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Ray
24 Sep 05,, 20:24
Saturday, September 24, 2005

COMMENT: Democracy has a life of its own —Shaukat Qadir

All our leaders have succumbed to the temptation of tampering with institutions. Z A Bhutto began undermining the judiciary and the election commission. Each subsequent leader, civilian or military, has only improved further on this process. So far only the FPSC had been left untouched


What is happening at the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC)? A recently retired Lt-Gen has gone to court, appealing against a presidential ordinance that reduced his term as well as those other members in office. It so happens that the president is also the sitting COAS, under whom this Lt-Gen was promoted to his last rank, whom he (the Lt-Gen) faithfully served in important assignments during the period of his service which was duly recognised by his appointment as the chairman FPSC.

The tenure of the chairman FPSC and its members is fixed at five years. However, the president recently reduced it to three years by a presidential ordinance. That the affected (even though retired) officer should appeal to a court of law is akin to sacrilege! Officers of junior ranks have done something similar, but such an act by a Lt-Gen is unprecedented.

Is he doing so only to extend his tenure and not lose his pay and perks? I have known Lt Gen Jamshaid Gulzar for many years — over 40 in fact –and would be surprised if that were his motivation. Therefore, if he has chosen to take his chief to court, I look for a reason more compelling than personal gain.

The tenure of all members of the FPSC was fixed at five years, essentially for the purpose of continuity. As it also provided job security, its aim was to enable the FPSC and its members to be more independent.

Despite this security, most chairmen and members have succumbed to pressures of the powerful. Under this chairman, for the first time however, those in supposed positions of authority were finding it impossible to bend this commission to their will. Favourites were ignored despite their faithfulness to their bosses. This was most displeasing to all, including Chaudhry Shujaat, the prime minister(s), other important ministers etc. Even the president found that his wishes were being ignored.

Hence change became necessary. Funnily enough, despite having a biddable majority in both houses, the president did not consider a constitutional amendment and has again resorted to a presidential ordinance. The matter does not end here. Even while the affected parties have appealed to the court and the matter is sub-judice, the government has appointed two new members to the commission.

All our leaders have succumbed to the temptation of tampering with institutions. Z A Bhutto began undermining the judiciary and the election commission. Each subsequent leader, civilian or military, has only improved further on this process. So far only the FPSC had been left untouched. Now its fate lies in the hands of a judiciary which has also become increasingly dependant on the government.

One can only wait with bated breath for the outcome. Meanwhile kudos to Jamshed Gulzar for his courage and his principled stand on the matter.

There are three pillars of state in a democracy — the executive, symbolised by the chief executive and government functionaries at all levels, the legislature and the judiciary. They are supposed to provide a system of checks and balances. When the legislature and the judiciary have been made dependant on the executive, the executive becomes all-powerful and even dictatorial. This can happen in a ‘democracy’ which is what we are witnessing.

Despite this, democracy tends to have a life of its own and, even under controlled environments, as in Pakistan, it can find a life of its own, to the surprise of those who think they are in control. Gen Zia discovered that to his embarrassment, when he was challenged by Muhammed Khan Junejo, a political nobody. Today, we are also witnessing changes that appear to be of no great account individually, but collectively, indicate the possible rebirth of democracy.

Twice in the past month the opposition has been able to prevent the government from passing a bill; only due to the fact that treasury members absented themselves from parliament on the day those bills were to be voted on, denying the government the majority it enjoys. Twice members of the treasury benches have voted with the opposition.

Despite the accusations of massive rigging, neither the PMLQ nor the MMA, the government-friendly opposition, have been able to hold their own in the recently concluded local bodies elections. The PMLQ has failed to win as many seats as they expected to, while the MMA has lost significant ground.

It is expected that the PMLQ might recover when it comes to elections of the Nazims of districts and Tehsils, but the people have spoken and made their opinion evident when they had the chance. This is encouraging and I hope the powers that be, notice the trends, which should cause them worry.

The author is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_24-9-2005_pg3_5

What one can at best say about the democracy in Pakistan is that it is a "Guided" Democracy.

It is no surprise that the institutions have to be subservient. The odd man with a conscience however even in such circumstances cannot be ruled out and the General appears to be one.

However, his voice will be suppressed since the judiciary is but a stooge of the govt.