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Old Sunday, December 19, 2010
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Default The status quo is no longer an option - Roedad Khan

The status quo is no longer an option

Roedad Khan


The writer is a former federal secretary.

A perfect storm is looming on the horizon. Islamabad is once again preparing for a collision between those who stand behind the Supreme Court — the defender of the Constitution, the rule of law, the protector of citizen’s liberties — and those whose hands are dirty, who have looted and plundered the resources of this poor country.

Three years ago, a judicial earthquake remade the political terrain of our country. On March 9, 2007, to be exact, began a new epoch in the history of Pakistan. On that day Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry defied the military dictator and refused to resign.

In Pakistan, the Supreme Court’s historical role has been one of subservience to military dictators. Chief Justice Chaudhry broke with the past tradition and changed all that. The nexus between the generals and the superior judiciary has snapped. An era of deference by the Supreme Court to the executive has given way to judicial independence. 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 an unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court? For once, the citizens of this benighted country have been assured that there is such a thing as true accountability.

They have the comfort of knowing that those who have grown fat and rich on ill-gotten gains at the cost of starving millions can be brought to book and shall be brought to book.

No military dictator and no corrupt civilian ruler can afford an independent judiciary or an independent media. They cannot co-exist. It is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. To settle back into your 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.

Ultimately, the true guardians of the Constitution are the people of Pakistan. People power alone can protect the Supreme Court from 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. 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 half-way 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, whether we can afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.

Today the Pakistan stage is clogged with bad actors playing lousy parts from commanding heights. Too many conflicting agendas. Too many egos. Too many so-called leaders with dirty hands. Major absentee on the stage: the people of Pakistan, barely mentioned by anyone. How can corrupt rulers occupy any place in the political order of Pakistan? This is equivalent to asking what place should be assigned to a malignant disease which preys upon and fractures the body of a sick man.

Every democracy needs a vigorous and vigilant opposition to give voters a choice. I have never seen an opposition so nonplussed, so impotent, so clearly without a shot in the locker. Today we have no opposition party, worth the name, with its own pathway to the future. As Hazlitt put it, “The two parties are like two competing stage coaches which splash each other with mud but went by the same road to the same place”. This doesn’t mean we have no opposition.

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 are equally determined not to lead them. Is it because they are all status-quo friendly 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 its reluctant leaders who refuse to draw the sword people are offering them?

What prevents the opposition parties and their leaders from joining hands and presenting a united front against corrupt rulers out to destroy all our core institutions? What prevents them from taking to the street as they have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country? What prevents them from putting national interest above petty selfish interest? Today we are at the crossroads of a historic choice. This is the last chance, the last battle. If we do not stand out into the streets, a long polar night will descend on Pakistan. Isn’t it a great tragedy that at a time when a window of hope has opened, our political leaders are dithering and cannot forge a united front against corrupt rulers? The time has come when the ultimate sovereign – the people of Pakistan – must assert itself.

Otto von Bismarck once said that political genius entailed hearing the hoof beat of history, then rising to catch the galloping horseman by the coattails. Today Nawaz Sharif is acknowledged leader of a mainstream political party and has a decisive role to play in the critical days ahead. The voice of history beckons him. Will he “seize the moment”? Will he “seize the hour”? Will he respond to the challenge or continue to prevaricate and stay on the fence? That is the question. On that would depend the future course of events in Pakistan.

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.

Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, www.roedadkhan.com
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