Barter And Charter Democracy
22 May, 2006
By Shahid Orakzai
"FATA shall be included in NWFP province in consultation with them", declares Paragraph No. 8 of the chartered Constitutional Amendments that promise to re-module Pakistan as per the common delight of the signatories. Both FATA and NWFP are abbreviations that may not be instantly understood in London. The average Pakistani would delete the word province occurring after NWFP but the two signatories, of course, are very much above average. Both have been the Prime Ministers not once but twice. The Charter, of course, was drafted by one but never edited by the other. Indeed it's in English but few Englishmen may understand it to the required depth. And what does that mean? Well, the hot spot called Waziristan that hit the headlines as the possible hideout of Osama Bin Ladin is the southern edge of the tribal belt that is being tightened these days. The Charter makes no mention of the ongoing phenomenon but prescribes a solution without bothering to diagnose the disease. The short prescription would involve a surgery of about 50 to 70 Articles of the Constitution, which the two premiers have no cause or reason to read. If Waziristan is somehow included in any province, Pakistan Army can't fire a single bullet unless the President makes a Proclamation of Emergency and defines the geographically limits of the area. There onward the Federation and the Province have to jointly tackle the 'internal disturbance' under Article 232 and 233 of the Emergency Provisions. If somehow the two run into any dispute in overcoming the problem, the Constitution would prefer the Governor's Rule under Article 234.
At a time when the Pentagon is deeply perturbed about the rising influence of Taliban militants in the area and Pakistan Army is almost clueless, the exiled prime ministers have kindly issued a new map. Presently the Military (physically) barricades the Taliban from their ethnic brothers in NWFP yet the currents do find a flow. Executions of the traitors/loyal informants are filmed and publicized. The faithfuls to the Republic have a real hard time. The word Pakistan is at stake. To some it sounds like stepmother. In pleading Pakistan, a wise patriot now draws a line between the Republic and the Federation. You can't plead both in the same breath because the latter, by Waziri perception, is a curse. It's a bloody monster that kills the innocent children for their religious devotion. Comparatively the bearded and helpless Government of NWFP is a source of solace for the injured tribals. A word of sympathy or a tear is much more comforting than a dressing or Morphine. It's in this setting that the two prime ministers of foresight and forethought have kindly proposed the legal adoption of Waziristan by MMA. So far poor Waziristan is not represented in a Provincial Assembly but if you have any confusion about its alignment please be informed that four senators, recently elected to the Upper House, have lately sought separate seats than sit with the Treasury without gain. An equal number is already aligned with the opposition MMA. So anyone who has any doubt about the political complexion of Waziristan can just peep in the upper house than undertake a Cobra tour because choppers do get downed.
The State Department, we learn, is currently exchanging notes (not currency notes) with the liberal households in Charsadda and Mardan that politically and intellectually distance themselves with the shallow ill-schooled Taliban. The theme of the backstage consultations is the future complexion of the NWFP, which is now recommended to carry Waziristan like a kangaroo. Obviously, that would give the South West an edge over the North East of the Province called North West Frontier. Onward, it could be called the South West Frontier. Awami National Party and other shopkeepers in the area can never be serious bidders in a provincial assembly that would be swept by the clergy and the junior clergy called Taliban. And that would open the floodgate to all sorts of religious or pseudo religious enactments that would give the Republic a new taste of Federalism. The Constitution that has gone to dogs, allows every province and people to develop its language and culture. That's how the gap between the advertising industry in Punjab and Frontier is more than the cultural distance between Norway and Sudan.
Though often naive, the democrats still believe in consultation. They are determined to merge FATA into Frontier but "in consultation with them". The Constitution, before it went to dogs, did have room for including a tribal area in a province but it prescribed a procedure for the transfer wherein the President was to ascertain the opinion through a tribal jirga. Every move to alter the age-old routines of that territory had the same precondition but one day a President (Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari) introduced adult franchise in the tribal areas without asking a single tribesman. The great political thinkers of Punjab and Sindh, whether schooled in Oxford or Cheechoo-ki-mal'ian, have a common approach on reform & deform. They scribble like Sikhs. The latest Charter is issued without the seal of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.
Now that the readers can somewhat gauge the depth of the Magna Carta we may attempt to determine the crux. The Charter makes no mention of Article 58 (2) (b). It just raps it up by declaring that the Constitution shall go back to October 12, 1999 sans a few amendments that appease the west and the westernized in the east. Yet it addresses the military appointments by the Prime Minister as the top most objective the Constitutional Amendments. Text:
1. The 1973 Constitution as on 12th October 1999 before the military coupshall be restored with the provisions of joint electorates, minorities and women's reserved seats on closed party lists in the Parliament, the lowering of the voting age, and the increase in seats in Parliament and the Legal Framework Order 2000 and the Seventeenth Constitutional Amendment shall be repealed accordingly.
2. The Appointment of the Governors, three Services Chiefs and CJCSC shall be made by the Chief Executive who is the Prime Minister, as per the 1973 Constitution."
Now if the Document is to be otherwise reverted to October 99, there is no point to make a special mention of the power that was exercised by the Prime Minister on that fateful day. The Prime Minister did what he thought he was empowered to do and the President instead of disapproving the act just wrote the word "Seen" and created a scene. So what is the conflict? Had the President somehow disagreed and referred to the Constitution, we could discuss the subject and assert our respective views. But such a situation didn't arise. Instead of the President, the Khaki subordinates of the Prime Minister overran the scheme.
The serious reader of the non-serious charter ought to read this portion seriously. In here the two signatories (than the parties behind them) have irreversibly expressed their preference. And unlike Afghanistan and Kashmir, there is no U-turn on this road. None of them apparently desire to be the President of Pakistan, an office for which they are duly qualified. If anyone of them had such an ambition, he would not hurry to endorse the other. For the overthrown, it's the highest attestation of a stance by an archrival, for she never had the same view on the day of occurrence. Congratulations! And this attestation is a slap on the face of the Supreme Court, or you better find me another word. Besides English, you have a choice between Urdu, Balochi, Pushto, Punjabi, Sindhi or any other dialect that takes note of indirect insult. Two major political parties have jointly ruled the Prime Minister was powerful to do what he did and may, rather shall, do it again. The Supreme Court issued a judgment on May 12, 2000 on this very subject that can't be reproduced because of the newsprint cost. That judgment can't practically save the Constitution from the dogs. The public perception is to the opposite. The Highest Office of the State is now generally misperceived as second fiddle. It shall be allotted to a jester or joker escorting the hero. Never mind, and rest assured, there is no dearth of jokers in Punjab and Sindh. But casting a Pukhtoon in the same capacity can cause problems because men like Ghulam Ishaq Khan don't go by prompts and spoil the theatre. Caution is advised.
If you want a serious analysis as to where things stand you ought to apply your mind. Find me another Republic of matching calibre and convenience. Here a burning problem (of Waziristan) can be wrapped in gift packing for Pukhtoons and indirectly donated to the Mullahs. That's how the liberals shall fight the war against terror.
Let there be some clarity about English. The barter, frankly, is all-the-more visible. That word applies to exchange of goods as well as services or the bargain involved. In political barter, the two sides get what they essentially lack. Benazir Bhutto is good at draft and Nawaz Sharif at overdraft. Except degrading the office of the President, they have no other charter.