By Khalid Pervaiz (Booni)
Democracy, as defined by Abraham Lincoln, implies a government by the people, of the people and for the people. As opposed to that, In Pakistan this form of government has always been defined and practiced as ‘buy the people, off the people and far the people’. The common man in our country is a nonentity in the entire process of the democratic form of government. They are mere pawns and remain silent spectators in the power game show where the titans of our segregated society vie with one another to enter the corridors of power. Those who are adept at the art of playing with the sentiments of the public by demagoguery, manipulation of public perception and vote can outperform their competitors in this power politics.
The politicians once elected to power through the vote of the poor masses enjoy perks and privileges at the expense of the taxpayers’ money. They indulge in massive corruption and embezzlement incurring huge loss to the national exchequer. It’s on the record that the ill-gotten money has been stashed in the foreign bank accounts as a result of that per capita debt has increased manifold. The rich get richer and the poor poorer widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. In this gloomy scenario, democracy is presenting the picture of kleptocracy. The rich and the landlords evade taxes whereas the poor and the low-income salaried people are heavily taxed on sales items and limited income. The rule of ‘might is right’ is prevalent in the country wherein democracy is reduced into a mere ‘sham democracy’.
Since its inception, the country is swinging like a pendulum between the military and the civilian rule causing damage to the sustainability of genuine democracy and rule of law. This in result has debilitated the governance system and pitted one institution against the other in a bid to assert their supremacy. This tug of war between the institutions to establish their dominance has been a bottle-neck in the strengthening of the democratic form of government in the country. As a consequence, the welfare and wellbeing of the general public has always been relegated to the background.
The military rule always stifled the voice of the common man and suppressed the opposition in order to prolong the dictatorship of one man.
Retrospectively, Judiciary has remained subservient and with no qualms of conscience validated military adventurisms under the doctrine of necessity. The judges of superior judiciary who are ipso facto the custodians of the Constitution allowed the military dictators to tamper with this sacred document at will. Had the Judiciary played its role to thwart intermittent military interventions, democracy and rule of law could have taken roots in the country. In the wake of the 2007 campaign for judicial activism and to reinstate the then CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Judiciary has been asserting itself proactively but still there is a long way to go for this supreme institution to plug the loopholes.
As a democratic institution, its foremost responsibility is to give speedy justice to the people of this country who are stuck in prolonged litigations in the courts of law for decades. The backlog of cases pending in various courts has touched the figure of 1.8 million waiting to be sorted out on a war-footing by the superior judiciary. The Constitution of the country empowers the judiciary to safeguard the freedom of rights to expression, rights to life and liberty and fundamental rights to education and healthcare of the common man. The role of this institution in the strengthening of democracy cannot be ruled out.
The time has come this institution overcame its blemishes and flaws of commissions and omissions and stood like a rock to uphold the rule of law so that democracy takes its root in the country. Moreover, The Executive, the Judiciary, the legislature and the military have their defined parameters in the democratic form of government. Any attempt to trespass their domain will tear apart the democratic set-up as has happened in the distant past on a number of occasions. The ongoing squabbling between these institutions to browbeat one another is indicative of the fact that we have not learnt our lesson from history and are treading the path of insanity at the huge cost democracy and the rule of law.