting that the debt pressure is huge.

China remains one of Sri Lanka’s largest creditors accounting for an estimated 10% of its total foreign debt. China is investing in large infrastructural projects through its flagship programme  the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) in Sri Lanka, some of the major ones include; Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, and the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port in southern Sri Lanka. Another project which has proven to be controversial is the Lotus Tower. The 17 story structure – South Asia’s tallest self supporting structure – has been criticised not just for the fact that it represented a wrong utilisation of resources, but the company which had the contract for building the tower was accused of misappropriating funds (a whopping 11 Million USD) by former President Maithrapali Sirisena.

Mahindra Rajapaksa’s close ties to China were also evident in the strategic sphere (two Chinese submarines docked in the South Asian Island nation in 2014)

Balancing of relationships

Rajapaksa’s successor, Maithripali Sirisena did try to balance out relationships, and reduce the South Asian country’s dependence upon China, but was unable to do so. President Sirisena said that he would treat major Asian countries equally. India and Sri Lanka in February 2015 signed a nuclear pact to improve relationships and agreed to improve defence ties.

A number of important projects were taken over by Japan, and there have also been some strong instances of India-Japan working together in Sri Lanka. India, Japan and Sri Lanka have signed an agreement to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) of Colombo Port. While India and Japan will retain 49% stake in this project, while Sri Lanka will have 51% (work on the project will begin in March 2020). 

This investment has been seen as a joint effort by India- Japan to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. Apart from this project, both India and Japan have also been working on an LNG project terminal near Colombo.  India’s Petronet LNG (one of the country’s energy giants) will have a 47.5% stake in the project, while Japan’s Mitsubishi and Sojitzcorp will have a 37.5% stake)

US has also been trying to make Sri Lanka part of the Indo-Pacific narrative.

The US has also begun to pay more attention to Sri Lanka, especially in the context of being an important stakeholder in the US vision for a ‘Free and Open Indo Pacific’.

US Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, and Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana held the third US-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue in Washington DC in May 2019. Both sides, according to a joint statement issued after the dialogue, resolved to work together for a“a safe maritime domain in the Indian and Pacific oceans through a rules-based order that ensures respect for international laws and norms” . Furthermore, after the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka also became a Logistics hub for the US Navy in the Indian Ocean

Domestic Politics

It is not just geo-politics, even in the context of Sri Lankan politics, it remains to be seen what approach he takes towards Muslims and Tamils. The electoral verdict is polarized. On his part, the newly elected President, did state that

“I am conscious that I am also the president of those who used the vote against me…. “It is my duty to serve all Sri Lankans without race or religious discrimination. I promise to discharge my duties in a fair manner’

Conclusion

In conclusion, it remains to be seen whether there will be a drastic change in both domestic policies, as well as Sri Lanka’s foreign policy orientation. While, Sri Lanka is dependent upon China, in the economic sphere, it is important to acknowledge the fact, that there have been a number of economic and geo-political changes in recent years. First, China’s economy has witnessed a slowdown, and Beijing will be unable to assist Sri Lanka to the degree it did earlier – though it’s overall economic influence could grow. Second, US has been paying attention to Sri Lanka, due to it’s strategic importance especially in the context of Indo-Pacific, as was mentioned earlier. In this context, it is likely that US, Japan and India could work jointly in Sri Lanka  (Japan and India have already initiated some projects) .The new Sri Lankan President would do well to pay attention to the fact, that South Asian countries like Bangladesh have been able to balance ties and not remained solely dependent upon China.

 Finally, the US reaction to the election, and the warning with regard to Human Rights is significant. The outside world, is likely to keep a close watch on Sri Lanka, and it is likely, that the new President while upgrading economic ties with China will do a balancing act, so that Colombo is not totally dependent upon China.

*Mahitha Lingala is a student at the OP Jindal Global University

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based Policy Analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India

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Kartarpur may be the first drop of rain

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On November 09th, 2019, Pakistan and India opened the first-ever visa-free corridor between the two countries to facilitate the pilgrimage of Sikhs – a minority community in both India and Pakistan but with major chunk of its populace settled in India – to their second holiest site located in Katarpur, a border village in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Inaugurated on the respective sides by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, the4.1 km long corridorconnecting­ Dera Baba Nanak Shrine in India with Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan – will enable more than5,000 devotees to visit the holy shrine everyday and is widely being regarded as the first drop of rain in the decade’s long history of the desiccated and conflictual relationship between the two neighbours.

