The Battle Of Democratic Pillars

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It is fortunate that martial law has not been imposed in the land of contradictions, giving us hope in democracy. However, this hope is being dashed by the infighting among democratic pillars.

On one hand, there is a verbal and legal battle between elected representatives and the judiciary. On the other hand, unnecessary inclusion of print and electronic media in the defamation law has sparked a conflict between the media and the PML-N.

Beyond these two conflicts lies a greater political struggle between the government and the PTI, which is fundamentally a battle for civilian supremacy, currently led by PTI. The underlying story of this battle is the tussle between the establishment and Captain Khan.

In a country where multiple fights are ongoing simultaneously, with a struggling economy, competition with one neighboring country, and terrorism from another, it makes no sense to continue and maintain such conflicts.

Those perpetuating these conflicts either lack common sense, have no concern for the future, or are incapable of extinguishing these fires.

Democracy is a successful and robust system, and Pakistan’s constitution is based on democratic principles. The elected houses, representing the people’s will, have the authority to legislate. Parliament holds supremacy over all other institutions as it is the source of law, much like a mother.

The judiciary interprets the laws and the constitution made by Parliament. Both institutions are fundamentally democratic, but if they descend into conflict, both will suffer, and democracy will be the ultimate victim.

Currently, the situation is such that our esteemed lords of the judiciary are being criticized in elected houses, while our lords, such as Justice Khosa, who once referred to Nawaz Sharif as a part of the Sicilian Mafia, were acting as proxies. Tomorrow, both elected representatives and judges might realize they became proxies for specific interests after losing democracy.

As a humble supporter of democracy, I urge both parties to consider long-term democratic and constitutional interests, cool their tempers, step back from their current positions, and find a middle ground.

We have seen in the past that neither the disqualifications of elected representatives by judges received public support, nor the allegations and references against just judges by governments were accepted by the public. Both approaches are wrong. Extremists on both sides are fueling the fire, and it is unclear why the moderates are not playing their role.

Remember, countries are not run by the extremism and fury of hawks but by the peace and reconciliation of doves. Democracy is essentially about accepting each other. Distinguished judges and respected legislators should rein in their horses, seek refuge in the inn of peace, and let democracy function. The entire country will suffer the consequences of one person’s shortsightedness.

Does history not teach us that a country embroiled in internal conflicts, with many fueling the fire, cannot prevent its future from becoming bleak? It is regrettable that no effort is being made to extinguish the burning fires of conflict.

Our mainstream media is already losing to social media due to orders, regulations, and numerous restrictions. The print and electronic media have effective gatekeeping systems, with news and analyses being scrutinized, constant PEMRA monitoring, government reprimands, and public and judicial accountability. Under these circumstances, subjecting mainstream media to the new defamation law is tantamount to silencing it.

There are sufficient laws for mainstream media. New laws should be made for social media, but stakeholders should be consulted.

Democracy allows every individual and institution to struggle for their rights and powers, but it does not permit anyone to exceed constitutional limits. In my humble opinion, all institutions and esteemed individuals are currently exceeding their constitutional limits, which is why crises are escalating. If every institution and individual holds themselves accountable and steps back, all of Pakistan’s issues can be resolved one by one.

In a democratic society, if we all have rights, we also have responsibilities. If the constitution grants freedom of expression to journalism, it also sets boundaries regarding other institutions. Similarly, if the Supreme Court is designated as the highest and final authority for constitutional interpretation, it too has limits.

If some judges mock Parliament, and three biased judges dismiss a Prime Minister elected by millions, it is an overreach. Likewise, if any lord, no matter how esteemed, insults or mocks people like Saqib Nisar or calls them proxies like a respected judge today, it is unworthy of their position. The old tradition of issuing contempt notices to assert superiority and humiliate others should end.

The iron bean remark to Khawaja Saad Rafiq, the public humiliation of the PKLI doctor, the taunt to the owner of National Defense Hospital, Justice Khosa’s labeling of the Prime Minister as part of the Sicilian Mafia, and Justice Azmat Sheikh’s threat of Adiala Jail are still fresh in minds. Our beloved judges seem to have mounted the same horse that eventually throws off its rider after much bucking.

Please, everyone, stay within your limits. Exceeding your democratic and constitutional authority is entirely wrong, whether it is a “big Tarar” or an important figure from Karachi, a Mamoor Min Allah, or a son of Sattar. All fighters are ultimately wrong.

 

Suhail Warraich
Suhail Warraich
The writer is a senior journalist and columnist, who also hosts his famous TV show Aik Din Geo Kay Sath.

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