Pakistans silver lining
The current political deadlock will only deepen as long as the country remains under the watch of its present-day ruling structure
By Farhan Bokhari | Special to Gulf News
Published: 00:00 July 15, 2012
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Image Credit: AP
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistans political crisis may be deepening but it comes with a valuable silver lining. In the past week, the Supreme Court has set a deadline for Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to formally approach Swiss authorities to re-open investigations of corruption against President Asif Ali Zardari, in a move that only deepens the quagmire surrounding the countrys ruling structure.
This is yet another important chapter in Pakistans turbulent journey from a military-run state to a stable democracy. By July 25, Ashraf, who was elected just last month to replace former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who was forced out by a Supreme Court order will have to decide if he will abide by the courts order or defy it and risk his tenure as Pakistans head of government.
So far, the government has repeatedly refused to take the cue from the court. Ashrafs dilemma is a repeat of Gilanis ordeal. The former prime ministers refusal to formally approach the Swiss government eventually caused his dismissal at the hands of the Supreme Court.
But there is a far more critical bottom line for Pakistans future beyond just the tenure of one prime minister or another. The words of defiance from some ruling politicians appear to suggest that sanity has increasingly become rare while defying the court in the name of preserving what is an increasingly controversial democracy has instead become the official norm.
In spite of Pakistans sliding conditions, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the current round of tension between the ruling structure, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), versus the Supreme Court. Yet, what is much easier to predict is indeed the prospect of a failing democracy as the government assembles all of its energies to save the top ruler.
Notwithstanding the governments continuing refusal to approach the Swiss authorities, it is clear that the current political deadlock will only deepen as long as Pakistan remains under the watch of its present-day ruling structure.
In the meantime, the Supreme Courts decision to intensify pressure on the ruling regime by insisting on a formal request to the Swiss authorities, has opened up a potentially new and trend-setting chapter in Pakistans political history.
Enforcing the rule of law is not only the Supreme Courts responsibility. More vitally, steps such as forcing Ashraf to be held accountable for the matter related to the Swiss authorities also lifts the Supreme Courts standing in a country where ordinary folks have simply lost faith in the rule of law.
Historically, Pakistans judicial authorities have been associated with supporting military regimes. But in the past few years, the Supreme Court in part through the successful campaign of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in staging a comeback, following his unceremonial dismissal has acquired a more respected position.
The Supreme Courts decision to keep up the pressure on the ruling structure by insisting on a revisit to cases against Zardari in Switzerland must be seen within a broader context. As the court carves out a bigger slot for itself on issues central to Pakistan, many Pakistanis may rejoice in seeing the cherished goal of consolidating a half-baked democracy, within closer reach than ever before.
As for the future of Pakistans present-day ruling order led by Zardaris PPP, there are far too few success stories for the mainstream population. An obvious indicator of the popular mood can well be found across Pakistan where popular lament on the governments performance is way too widespread.
But there could not have been a clearer example of the disconnect between popular sentiment and the mood of the ruling structure than Ashrafs own controversial election as the prime minister.
Dubbed in parts of Pakistans media as Raja rental for his controversial past in overseeing contracts for rental power stations to combat chronic electricity shortages, Ashraf left the cabinet in early 2011 after serving as minister of water and power. His ministerial tenure hardly left much to celebrate. He frequently set deadlines to end power shortages while subsequently failing to deliver.
Though examples like that of Ashraf clearly demonstrate the futility of expecting a largely tainted political order to be set right, there are ample grounds for a revival of faith in the Supreme Courts ability to guide Pakistan towards a more promising future. Every step in this journey where the Supreme Court enforces the rule of law deserves to be amply celebrated, though ruling politicians may increasingly resist such moves.
Farhan Bokhari is a Pakistan-based commentator who writes on political and economic matters
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8 F-86Fs of No 19 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Sajjad Haider struck Pathankot airfield. With carefully positioned dives and selecting each individual aircraft in their protected pens for their strafing attacks, the strike elements completed a textbook operation against Pathankot. Wing Commander M G Tawab, flying one of the two Sabres as tied escorts overhead, counted 14 wrecks burning on the airfield. Among the aircraft destroyed on the ground were nearly all of the IAFs Soviet-supplied Mig-21s till then received, none of which were seen again during the War.