Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Veto the ballot box; Vote in the judiciary

Asma Qadir
Just a month and a half earlier, a few days after the proclamation of emergency, standing in front of the Vice chancellor in lieu of sporting the black band for just those three days, I proclaimed that there was no way that we would miss out on our very first chance to vote as he challenged the maturity of our political consciousness, consistently trying to associate us with those who squander their chance to express even their misgivings while busy sniveling and complaining about the political situation of the country in the comfort of their drawing rooms. That was before the election schedule had been announced; before the emergency and PCO and the dismissal of judges had settled down as a reality.

Today the excitement of that first vote has been replaced by a genuine gloom. Who do we vote for? The NRO-bequeathed, the deal-acquitted, the “anti establishment” establishment party, for BB? Or for the billi of a sher who kept lying about this deal with the Saudi Messiahs after having fled in fear of a death sentence (which was never to be-once being enough for every nation) or worse, a life sentence-a LIFE SENTENCE??? Pity the nation whose leaders bask in the illusions of invincibility-theirs or their detractors’. And now having dumped the civil society movement and the judges and the lawyers for the expedient of all expediencies, should we be trusting this Kashmiri/Lahori “tiger” to stand up to the uniformed lords? Or more interestingly restore the judges who stand much taller than his dwarfed esteem? Not to forget, the orange clad sage of all political turn arounds, Fazlur Rehman. Should we be voting for his cheekiness or his sickly smart no-confidence motion take-on or the delayed resignations that he can splash around to adorn himself with some cheap imitation of the martyr’s halo? Mention of the Surrey Palace and the Swiss accounts and the Ittefaq Mills and the Diesel of a Maulana being too repetitive for any piece on today’s politics, I’d spare the readers of the effort which brings me to the abandoned Kings’ party. Hah, who’s interested, anyways? Snubbed! High time we learnt that art, of bringing sycophants to their actual fit, of ignoring the inconsequential-courtesy Kamran Shafi from Centre Point, Dawn News.

And then, should we be voting at all? The above mentioned reasons alone should not deter people from voting in the polls-alas, if it were just a genuine democracy with some prospect of the choice between the bad and the worse improving to one between good and the better. But when the judiciary stands deposed, when civil society leaders like Munir A. malik are mistreated into Kidney failures or the likes of Aitzaz Ahsan and Iftikhar Chaudhry denied a hearty eid celebration, when lawyers are forced to test all their guts on the streets? When the last guarantee to a just dispensation in this country, the transformed judiciary is treated like trash, should we be going to the polls? All that as one individual twists and distorts the law of the land on his own dictates, eying longevity in mortality-when one man becomes the nation and the nation becomes one man. The elections would just be a distraction, another dead end, pretend-to-be-merry, time pass activity as the usurper runs away with this country and its actual interests, another jewel besides the presidential referendum, the 2002 elections, 17th amendment and the 2007 presidential elections, in his crown. No one will talk about the sacked judiciary once the air gets thick with the political wrangling of a hung parliament which it will be as of elections 2008. One visit by Negroponte was enough to turn Benazir on her heels, to realize the importance of institutions versus personalities, the institution obviously being just the judiciary, as she continues insisting on an amendment to the third time premiership legislation which also happened to be one of the major bargaining chips in the NRO deal talks.

Though still holding on to the restoration-of-judiciary card, Nawaz Sharif did switch sides just recently when he said that the first casualty of a military coup is the Parliament. Like Duh! As if that’s not apparent enough. The simpletons may fall for just another expression of the obvious. For the keen eyed, the politics-honed it should have been the judiciary to be politically correct/sincere. And no wonder, we have politicians taking turns to remind us of the dirty linen of the sacked judiciary, their first time oaths under the PCO, forgetting that their defiance in front of a military dictator is far more real than the stifle of a sacrifice of self exiles and pretended banishments and en-masse resignations at the end of full five years in power. And as Maulana Fazlur Rehman keeps citing the inevitable participation of the people in the polls as a reason for his parties’ whenever he is cornered into spilling out the beans, a boycott would serve to discredit the deservedly discredited, those who have always used our name to justify their petty politics.