An occurrence such momentous that it effectively exalted Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan as the most beloved figurefor Sikhs, besides actuating Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue a rare and extraordinary message of gratitude towards his Pakistani counterpart, despite the contextual reality that later has been drawing parallels between the Indian PM and Nazi leader Hitler after the Indian government’s draconian venture in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) steeped the relations between the two countries to an unprecedented low.

The trudge to this landmark breakthrough was as arduous and bumpy as it could have been between the two nations that share a 07 decades-long history of the antagonism. Although, the demand of Sikhs to be granted access to the revered shrine – located just a few kilometers away from the Redcliff Line – is as old as the two antagonist nations, interminable strains in the relationship between the two countries proved to be an impediment in the way of this few kilometers of journey across the border.

Even as Pakistan extended the olive branch and Indian politician Navjot Singh Sihdu – who attended PM Khan’s oath-taking ceremony in August last year – was apprised by Pakistani COAS about his country’s readiness to open the “corridor of peace”, cynicism and suspicion from Indian side were axiomatic. Sidhu was barraged with denunciation back home for embracing Pakistan’s top military official, while the sciolists in Indian political and strategic community tried to conjecture about the “covert designs” behind Pakistan’s apparently benevolent move. Indisputably, India was not left with any other choice except for accepting the Pakistani offer as responding otherwise could have infuriated its 22 million-strong Sikh minority. Though the Modi government hesitatingly expressed its consent for the construction of the corridor, it didn’t respond positively to the successive dialogue offers made by PM Khan.

To add to the complexity was the hyper-nationalistic and anti-Pakistan narrative adopted by PM Modi during his recent election campaign after he had fallen short of delivering on his previous election promises as regards transforming the Indian economy and improving people’s lives. As if Pakistan bashing was not enough to garner votes, Modi went as far as to push the two countries almost to the brink of a nuclear exchange in February 2019 when in response to an attack– purported to be a false-flag – at Indian security forces in restive Kashmir, he ordered Indian Air Force (IAF) to bomb targets inside mainland Pakistan, provoking a daring response from Pakistan Air Force (PAF) the next day resulting in the downing of an IAF jet and arrest of an Indian pilot by Pakistani forces, who was returned few days later.

Nevertheless, the perilous brinkmanship worked spectacularly for Modi and his right-wing BJP secured an overwhelming majority in the lower house of parliament, full credit to the shrewd manipulation of mainstream and social media– which abetted the regime’s efforts to cunningly overshadow the embarrassment of aircraft downing and capture of pilot with the celebrations of “punishing Pakistan”.

After winning elections, Modi further upped the ante in the disputed J&K and after imposing an all-out communication clampdown and enacting a security blanket over the valley of Kashmir – the state’s only Muslim majority region – unilaterally repealed the region’s decades-old semi-autonomous status.

Predictably, it evoked a strong response from Pakistan which downgraded diplomatic ties with India, cut-off trade and expelled the Indian High Commissioner while refusing to send his own to New Delhi. Then followed a long diplomatic scrimmage between the two countries with Pakistan trying to rally the support of international community against the tyrannical Indian moves in the occupied valley and India responding with counter moves aimed at hurting Pakistan diplomatically and economically, besides propagating the deceitful mantra of “all is well” for Kashmir.

Notwithstanding the reignited tensions, when Pakistan decided to move ahead with the opening of the corridor as per schedule, it was regarded as a bold diplomatic move. Though it would have earn the country appreciation abroad, a severe backlash from the opposition at home was very much on the cards and at a time when leader of a right-wing political party Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman was holding a sit-in in Islamabad with his thousands of zealot supporters demanding Khan’s resignation, the risk of domestic backlash had increased manifold.

Nevertheless, Khan’s government with the undisguised support of country’s powerful military moved ahead with the decision despite criticism from opposition politicians like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – whose left-wing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) frequently champions religious freedom and interfaith harmony but didn’t miss the opportune moment to ensure the “obligatory” political point-scoring.

Although, Pakistan has made a landmark move despite soaring regional tensions and domestic pressure and opening of the border corridor can be rightfully considered as the first drop of rain after decades of desiccation, the chances that a rainstorm may follow which can convert the roads into the river, remain ever more slim and the major impediment is the simmering volcano; the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) – a sticking point mentioned by Khan in his speech on the day of the inauguration of corridor.  

