It is said that whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. With each passing day the Zardari administration grows more rash and reckless in the absence of any sane restraining political force. This recklessness vividly illustrates a schizophrenic pattern of behaviour that borders on political suicidal tendencies which threaten to derail a lot more than just their power joyride. The latest examples of their out-of-control egos are the clandestine promulgation of the NAB Ordinance on September 16 and the appointment of the new NAB Chairman in contravention of the rules and laws. These acts of government go beyond defiance of laws. They are an open challenge to the rule of law and the state institutions entrusted with safeguarding them.
All that seems to matter to those who have sneaked into power, not on a mandate based on merit but on a sympathy-vote after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and are wreaking havoc with the nation with their pyromaniacal conduct, is their own draconian will. Rule of law, judicial verdicts, the constitution, the imperatives of democracy and decent transparent conduct be damned. The fact that nearly every significant move this government makes is challenged in court is itself a moral indictment against them.
If the new NAB Ordinance was issued on September 16, why was it kept secret till several days later? Why was the prime minister kept completely in the dark about it? Parliament alone enjoys the direct mandate of the people to make laws and govern. Why was the new NAB law not placed before it instead of being issued as an ordinance by the president, who was elected not by the people but the members of parliament? Governance through presidential ordinances is an undemocratic attempt to bypass the will of the people vested in parliament to establish one-man dictatorship. Predictably, the legality of this ordinance has been challenged in court.
Similarly, the appointment of Deedar Shah as the new NAB Chairman reeks not just of blatant nepotism but a poorly veiled effort on the part of this NRO government to escape accountability for their corruption and other crimes by appointing a handpicked man who might shield them from the law. The Supreme Court verdicts in the Al-Jihad and NRO cases make it clear that the NAB Chairman is to be appointed after meaningful consultation with not just the leader of the opposition in parliament, but also the chief justice.
In fact, the government sought more time from the Supreme Court to make this appointment on the specific grounds that such consultations had not as yet been undertaken. Having bought time, the government went on to abuse the privilege by appointing their handpicked man without meaningful consultations with anyone. Apart from the legal problems with Deedar Shah’s appointment as Chairman NAB, there are political and moral issues as well. This man thrice contested on a Peoples’ Party ticket for a Sindh provincial assembly seat, winning twice. He is still well known as a confirmed jiyala and everyone knows where his loyalties lie. How can he be expected to be impartial in cases against his party leaders?
Keeping in mind the glaringly obvious violations of the rules and requirements of impartiality, how could the government possibly conceive that it would get away with his appointment? It too has been challenged in court. But the more intriguing question is why would they want to take actions that are bound to land them in thicker soup than they already are in? Does this not illustrate a comprehensive and arrogant disregard for the due process of law? Does this not point to an all-encompassing political death wish?
This is not good governance. This is not even bad governance. It is an unabashed rape of law, democracy and state institutions and it has been going on for two and a half years. This government has gotten away with it because it has been given carte blanche to do as it pleases under the preposterous justification of preserving ‘the system’.
During the tenure of this government, real opposition has existed for just one day; March 15, 2009, the day of the long march, which produced results within hours. Other than that, the government’s sleaze has flowed pretty much unimpeded. Even before the devastating floods, the people had voluntarily abdicated their democratic responsibility of holding their leaders accountable. But since the floods they are engaged in a day-to-day battle for survival and issues of legal and constitutional propriety couldn’t be further from their minds. As such, the government now feels totally unrestricted in pursuing its agenda of corruption.
How long can this go on? The answer is very simple; it will go on for as long as the people are willing to bear the pain and suffering in silence. The Zardari administration has done more than anyone or anything since the Ayub/Yahya days to push the country to the precipice of revolution. If the people wish to survive the corruption and incompetence that characterise this government, they have to make a last ditch-stand against this government, just as it has made a last ditch-stand against the rule of law. The people have been badly let down by their leaders in government and opposition alike. They will have to wipe the slate clean and begin afresh, with a new order, a new vision, a new ideal, led by clean, able and competent leaders who must rise from amongst their ranks rather than from a hijacked dynasty.
Does all this sound like an idealistic dream? Yes, very much so. But it is precisely conditions such as these that breed idealism and it is from the belly of idealism that all the great popular revolutions of the world have been born. This is the way it will have to be in Pakistan too if we want to survive and thrive. There is no future for this nation under the decay of the status quo and its proponents who are running the country like a Tehsildar runs a Tehsil.
The seeds of salvation cannot be found in the quicksand of a failed and painful present or past. We must break free from this quicksand. It is shocking that some people still take Musharraf seriously. It is only a reflection of the horrible mess this government has made that even he now appears more palatable than the current lot. But what hope of a better future could possibly emanate from a man who carried out a military coup first against an elected government and then against the judiciary, shredding what remained of democracy and the constitution, ruled with the aid of corrupt and disreputable political mercenaries, sold Pakistani citizens to foreign powers for a fistful of dollars and mortgaged national sovereignty before them in exchange for power? It does not suffice to set a country down the path to oblivion and then say “Oops, I am sorry!”.
Perhaps as a consequence of the repeated letdowns and betrayals we have suffered at the hands of supposed messiahs and saviours, we have reached the point of being terrified of anything new, novel and unfamiliar and prefer to seek solace in the already known. That is why, instead of moving ahead towards a bright new future, we look for answers in the past, which we dronishly cling to despite the harm it has caused. Is it any wonder that we keep going round in circles and find ourselves standing at the edge of the same precipice time and again?