Numerous elections have passed in the tarnished history of this country, most held to pass dictatorships, one-man reigns as the most liberal of democracies, as most inclusive of all governments. All have led back to square one, to leave us bemoaning in vain our unconscious role in the perpetuation of the worst of traditions, those which sprang from Justice Munir’s judgment. That small stint with an independent judiciary has raised our standard of expectations. The lawyers’ movement showed us the possibility of a conscientious judiciary in our country. It raised hopes, it empowered people triggering the civil society movement. For the first time in our history, a movement is aiming at a change of system and not just of the faces. The jargon of ideological divides used to rally people into electioneering, the Benazir-Nawaz divide, the nationalist-religious tussle is not the issue today. Justice is our ideology; independent judiciary being the only hope to securing that right to choose, of heralding an era of constitutionalism.

A boycott would keep alive the hopes of the restoration of an independent judiciary. The boycott will afford us some high ground to shoot off our demands from. Elections are a clowns’ play meant to pull away supporters of this movement. They are just another addition to the morsels thrown our way by the ruling elite and which we are expected to accept graciously only because similar or worse circumstances have existed in this country. But yet another dictator cannot be allowed to get away with the vandalism of the highest order of this land. If at all this movement withers away without any apparent results, it would have at least set some positive precedents for tomorrow.

Vacancies are still available in the ranks of Iftikhar Chaudry and Bhagwandas and Ramday, Munir A. Maliks, Aitzazs and the Kurds. The vote will not settle their cause; a veto may.


Anonymous said...

I would have felt as gloomy as the Asma, if there was no party contesting the elections on the basis of its demand for restoration of the judiciary and civilian goverment.

But that's not the case. One party, and you know who, is contesting election on the RESTORE banner. So I just dont see why those of use who believe in this cause and have struggled for it should be kept from voting for it.

How can someone be accused of having dumped the civil society movement and the judges and the lawyers for the expedient - that someone is going to all corners of the country rallying people for the same cause...he is rallying places and people who are well beyond civil society's reach. That same person tried head over heals to drag BB into a boycott, but BB, of course, had other plans.

In any case, the best way for a political party to support a cause is to contest elections under it - boycott is not what comes naturally to political parties. This is why a lot of lawyers and activists who support the movement are going to cast their vote for RESTORE. The hope is that by election time, this slogan would be popular enough to win a majority's support. Then, if elections are rigged to defeat RESTORE, they come out on the streets. If elections are not rigged, and RESTORE makes it to power and somebody else - you know who - will have to back off.

Shhhnufff Duff said...

@ anonymous

but then that's the whole point. that one party contesting elections and calling for the restoration of judiciary is headed by a man who fled this country in fear of a life sentence. Death sentence for a political leader in pakistan is very improbable now and so it wasn't to be, and worse he kept lying about it until the documents were actually revealed. How can such an individual be expected to stand up to military hegemony in pakistani politics and bring about a substantial change and not continue with the tradition of pakistani politicians bowing in front of the establishment whenevr they were confronbted with a crisis situation? The restoration slogan may just win him a little more votes-that's all there is behind that RESTORE slogan.

as for reaching out to the masses, that's exactly where Sharif's switch to the no boyscott camp has hurt this cause the most. Neither Imran Khan nor even the jamaat have such an extensive network to coordinate a mass contact campaign and that alone will eventually guarantee this movements' success. It's apparent appeal to the elite sections of the society though fine for a start will not hild good in the long run.

lastly, elections just like the 2002 elections are going to serve as a whitewash for the Musharraf regime, a certificate of "democracy" to show off to the rest of the world.

This movement has prioritised issues. It's not going to fall for any politicians' tall claims, and that's exactly why the judiciary needs to be restored before elections so as to keep the politicians and the military alike in check. and taking part in elections and making defeat synonymous with rigging is going to weaken the position of these opposition parties so kken to contest the polls. The polls are going to be rigged anyways, prepoll rigging having already started. coming out to protest after having lost the eelctions, either through rigging or anyways would serve no purpose, that moral high ground been lost as it will be.