For more than seven decades the outstanding issue of J&K has been instigating hostilities between the two now nuclear-armed neighbors and recent unilateral actions by India – which violate numerous United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions and various bilateral accords with Pakistan – have just added to the fire and fury. Essentially, Modi’s regime’s recent actions in J&K has taken the matters to a point of no-return and the chances of Pakistan making any further peace overtures towards India or responding to any – though highly unlikely – Indian peace initiative, are slightest.

The pessimism around talks has already been echoed by Khan when he made it abundantly clear that until Indian government ends its oppressive clampdown in the valley of Kashmir and restores pre-August 5th, 2019 status of disputed J&K – an even distant possibility – negotiations remains out of question.

Even though, there is a remote possibility that Khan’s government – which has almost lost its initially built momentum against India over Kashmir and seems to be more concerned with other domestic and regional issues – will even subtly try to normalize the relationship with India, yet a slight nuance of any such move is likely to evoke strong backlash from country’s religious right as well as the political opposition. And given the virtual reality that supporting Kashmir cause is regarded as a symbol of nationalism in Pakistan, and country’s powerful military establishment and Khan are already facing accusations of striking a deal on Kashmir, it is even unlikely that Pakistan will venture on taking any further risk of making up with India, only to spark a general enragement.

India under Modi is undergoing a massive transformation and into the 6th consecutive year of BJP’s rule, the country’s fundamental secular outlook is under threat. In 1947, while Pakistan was being founded as a country for Muslims, India’s founding fathers envisioned a secular outlook for the culturally, religiously and ethnically diverse country. Seven decades below the line, Modi regime – despite publically pledging to safeguard India’s secular constitution – has embraced a fundamentally opposite course.

Rise of far-right may be a global phenomenon but India presents the most extreme and violent version of this imminent menace – a reality axiomatic by the rising religious intolerance, especially against Muslims; increased and generally overlooked incidents of mob-violence against minorities; cow vigilantes– which represent a militant brand of Hindu nationalism – patrolling the streets of India to impose their own version of “law” under state’s patronage; a sudden rise in the incidents of hate speech by the leaders of ruling party without facing any admonishment; the taming of Indian media to ally with government’s jingoistic policies and religiously incendiary rhetoric; various democratic and constitutional institutions conceding to the majoritarian impulse rather than adhering to constitution; ever reducing political space for dissent and opposition parties; and the recently introduced Citizenship Amendment Bill, which exclusively discriminates against Muslims.

These alarming trends clearly point out that Modi regime – in pursuance of Hindu supremacist Hindutva ideology – is steadfastly navigating the world’s largest democracy into the abyss of Fascism. Arguably, given the emerging trends in Indian society, Khan’s analogy between Modi and Hitler was not that erroneous and many Indian politicians and commentators have also expressed concerns that the early signs of Fascism are already obvious in Indian society.

Narendra Modi – who came to power with an alluring economic reform and development agenda – is now totally reliant on anti-Muslim divisive politics and to a tragic consorting, the democratic and constitutional institutions of the country – which were to place a hindrance in the way of this majoritarian brand of politics – seem to be accomplices. With no institutional and social hindrance to the Hindutva –a brand of politics kept at bay for many decades – this divisive menace is now finally engulfing India’s political and social landscape and ultimately threatens the internal cohesion of diverse Indian society.

Given the ideological and historical context, Kashmir presented a test-case for the protagonists of Hindutva. The state of J&K – a Muslim majority region that acceded to Hindu majority India –was cherished as asymbol of India’s secular identity. However, Modi’s government’s revocation of region’s special status – which is fundamentally aimed at paving the way for introducing massive demographic changes in the region converting Muslims into a minority, essentially following the Israeli model in the West Bank –will not only help the regime in crushing the self-determination sentiments in the valley but will also be a major milestone achievement en route to transforming India into a Hindu state.

Ironically, Muslims living in India are not the only prey of rising Hindu Fascism and expansionist Hindutva have regional and global implications. Being a homeland to the successors of those “outsiders” who ruled the Hindu majority India for more than 850 years, Pakistan becomes the major nuisance for the Hindu supremacists currently in-charge in India. February 2019 nuclear brinkmanship by Modi regime; uninterruptedPakistan bashing by Indian media; adaptation of a well-choreographed anti-Pakistan narrative during elections campaigns by Indian politicians; vigorous Indian attempts to get Pakistan blacklisted by FATF; and continuous fomentation of subversive activities by Indian intelligence inside Pakistan point out that Pakistan’s long-held apprehensions about India plotting to weaken the country’s federation to ultimately subsume its tumbling parts, were not misplaced.

