‘Awam taqat ka sarchashma hain’ by Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Pakistan has entered its 71st year of independent existence with great national fervour. The hallmark of the celebrations was the hoisting of the largest Pakistani flag by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border.

While the President, Prime Minister and leaders of all political parties too talked of their renewed commitment to make Pakistan role model as per the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, one gets the impression that none was clear in one’s mind as to what actually vision of MAJ was.

Only redeeming feature of the day was often reference was made to MAJ’s landmark speech of August 11, 1947 in which he laid bare blueprint for his Pakistan. It was to be a secular, liberal democratic state with equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their religion, gender or class. And categorically Pakistan was not to be a theocratic state-religion would have nothing to do with the business of the state.

Since interpretation of Pakistan’s ideological moorings differ from person to person, there is also confusion in the minds of academics. However, it is good to note that times have changed. Even former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who has been a true political heir of Pakistan’s worst anti-secular and religiously rabid dictator General Ziaul Haq — seems to have turned a new leaf. On 70th Independence Day at Allama Iqbal’s mazar ousted Prime Minister declared that it was time for the nation to build Pakistan that was envisioned by MAJ.

The need of the hour is to resolve once and for all the fundamental issue: who is the sole arbiter of power in Pakistan? If Jinnah were alive today, the Pakistani masses would have been the sovereign and sole arbiter of power, or as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto put it — awam taqat ka sarchashma hain

Besides, he wants a new social contract, redesigning of democracy, drastic amendments in the constitution and has started talking of ushering in a revolution — whatever he means by it. One thing is for sure, he wants to get rid of Article 62 and 63 that he had refused to amend when PPPP wanted to when it introduced 18th Amendment in 2010. Now MNS is so desperate that he wants it done retrospectively. His opponent Imran Khan is opposed to any amendment. His diehard supporter Maulana Fazulur Rehman too is opposed to it.

With confusion worst confounded, one also heard a sweeping but very significant comment on the eve of August 14. One would not like to name the person since despite hearing him in TV news coverage of the Wagah flag hoisting function, one found it conspicuously missing in the print media. However, what was said about the current situation in the country was definitely music to ears. As I heard it the remark was as follows: “Today all the institutions in Pakistan are working within the framework of the constitution and rule of law. And Inshallah, Pakistan will continue to move forward on the path to progress. If any force came in its way then Pakistan army will confront it.”

This statement does not seem to be meaningless. It is a fall out of earlier events including former Prime Minister’s confrontation directly with the judiciary and indirectly with the establishment. Although MNS was responsible twice for the ouster of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and once of PPPP Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani by conspiring against them with extra-constitutional forces, now he is lamenting that no prime minister was allowed to complete his or her tenure.

Seventy years down the road, where do our institutions stand today is a question that begs an answer. Except for the army or the establishment nothing seems to be functioning well. Most of our 70 years apex judiciary has been puppet on the chain of the Praetorian establishment. It acted as an executioner to judicially murder Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on the orders of General Ziaul Haq.

Earlier and later too, our superior judges happily danced on the tunes played by the establishment to justify dismissals of prime ministers on the basis of Doctrine of Necessity or on charges of corruption based on newspapers report. Only once in 1993 Supreme Court did not approve of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal on charges of reports of corruption against him.

Most significant was the case of Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo. His dismissal was challenged in the Supreme Court. When it was to order for his restoration, the then Army Chief General Aslam Beg sent Acting Chairman Senate Waseem Sajjad to the Chief Justice to tell him if Junejo was restored, martial law would be imposed. One could write more including General Hameed Gul’s creation of IJI in 1988 elections, ISI’s secret funding of political opponents of Benazir Bhutto including Nawaz Sharif and of course massive rigging to stop her landslide victory at least twice.

In democracy besides the role of apex court, performance of Election Commission matters most. Unfortunately like judiciary, conduct of successive Election Commissions too have been most questionable. Except for 1971 elections, results of successive elections to this date have been marred by allegations of rigging.

Even last elections results were allegedly managed by Returning Officers. In neighbouring India elections are held regularly, never has any one ever challenged the sanctity of the Indian Election Commission or the results. Similarly, no decision of the Indian Supreme Court has ever been questioned as have been influenced by the executive or the military. In Pakistan doubts a galore about every major judicial decision or election result.

Situation being that, Chairman Senate Senator Raza Rabbani has suggested convening of tripartite conference comprising of three major institutions — Parliament, Prime Minister and the Establishment. It needs to be debated if this tripartite moot would be able cut the Gordian knot or not. Irrespective, the need of the hour is to resolve for all times the fundamental issue — who is the sole arbiter of power in Pakistan. If MAJ were alive today, in his Pakistan masses would have been the sovereign — sole arbiter of power or as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto called — awam taqat ka sarchashma hain.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan is a former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist