Sindbad and the 18th Amendment

Let me ask my fellow countrymen and women if they remember the story of Sinbad and the old man?

By the bank of a swollen stream, Sindbad comes upon an old man.  “I am old and weak,” says the old man. “Carry me to the other side and Allah will bless you.”  Being a good-hearted fellow, Sindbad lifts the old man onto his shoulders and wades across the stream.  But when they reach the other side, the old man refuses to climb down.  Indeed, he tightens his legs around Sinbad’s neck until Sindbad feels himself choking.  “Now you are my slave,” says the old man, “who must do my bidding in all things.”

I remember this story because that is how I see the beloved motherland today.  The present Pakistani leadership, the ruling party, the PPP, and the main opposition, the PML-N, are symbolically the old man riding on the shoulders of the beleaguered masses.  They have traumatized the country and are turning it into a slave-nation doing the bidding for the vested interests of the ruling elites – specifically for the Co-Chairperson of the PPP and the Quaid of the PML-N and their cronies.


The latest proof (not that there are not other blatant proofs available) of this deceptive and manipulative political management of the country is the fraudulent, cunning, devious and adulterated maneuver of several important clauses in the 18th amendment.  Let us look at the specific clause dealing with the internal elections of the political parties.


The media has reported that the two senior-most members of the ruling party, the PPP, insisted that the explicit condition of internal elections in political parties as stipulated in previous legislation must be removed, and the PML-N concurred. Consequently, the much-celebrated 18th amendment does not stipulate internal party elections constitutionally.  Fundamentally speaking, internal party elections should be binding on political parties in a democratic set-up.  The absence of such a provision is an alarming malfeasant development in the so-called refinement process of the democratic structure of Pakistan by the present-day legislative body!


The PPP spin doctors and truth surgeons and, over in the PML-N spin-world, Team propagandists contend that there is already a “Political Parties Act” in place that regulates internal elections of all political parties in Pakistan.  Consequently, they claim, there is no need for a constitutional guarantee for this purpose.


In the first place, for the kind information of all spin doctors and propagandists alike, there is no such thing as a “Political Parties Act” anywhere in Pakistan’s legal manuals.  What we have, in fact, is a “Political Parties Order” enacted by Gen. Pervez Musharraf that now stands null and void in view of the annulment of all of the ordinances passed by the previous regime.


The important question here is: Is there a legal process and a constitutional prescription available as a remedy (should a conflict situation arise) to un-seat or dislodge an incumbent party boss from his/her position of party leadership?  For example, will the PPP and PML-N cronies, grinning from ear-to-ear with their leader’s personal triumphs (rather than national accomplishments) and their own unbending loyalties (for personal interest and benefit), ever challenge any of the present party leaders?  In this context, the vital element that needs to be understood is the “personal political behavior” and “personal intentions” of the party bosses.  In a world of actual realities, without an indulgence in illusive imagination and daydreaming, the facts are that there are no reasonable behavioral indications to believe that one fine day, out of the goodness of their hearts, the present party “Godfathers” (either PPP or PML-N) are going to relinquish their party positions in favor of a deserving candidate or in the interest of democratic advancement.   If anyone believes the contrary, then they don’t have the slightest clue of the acrimonious intricacies of “personal political conduct” that wholly and solely governs the hitherto political structure in Pakistan!


The deleting of the political parties internal elections clause is a carefully planned move.  In essence, it lays down the ultimate foundations of a “civilian dictatorship” super-imposed on the nation by an autocratic hereditary leadership.  A Zardari followed by another Zardari (made obvious by naming his son Bilawal Bhutto instead of Bilawal Zardari) and at some point in time a peacefully dying Nawaz Sharif (we are all mortals – no offense to Mian Sahib) nominating another Sharif to lead the party.  From the Zardari-Sharif point of view, that ought to be the destiny of this nation.  How ironic!


The PPP political strategists and the PML-N apologists are already arguing, under the pretext of saving the so-called democratic system, that the parliament is the ultimate source of all legislative and constitutional power in the country.  The purpose of this malevolent approach to political management is to subjugate the Supreme Court.  While it is true that the parliament is the ultimate legislative body and can amend the constitution (by following an explicitly laid-down process), it is not a constitutional assembly nor can it make or interpret the constitution.  The interpretation of the constitution is solely vested in and is the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court only.  The PPP and PML-N leaderships, both fearing the Supreme Court’s independence (that might hamper their personal financial and political interests), are deliberately attempting to derail the fundamentals of constitutional democracy in the country.  Let it be a warning that such a malicious attempt is bound to fail and will cause unproductive and repugnant outcomes.  Such an act will also result in overall repentance later.    The supremacy of the Supreme Court cannot be challenged in its authority to make sure that all legislation in the country is done in accordance with the principles laid down in the constitution.


Another pertinent and pressing question is: How is it morally-ethically conceivable that a person under a criminal indictment or with a criminal record  be exempted and made eligible to be a member of the legislative assembly or holder of an official high office in the government?  The 18th amendment has failed on this score as well.


In hindsight, the seeds of civilian dictatorship are clearly sown and the party bosses “authoritarianism” is vividly visible in the PPP/PML-N authored script of the future management of political parties and of the Pakistani state:  “In this context, the power given to president of the ruling party through the 18th amendment to remove the prime minister can lead to dictatorship of the party chief.  The prime minister should be removed by parliament alone,” wrote an eminent foreign observer of Pakistan’s domestic affairs.


The 18th amendment is also flawed in that it falls short of many basic political aspirations that were expressed in the Charter of Democracy document and makes no mention of the resolution of core problematics faced by the nation: “growing poverty, unemployment and inequality, brutalization of society, breakdown of rule of law and the unprecedented hardships facing our people…which has pushed the country to the brink of disaster…The question that remains is: will people defend fragile democratic polity, which Pakistan has acquired, when it is challenged by a civilian dictator or a military chief?” wrote Kuldip Nayar, the eminent Indian diplomat and columnist.


Fed up with the incumbent regime’s ineptness, inefficiency, corruption, mismanagement and continued political disasters and the main opposition party’s dysfunctional role in the advancement of the political process, the majority of voters are distrustful of and disillusioned with the old duopoly.


A renowned Pakistani columnist said the other day on a popular TV talk show: The nation’s “bhook” and “nang” (hunger and poverty), its deprivations, its lawlessness, its corruption, its killings, its “faqa-zadi” (starvation) and all the rest of the present ills are justified by the ruling party, the PPP, and its cohorts, the PML-N, because they claim that this much must be allowed and accepted – for at least Pakistan is now gifted with a democratic era!  How ironic!


Imran Khan is politically correct when he says that the resolution of our national problematics is a fresh election and the emergence of a revolutionary leadership.  He is also right in calling upon the people to come on the streets to demand their democratic rights – the right to a welfare state in Pakistan.


And if Nawaz Sharif has not noticed what Farooq Satar said on the launching of the MQM in Punjab, let me reproduce it here for Mian Sahib’s benefit:  “tusi sab nun azamaya wey – hun sun vee azamao – maza nanay ta pesay wapas” (You have tried everyone. Now give us a chance. Your money will be refunded if not satisfied.)  How elegantly and skillfully put in the Punjabi language to the Punjabi people!  Soon the PPP and PML-N will be history in Punjab – and for that matter, all over Pakistan!


And remember the Sindbad and the old man’s story! There are lessons to be learned.


Don’t be slaves! Rise up! Throw the yoke from your shoulders! That is how living nations react to oppression!


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