In fact, weakening Pakistan internally, disintegrating it and ultimately subsume its parts will be a step forward in the way of realization of the “Greater India” dream of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),the organization regarded as the ideological patron of ruling BJP and the major proponent of Hindu supremacist, majoritarian and expansionist Hindutva ideology with current Indian PM and most of the leaders of BJP as its life-long members.

To put the things in a nutshell, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor may be a sanguine gesture by Pakistan but India doesn’t seem to be even interested in some reciprocity. The issue of J&K – which has become further complicated due to India’s overassertive and intransigent attitude – presents an immediate stumbling block in the way of this “first drop of rain” being followed by a “downpour”– which can turn the dry and desiccated road into a river.

In the long-run, as the Modi government pursues the Hindutva policies and continues on a path to hurt Pakistan internally, economically and globally, chances of any further optimistic gesture from either side become even remote. And given the aforementioned immediate and long-term hurdles and the virtual reality that relations between the two countries have gone such desiccated that only continuous down pouring turning the roads into the rivers can provide the required panacea, Kartarpur corridor is likely to be proved as yet another noteworthy but futile confidence-building measure (CBM), without any significant headway towards long-lasting peace in the region. 

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Lebanon and Sri Lanka: An Extraordinary Relationship and a Bright Future

Mohamad Zreik

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Since the Silk Road, Arabs turned to Asian countries, and this was the reason for the spread of Arab civilization in many Asian countries. The Arab merchants headed towards Sri Lanka because of its geographical position. This island was a point of rest and cultural interaction between Sri Lankans and Arabs, and this is an important reason for the presence of Muslims in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan-Lebanese relationship is long established. In the common history of these two countries, there are many good events. It is important to note that Sri Lanka is a peaceful country that has always been friendly to Lebanon at all times. In 1990, the relations between Lebanon and Sri Lanka became official after the establishment of diplomatic exchange. Sri Lanka’s first ambassador to Lebanon was appointed in 1997 and the diplomatic mission began in 1998. Prior to that, the Sri Lankan ambassador was appointed to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon.

Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is based on the principle of friendship with all and hostility to no one, which has made this country a special place for Lebanese diplomacy. Sri Lanka traditionally follows a non-aligned foreign policy and does not take sides with major powers. Sri Lanka also has good relations with ASEAN countries, South Asian countries and major powers such as China, the United States and Russia, which has strengthened its internal peace.

Political and economic interest requires any country with ties to Sri Lanka to engage peacefully and diplomatically, because power and superiority with this island will have a negative effect. Sri Lanka is an active member of the United Nations and founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), member of the Commonwealth of Nations, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Colombo Plan.

The estimated number of Sri Lankan citizens in Lebanon is between 80,000 and 90,000, most of them workers. There is also a Sri Lankan battalion active in the peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The main task of the Sri Lankan battalion is to ensure security of Force Headquarters compound where all command elements, branches and all key personnel including the Force Commander / Head of the Mission are accompanied. These tasks also include; applying all FB measures in accordance with the alert status established by UNIFIL Force Commander, providing updated information and assesses the FP situation in their respective areas as requested by the Force Protection Working Group.

During the visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake to Lebanon, he expressed his country’s desire to develop bilateral relations with Lebanon and joint support in international forums. During that visit, the state minister considered that the Sri Lankan state is interested in direct flights between the two countries in order to encourage tourism and communication, and called on the Lebanese state to open an embassy in Colombo. He said that Sri Lanka’s participation in UNIFIL reflects the goodwill of the Sri Lankan state towards Lebanon for the security and safety of the people.

Trade relations between Lebanon and Sri Lanka are thriving and are developing considerably year after year. Lebanon can import a lot of goods from Sri Lanka especially since this country is rich in natural resources such as rubber products, garments, gem, jewelry, spices, fisheries products, fruits, pharmaceuticals, coconut charcoal, pearls and precious stones. Many Lebanese products can be exported to Sri Lanka such as Dairy products, marble tiles, cosmetics, construction machineries, agricultural and hospital equipment.

The bilateral relationship between Lebanon and Sri Lanka is a good example of active and peaceful diplomacy. The actual history of that relationship dates back to time and in 1990 it was formalized through diplomatic representation. Many generations of Sri Lankans have come to know a lot about Lebanese culture because they were brought up in Lebanon; those can be considered honorary citizens.

