Pakistan needs strong army, independent judiciary and people’s democracy

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Pakistan needs strong army, independent judiciary and people’s democracy

Pakistan needs institutional harmony to move forward. Institutional confrontation is not in anyone’s interest. Pakistan needs strong military, independent judiciary, strong and vibrant democracy and well being of the masses as a same time. Pakistan needs strong institutions, better governance and rule of law to fully utilise its potential.

Pakistan has the potential to become one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Pakistan has the potential to become economic power house. But we need reforms to achieve that goal and aim. Pakistan has a strong and fully disciplined professional army which considered as one of the best in the world. Pakistan now has increasingly assertive and independent judiciary. Pakistani judiciary is one of the most vibrant and active in the world. No other country can match the judicial activism of our superior judiciary.

Pakistan needs strong economy, participatory democracy and good governance to become a leading nation. We clearly lack on these three fronts. We need economic model and structure that can meet the basic needs of the ordinary people. We need economy which can provide basic services and facilities to all the citizens. We need to develop a democratic model of governance which can deliver and meet the expectations of the common people. A corruption free, democratic, capable, accountable, efficient, effective and participatory model of governance to replace the existing repressive, corrupt, inefficient and bureaucratic model of governance.

We need to reform our economic, social, political and state structure to become a powerful nation. The present colonial system cannot cater the aspirations, demands, needs and wishes of the masses. We need reforms in the judicial system to provide justice to people. We need reforms in the executive to make the governance better and efficient. We need reforms in the economy to make it strong and vibrant economy.

But unfortunately, no political party is willing and ready to introduce such reforms that will enormously benefit the masses. No political party so far come up with a concrete program and strategy to reform the system.

Instead of improving the governance, delivering the promises and reforming the system to make it more accountable and democratic, our ruling classes and elite is engaged in bitter and intense infighting. The executive is not performing its duties but when the judiciary intervene to improve the situation then executive put the blame on judiciary for disrupting their working. The problem is that executive seems interested only to serve the ruling classes and ignoring the masses.

The political parties are not organising their parties on gross root level. The political leadership is not strengthening the parties and democratic process. Instead, they blame the establishment for weakening the parties and democratic process. The political leadership is not playing its due role to strengthening the political process and democracy but blame the others for their own failures and weaknesses.

In Pakistan, there is a trend to look everything through a “conspiracy of the establishment” paradigm. However, the reality is quite complex. The army does not wield power only because of its monopoly over physical violence and its manoeuvres, but also because the balance of power changes towards it whenever the civilian side is weakened by internal strife and real or perceived incompetency. In a developing country like Pakistan, the army is after all one of the most cohesive and well-disciplined institutions, which enables it to successfully intervene in politics.

Moreover, since it has become an established and powerful political player, the politicians also try to court it in order to get some political advantage. In recent times, Imran Khan, is a clear example of a politician, who has constantly been asking army to intervene.

One can blame the strength of the army for all the ills of this country, if one likes to satisfy itself. It is not right approach to accuse and blame the army as an institution for the problems we are facing. The army should not be maligned for the individual acts of some military dictators. But the reality is somehow different. Pakistan needs strong army to survive as a sovereign country. Pakistan needs strong army to defend it from hostile forces. It is not in the interest of Pakistan to weaken the army. If the politicians wanted to establish civilian supremacy then they should strengthen the democratic movement and political culture. The army cannot be weakened   through conspiracies and political manoeuvres.

Military will continue to dominate until the political leaders improve their performance, capacity and ability. We need to understand that military domination is the result of a historical process. The military domination is the result of two factors. The first factor was that Pakistan faced existential threat from India from the time it got independence, which meant that the state had to prioritize defence over everything else.

The second major reason was the weakness as well as incompetency of the civilian side exacerbated by low political institutionalization. Political institutionalization was low in Pakistan from the very beginning, allowing the army to become an important political player. An early part of Pakistan’s history was marked by constant changes and palace intrigues, resulting in a lot of political chaos which enabled army to intervene easily.

