Gilani’s musings

Prime Minister Gilani made some rather significant points during his visit to Multan. Mr Gilani praised the 18th Amendment and said that it has defined the jurisdiction of all state institutions, thus they should all work within the given parameters. Granted that the 18th Amendment has indeed been a remarkable achievement of the parliamentarians, there is still no guarantee that it has put an end to conflicts between state institutions. It is a hope rather than a reality, at least for the moment. Having said that, the said amendment certainly paves the path for a settling of what has in the past been a contentious issue of where one institution’s purview ends and where the other’s begins. In many other developed democratic countries, this problem has arisen historically. Given that we are a young and insecure democracy, wary of military interventions, it will take some time before Pakistan can actually evolve into a mature democratic country. The continuity of democratic rule is imperative for the country’s development and survival. Delineating the powers of the institutions is the need of the hour and the sooner we do it the better. But to expect that the 18th Amendment will by itself ensure that no state institution can overstep its constitutional purview in the future is not yet a settled matter. The proof of this is the ongoing tussle between the executive and the judiciary, at which the prime minister himself has hinted many times. Such a confrontation between two of the most powerful institutions of state is inimical to democracy and will only help the forces opposed to this government and democracy per se.

On the issue of corruption and accountability, the prime minister was very vocal about how only the politicians are targeted but no word is ever said about the military dictators. Mr Gilani has made a very valid point. Why is it that whenever a civilian government is in power, the issues of corruption are raised left, right and centre while this same ‘freedom of expression’ is not voiced during military rule. Since the day Pakistan came into being, freedom to voice one’s thoughts has panned out in a manner that the weight of accusations and criticism are more against elected government whereas the military dictators get away scot-free. Arguably, the woes of the country for the last many decades can be traced to the military dictators who don the mantle of natural ‘saviours’ when in fact they leave us with a bigger mess than the one they ostensibly came to correct. Half the country was lost while General Yahya Khan was in power; the culture of drug trafficking, extremist ideology and weapons was promoted during Zia’s time, what to say of General Musharraf’s disastrous policies. Accountability should be done across the board, particularly when we are still wrestling with the legacy of the most powerful institution of state.

Mr Gilani said that the Kalabagh Dam (KBD) could become a national asset but since there is no support for the project in the three smaller provinces, it is not realistic or wise to push the issue. We have to understand that KBD is no longer merely a technical issue, as some would have us believe. There are deep fissures in the polity because of the trust deficit based on the history of manipulation of water resources by the upper riparian Punjab. The opposition to KBD cannot be ignored. It may be advisable to let sleeping dogs lie and think of alternative solutions to tackle the energy crisis.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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