You will hear from every Lebanese who visited Sri Lanka amazing words about the beauty of this island and the goodness of its people. The Lebanese should welcome every Sri Lankan in Lebanon and treat them in a respectful and humane manner, whatever their job or social position.

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Who wields “authority” in Pakistan? Need for maintaining separation of powers

Amjed Jaaved

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The provincial government has decided to go to Supreme Court against Peshawar High Court’s judgment on the BRT. The court has directed the Federal Investigation Agency to probe the project. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth was irked by a number of bloomers: (a) “Visionless” concentration of Asian Development Bank (ADB) loans in just one project without an in-depth feasibility study. (b) Cost increase from Rs49.453 billion in 2017 to Rs66.437 billion in 2018, of which Rs53.320 was take in the form of a loan from the ADB. (c) The “per kilometer cost of the BRT being exorbitantly high Rs2.427 billion. (d) Over-paid non-managerial staff. (e) Provision of expensive vehicles  to secretary transport, director general of the Peshawar  Development Authority (PDA) and commissioner Peshawar by consulting firm, Calsons and Maqbool, backlisted  by the Punjab government, yet taken on board for the  BRT in Peshawar. (e) Nexus between Pervez Khattak, the incumbent defense minister, the Director General, PDA, Azam Khan, principal secretary to the prime minister.

Our courts are submerged in plethora of cases with a political tinge. This trend is fatal for democracy. Let us not forget what Justice Muneer said shortly before pronouncing his verdict on Dosso case:  ‘when politics enters the portals of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’. It was a court that fixed price of sugar, bottled water and even mobile-phone service. They decided privatization issue and mining rights. Unable to oust prime minister through no-confidence, politicos got the job done by courts. 

It is time we refresh French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum,  majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects unrestrained by law’(Jo.Bodini Andegavensis, De Republica Libri Sex.BkI, ch.I, p.78 (Lyon and Paris, 1686).. Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’ (praetorians included). It does not reside with electorate, parliament, judiciary or even constitution.

Bodin did not believe in separation of powers. Yet, our Constitution is based on separation of powers. Do we want to follow Bodin and repose all powers in a single authority, maybe judiciary?

Potestas, power in Bodin’s definition  signifies auctoritas, authority, a power based upon positive law, de jure not merely de facto as potestas is used itn the Roman Lex de Imperio, or in the famous phrase of the Justinian’s Institutesin reference to it, omne suum, i.e., populi imperium et potestas’. An alternative meaning is  auctoritas,authority,  potential,  a power  de facto instead of de jure, actual might rather than lawful authority. The highest  de factor power  may be different from the one whose claims are the highest  de jure [dummy prime ministers and presidents in some countries]. In Bodin’s view there can be but one sovereign, supreme, single and undivided;. If so, the potestas is the highest in actual might­_ potentissima; with the highest authority. The sovereign is the person who is obeyed. `But we may obey one armed with the pistol as  well as one armed with a warrant” (C. H. McIlwain, Economica,No. 18 (Nov., 1926), pp. 253). What matter is authority not wisdom!

In golden word of our Constitution, `sovereignty’ belongs to Allah, Almighty’ but `authority’, subject to divine supervision is to be exercised by elected representative.

Fortunately, our judiciary is reluctant to become sovereign authority. That’s why it referred army chief’s extension case to legislature. Let us recall observations of Pakistan’s Chief Justice during the course of his opening address for the judicial year 2019-2020.

He `warned of the dangers of an accountability process which seemed to place political expediency above the dictates of law. He felt that unless this trend was checked the process of accountability would lose all credibility’. Then, `he talked about the marginalisation of political parties and the dangers this may entail for a country based on constitutional democracy’. He abhorred `growing censorship of the media and how such practices could become a threat to democracy’. He pointed out that `constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens must never be sacrificed at the altar of short-term gains’. To move forward, the CJP suggested that `all stakeholders, politicos, judiciary, military, media, civil society, sit together and resolve the problems which, if left unattended, could lead to disaster’.

Unfortunately, the common man is listless to the tug of war between various stakeholders. Aristotle thinks a citizen indifferent to state affairs is like an animal. It is alarming. French thinker, Montesquieu, likewise said in the 18th century `the tyranny of a Prince in an oligarchy is not as dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.’ A corrupt government is a gift of an indifferent electorate. Unless citizens slumber, no-one can dare make underhand money in any project.

