Political maturity

If there is one thing in Pakistan that is constant, it is the interference of an-all powerful military establishment in politics. Thus it was good to see Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif asking the nation to stand united against another martial law, which he said the country cannot afford. Mr Sharif has shown political maturity over the years, especially after signing the Charter of Democracy (CoD) with late Benazir Bhutto. The opposition’s right to oppose the incumbents and/or expose the government’s failings is legitimate under a democratic order. If exercised within the bounds and norms of democracy, there is nothing wrong with it. Indeed, it is the duty of the opposition to point out misgovernance in order to improve the system. In the 1990s, this right was misused and in fact transgressed to derail the democratic system. Mr Sharif has been consistently asking for a redressal of the civil-military imbalance and civilian supremacy. This is why he recently came under fire for filing a petition in the Supreme Court to investigate the Memogate scandal.

“We do not want political mileage by exploiting the memo issue,” said Mr Sharif. On the surface, it seems that the hardliners in the PML-N persuaded Mr Sharif to go for this petition but when public opinion denounced this decision, the PML-N chief realised his mistake. Interestingly, it was reported that even from within his own party, Mr Sharif faced a lot of criticism. The Memogate scandal was a political issue. Involving the judiciary was not needed. The PML-N made a hasty decision despite the fact that the prime minister had ordered an inquiry into the event, Mr Haqqani had resigned from his post as ambassador to the US, and this issue had been referred to parliament’s committee on national security. It is embarrassing for the judicial forum as well to get involved in a political matter when the judiciary would rather remain within its own parameters and not start another executive versus judiciary clash. Since the petition cannot be taken back as it would further compound the error, Mr Sharif is now making it clear that he does not want to derail democracy and will not stand behind any military misadventure. Mr Sharif has had a very sobering experience after his government was ousted in 1999 through a military coup by General Musharraf. Now he realises that all political forces need to strengthen the democratic system instead of rocking the boat.

It was sad to see how some people bade farewell to their humanity, moral, ethical, religious values and wished ill of the president. On top of that, gossipmongers and visceral haters of the PPP and the president had a field day. All speculations about President Zardari are pie in the sky without reference to the facts. Facts really do not matter to those who have a vested interest in rolling back the democratic process. Mr Sharif knows from personal experience that it is not just the PPP or PML-N that stand to lose in case democracy is threatened, the entire political class loses out in such a scenario. After Prime Minister Gilani called Mr Sharif and broke the ice, it seems that steps are being taken to caution and unite all political parties against undemocratic moves by certain quarters. Being the second largest mainstream political party, Mr Sharif’s opposition to another military dictatorship is welcome. Welcome back to the fold, Mr Sharif, and kindly stay the course!

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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