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

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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.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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South Asia

“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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South Asia

When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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South Asia

Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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