In the Azam Swati case, our chief justice succinctly remarked that governments come and go but the state and the people remain. Irked by the chief justice’s suo moto notice, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf government’s information minister said what use was a government that could not suspend an IGP (later retracted or modified).

There is a Latin quip quis custodiet ipsos custodies?, who  will guard the guardians? The phrase epitomises Socrates’ search for guardians who can hold power to account. Power  corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. On-elected institutions include judiciary, civil service, police, banking institutions, and public sector undertakings. 

The malaise of governmental power manifests itself in fake accounts, billions in benami (nameless) or unclaimed accounts, loans without collateral (bad debts), and politically-influenced appointments.

Theoretically, the people hold ‘power’ to account. But the ‘people’ are an amorphous lot without a legal identity like an institution, except as ‘voter’ during elections.

Could a CJP open a tuition centre during evening  hours to teach what ‘power’, ‘government’, ‘state’ or  ‘people’ are?

Accountability of elites and mafias: William A. Welsh says, `The rise of democracy has signaled the decline of elites’ Leaders and Elites, p.1)   But, a bitter lesson of history is that demokratia (power of the people) had always been an ideal. History reminds no system, not even ochlocracy (mobocracy) could ever bulldoze governing elites. Delhi Sultanate, the Moghul, and the Englishman ruled through hand-picked elites.  The `equal citizen’ as enshrined in golden words of our constitution remained a myth.  Even American democracy is run by a handful of specialised people.  The majority of the population is a silent spectator, a `bewildered herd’ (Chomsky).

Because of their influence, many political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle and Tacitus studied nature of societies and the elites that they popped up.  Many modern thinkers like Moska, Michel, Marx, Pareto and C Wright Mill, also tried to make head or tail of the elites. 

Demokratia (power of the people) could never equalise citizens.  However, all democracies envisioned `opportunities for political participation to larger proportions of the population’, and across-the-board accountability.  Democracy is a progressive effort to equalise citizens before law, rather than legalising elites and mafias. The dilly-dallying in passing an across-the-board accountability law is not understood. The law should provide for accountability (under Law of Tort) for negligence or neglect by professionals (judges, lawyers, teachers, media persons, and their ilk).

Granting exemptions to certain elites  amounts to converting them into sacrosanct mafias. Let there be a single omnipotent body to try all individuals and elites alike.

A peep through hlidskjalf (telescope): If god Odin peeps through his hlidskjalf to have a panoramic glance at Pakistan’s society (its ordinary and influential people and lackadaisical institutions, at dagger’s drawn), what would he notice? Inertia, incompetence, and siege mentality, all around! What solution for this psychopathology? Change of attitudes and a cooperative relationship between individuals and organisations.  Not viewing civilians as bloody ones and Khakis as dunces. But how to revamp attitudes? Draw psychological profiles of individuals and organisations. Are they `normal’? ‘Rueful child visible to naked eyes in `Pakistan founding party wala’ and `Naya Pakistan wala` chiefs.

At least the selection and training institutions should review efficacy of their Thematic Apperception Tests. This test claims to decipher underlying motives, concerns, and their inner window on social world. Why scoundrels at large like `sab she pehley Pakistan’ wala remained undetected. He hid in washroom to avoid (d)ragging (read Musharraf’s auto-biography).  Try to detect flaws in attitudes like `halo effect’, `projection’, `blame shifting’, `victim blaming’, `bullying’ and` transference’. May apply even Rorschach Ink Blot Test, Children’s Apperception Test and other tests in store.

Unless siege mentality is cured we would continue to witness `defence mechanism’ attitudes (fearful court judgments, discriminatory education and healthcare, and stratified shelter and housing). In short, fossilization of mafias (scuttling participatory democracy) in all realms of life.

Conclusion: Elected representatives (power) are under the delusion that they are superior to all unelected institutions. But the representatives should exercise their authority under Allah’s 

Authority within bounds of our constitution.

The courts are guards over brute power and authority of the guardians (government). In so doing the courts are ‘quite untouchable by the legislature or the executive in the performance of its duty’ (Harilal Kania, India’s first chief justice).The chief justice of Pakistan alone cannot be the guardsman of the constitution. Unlike Western judges, he does not have lifelong tenure. The bureaucracy, banks and accountability institutions should also preserve their autonomy tooth and nail.

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