Another kind of lawlessness
05 April, 2007
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
On April 3, the pro-government lawyers were beaten up. They were not more than six in number. Khalid Ranjha the lawyer from the government side informed the acting chief justice of how he was “besieged, abused, and made vulnerable to an assault” by the protesting lawyers from the other side. This is another kind of lawlessness. It is peculiar to us. The first kind of lawlessness, the disrespect for rule of law, was introduced just at the beginning by our civilian rulers and the bureaucracy. Almost all of them were from the so-called urban and rural nobility.
The second kind of lawlessness, the economic exploitation, was partly inherent in the system through the institutions of feudalism, tribalism and the extortionist urban rich. It was reinforced further by the rulers from the same groups with the collaboration of the bureaucracy and the military. The third kind of lawlessness, the disrespect for the supreme law, the constitution, was introduced by the military in collaboration with the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the civilian ruling and rich elites. They treated the common law also with equal contempt. The fourth kind of lawlessness, the militancy and terrorism, has been introduced by the external and internal powers, the Americans, the Arabs, the military, the bureaucracy, the civilian rulers and the religious rich; and also by the filthy rich and the mafias — our own and from the world over.
One wished the ongoing ugly incidents involving physical confrontation that were first started by the administration should not have happened. But when things are so meticulously planned, wishes do not work. The development, the reference against the chief justice and the opposition to it, is being presented by the government, the opposition and the lawyers as an effort to establish the rule of law. It is commons sense that the rule of law cannot be established through the use of the lawlessness. Yet, it cannot be said that those who are in the forefront, be they the top lawyers, the politicians, the media moguls, and the government functionaries, have no common sense. They have above average common sense. That is why they are always the beneficiaries, no matter what happens. What happens to the nation they are least bothered. So whatever is happening is a deliberate and well planned affair. In the guise of the struggle for the rule of law, the efforts from both sides are being made to keep the status quo intact. The rule of law in Pakistan means the environment protecting the rich, the ruling and the institutional elites.
The law, whatever exists, should have been allowed to help reach the conclusion. The Supreme Judicial Council would have eventually finalised its own findings, which would have helped the president to conclude whether the reference was justified or not. The judicial process would not have disturbed the status quo. Even after knowing all this why did the protestors choose confrontation? This is what pains. The confrontation would not only keep the status quo intact, it would but also give it another decade of active life. This is nothing but an exercise to keep the lid on the real issues – poverty, health care, shelter and education. Pakistan becoming a welfare state is a nightmare for the rich and also for the powerful institutions, because it would be possible only when the direct taxation is increased at least up to fifty percent and the military budget is halved. Hence, this is again a game of musical chairs though being played in a different way. The confrontation and its result the new ruling faces would provide a psychological relief to the miserable masses. What is disgusting is that for the common lawyers who have shown so much dedication for change for the first time in history of Pakistan, the end results may not be that appealing. What is agonising is that a clean person — a person not interested in material benefits — has been placed at the centre of the crisis.
The situation a day before the reference was normal for the government. Recently held elections for most of the lawyers’ associations were won by the pro-establishment candidates. No political opposition was visible. Benazir Bhutto was negotiating a deal with the government. Surprisingly the person behind the reconciliation efforts was none other than the MMA supreme commander Maulana Fazalur Rehman. It was not the US. For the Americans all Pakistanis are equal. Maulana Fazlur Rehaman is more equal because both he and the Americans had been busy with a joint venture that produced militants. To keen observers they are partners still, though with different priorities. Anyway all Pakistanis are ready to listen to the phone calls. Nawaz Sharif also did. The truth in his much trumpeted statements that he tested the nuclear bombs in defiance to the five telephone calls from President Clinton can be judged by the end results. It was Clinton who got him freedom from the Attock Fort prison and arranged his happy departure to the holy land.
Amongst the rest of opposition Nawaz Sharif had no choice but to shuttle between Switzerland and England. He could at the most arrange conferences for a get together with his rich supporters. The nationalist of Sindh and NWFP were calm and the cries of Imran Khan attracted none. The only political problem the government faced before the reference was from the nationalists of Balochistan. Given the size of support of the stalwarts from Punjab, Sindh and NWFP and of the MQM, the government was comfortable. It could have easily won a majority if it had gone for the elections. It would have won in spite of the American anger and the fact that it had no public support other than that of the MQM support base. It would have won because the people are fed up with the opportunist and policy-less politics of the political parties. The miseries of the common people are so colossal that unless there is a hope for a revolutionary change, they would keep behaving like their opportunist leaders. They too will side with the establishment sponsored candidates.
The government had made all the calculations and was confident to win. What stopped it from opting for the elections is the secret that lies in Pakistan being the most corrupt country. After all it is not the 70% villagers that are corrupt. It is not the 25% city dwellers either. It is one percent elite and their rich friends who are interested in selling whatever Pakistan has through so-called privatization and strange projects. They are also in the business of indenting and property dealing, and of running the gambling dens called the stock exchanges. None wanted to waste time. None wanted to take risk. The election could have turned a voting people into a revolting lot. Masses some times become unpredictable, particularly when they have been turned into the paupers during last many decades. So before the installation of the next government another kind of lawlessness was introduced. It is a methodology that has worked successfully earlier. The people will live with the stories of the ‘struggle’ for another decade, without knowing that they have been sidelined — yet again.