The only hope
19 April, 2011
By Roedad Khan
When the history of our benighted times comes to be written, it will be noted that the Iftikhar Chaudhry Supreme Court was the one institution which served the nation most meritoriously in its hour of greatest need. If constitution and freedom under law survive in Pakistan, it will be only because of the sturdy independence of the Supreme Court. Whenever I visit the court and watch its proceedings, depression and frustration all drop away. I go back home full of pride in the court, with renewed confidence in the survival of our country and its fledgling democratic institutions.
In the words of Nani Palkhivala, so long as there is a judiciary marked by rugged independence, the citizen’s liberties are safe even in the absence of cast-iron guarantees in the constitution. But once the judiciary becomes subservient to the executive and to the philosophy of the party for the time being in power, no enumeration of fundamental rights in the constitution can be of any avail to the citizen, because the courts of justice would then be replaced by government courts.
It is our good fortune that after years of subservience to the executive, the Supreme Court is now back on its feet. Chief Chaudhry has set in motion a mighty revolution that is irreversible, because it has the support of the people.
Isn’t it ironic that today the people of Pakistan, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the voiceless, expect justice not from parliament, not from the Presidency, not from the prime minister, but from the Supreme Court?
The few hours I spent recently in the Supreme Court in the NRO case made it abundantly clear that the executive is determined to defy the apex court. Attempts are being made to subvert the people’s will and overturn the judicial revolution. It is the last desperate gamble of a hated and doomed, corrupt autocracy.
President Zardari, symbol of the unity of the Federation, has declared war on the Supreme Court. The government’s refusal to comply with the Supreme Court directive is an alarm call of the most compelling kind. The fear of conspiracy against the Supreme Court hangs heavy in the air. Our history can show no precedent for so foul a plot as that which this corrupt, dying regime has hatched against the Supreme Court.
Today Pakistan is ruled by a president who lacks credibility and integrity and is interested only in perpetuating himself and protecting his ill-gotten wealth at all, costs and cost be damned. The country is breaking down. It has become ungovernable and would remain so as long as he remains in power. When he goes abroad or speaks to foreign heads of state, Pakistanis sit on the edge of their seats wondering how their ruler will embarrass them next.
Today we are engaged in a great battle for rule of law and corruption-free politics. With the demise of the NRO, we won the first round, but the fight is not over. In fact, it has just begun. No military dictator and no corrupt civilian ruler can afford an independent judiciary or an independent media. They cannot coexist. Today both are under attack in democratic Pakistan. The conspirators who have ganged up against the Supreme Court and independent media must not succeed.
Today nuclear Pakistan lies prostrate and has lost its independence. It cannot protect the lives and properties of its citizens. It cannot prevent the violation of its airspace. Why? Because it is now virtually an American satellite and is portrayed in American media as a “retriever dog.” Pakistan has lost its honour, its dignity, and its sense of self-respect.
It is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. To settle back into our cold-hearted acceptance of the status quo is not an option. The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. This is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values, to destroy the roots of the evil that afflicts Pakistan.
Ultimately, the true guardians of the Constitution are the people of Pakistan. People power alone can protect the Supreme Court from the corrupt rulers. Our rulers know that the street is all they have to fear. Confronting them has now become a patriotic duty. Today there is no other path for our country but the one which led to the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other deposed judges.
We have arrived at the greatest turning point in our history. One feels in the air the sense of the inevitable which comes from the wheel of destiny when it moves and of which people are often the unconscious instruments. It is time to turn the page. The time to hesitate is through. This is a moment of great hope for Pakistan. Let us not let it turn into a national nightmare. In this transcendent struggle between the Supreme Court and kleptocracy, neutrality is not an option. You’re either with the people or against them. There is no halfway house. As we approach the endgame, the nation has to decide between two conceptions of politics, two visions for our country, two value systems, two very different paths. Every citizen must ask himself now: if our core institutions are to survive – if Pakistan is to survive – can we afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.
Today there is an intense anxiety on the part of ordinary people for decisive leadership. People are waiting for a stirring lead and a clarion call. It seems that while the nation craves for leadership, political leaders with one or two exceptions are equally determined not to lead them. Is it because they are all for the status quo and do not want to rock the boat? Isn’t it a great tragedy that today the destiny of Pakistan is in the hands of leaders who refuse to draw the sword people offer them?
If people want a change, they will have to vote with their bodies and keep voting in the streets – over and over and over. A government like this, which is defying the Supreme Court, can only be brought down or changed if enough people vote in the streets. This is what the regime fears most. A bloodless revolution but a mighty revolution – that is what we need today.
The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must rouse; the proprieties of the nation must be startled, the hypocrisy of the corrupt rulers must be exposed.
Courtesy: The News