The principle of rule of law constitutes the very basic substance of democracy. The rule of law involves the supremacy of the constitution, equality before law, democratic rights and civil liberties.

In recent years, Pakistan’s judiciary has undergone a rapid metamorphosis. There has been a clear shift towards the independence of the judiciary. The process of judicial transformation commenced in 1973 with the enactment of the constitution of Pakistan. The primary role of any judiciary is to safeguard the constitution; hence the judiciary in Pakistan was conferred with a definite mandate after a constitution came into existence.

The role of the judiciary has been primal in the evolvement of democracy in Pakistan. In 2010, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a notable amendment. The 18th amendment made several changes in the constitution and removed the distortions caused by two military rulers: Zia-ul-Haq and Musharaf. The 18th Amendment marked a triumph of democratic forces. The Amendment shifted the balance of power in favour of the prime minister and parliament and expanded the scope of provincial autonomy. The power of the president over parliament and to make changes in the constitution was severely constrained.

This positive change represents an opportunity for Pakistan’s political parties to seriously begin addressing the country’s critical economic and security problems. The political parties should come up with concrete plan and policies to address the issues like corruption, unemployment, poverty, hunger and exploitation. It is important to reduce social and economic inequality to develop social harmony in the society.

The most important effect of the judicial transformation may not be its immediate impact on the composition of the judicial and executive branches of government, but rather the changes it has engendered in the collective identity of Pakistani judges, lawyers, journalists, students, urban professionals and politicians, and its impact on political awareness of ordinary Pakistanis.

If independence of the judiciary is not to be limited to the autonomy of judges and their ability to defend their group interests, reforms are needed to deepen the rule of fair laws and ensure greater respect for human rights. Two areas for priority action can be pointed out straightaway.

Access to justice is a serious issue for the poor, especially for women and members of minority communities. The people expect the judiciary to goad the government, the bar councils and associations into setting up inexpensive legal aid services. Secondly, the Law and Justice Commission needs to be turned into a dynamic agent of change. The issue of delay in action on its recommendations must be expeditiously resolved. It is not fair to reserve chairmanship of the commission for the chief justice of the Supreme Court for his task is to interpret the law and not to make it.

An independent judiciary guarantees the rights of the citizens and the federating units. The system of federation cannot move forward unless there is a judiciary with total structural independence. Integrity of the judges is a key element and sadly, the judicial system in Pakistan is marred by corruption. An alert press and wide-awake civil society can play instrumental role in fair judgments.

Participating in a democracy by voting is one part of a larger freedom that allows the citizens of a community, and our nation, to make change. A free press is one part of a larger freedom because it gives citizens the right to be informed.

But the part of a larger freedom that is often overlooked, or underappreciated, is participation — either by running for office or by being sure to take advantage of laws in place that allow for our voices to be heard. If we don’t like a decision made by our elected officials, let them know by asking them to publically explain their decisions.

Public participation in the decision making is essential for a participatory democracy. The state officials and elected representatives should be accountable to the public. Our democracy is elitist democracy in which feudals, big land holders, capitalists, super rich and tribal chiefs dominate the election scene and political process. The ordinary people and poor masses cannot contest the elections. They only can cast votes in the elections or raise slogans.

Democracy can only be strengthened with the direct participation and involvement of the masses. Pakistan needs people’s democracy to strengthen the democratic movement and political process in this country. Political parties should not run as family business or limited companies. Democratic structures and culture needs to be developed in the political parties. Democratic culture and traditions will not nurture or take root in the society without developing internal democracy in the parties.

The decision making is limited to a close inner circle around the main leaders. There is no institutionalised decision making and accountability in the parties. Pakistan needs participatory democracy in which people can directly participate in the political process and have their say.

Pakistan needs institutional harmony instead of institutional confrontation and fissures. Pakistan not only needs strong military, strong and independent judiciary and a strong and vibrant democracy to prosper. They are not enemies of each other but in fact support each other to achieve national goals and objectives. Let’s work together to make Pakistan much stronger, prosper, richer and economically independent.

Published in on 18-April-2018

Authors: Khalid Bhatti & M I Pasha