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Did Nawaz Sharif’s ouster affect democracy?

Nawaz Sharif

The frequent claim to how the democracy has been adversely affected by the ousting of the prime minister needs an answer: how exactly has the democracy been affected by the disqualification of a prime minister from a constitutional law perspective?

To start with, what I have personally failed to understand is what the various commentators had rather been hoping for; perhaps what they’re hinting at by their continued protests over the decision is that they would have rather seen the defeat of the rule of law at the hands of the so-called democracy, than a just decision.

Because, of course, if they say the democracy has been adversely affected and should not have been, then what they’re really saying is that the judgment should have been anything but the disqualification of the Prime Minister.

And what it actually takes us to is that the rule of law should have knelt before the (so-called, of course) democratic rule, because if the judges were to try their very best to not reach a particular decision then they would not be deciding on merit, they would be making a decision having been preoccupied with bias, reiterating over and over in their heads: “anything but disqualification”.

This is a very strong statement to make, but has been made over and over (and over) in the last month or so, especially by the ex-prime minister himself, as if he is oblivious to the very obvious message he is trying to convey.

But he, and everyone else, needs to understand the very basic of any democracy: it CANNOT survive in absence of rule of law. And if the capricious authority of any individual (even a prime minister) supersedes the rule of law, then any democracy left would only be the name of it and never the substance of it, in other words: a so-called democracy.

Regardless of how so ever the matter had been decided, democracy can only be furthered if the rule of law prevails and so even if the declaration of the court was non-disqualification (or is so revised following the review petitions), calling out a constitutional judgment like this one for violating the principles of democracy would necessary mean that the principles of rule of law have also been violated.

People of course have every right to criticize the judgment, but without being contemptuous.

That would be their freedom of speech and expression, something every citizen is entitled to.

However, creating a fuss over how the declaration of the court has violated the democracy is not being critical of the judgment; it is questioning the authority of the court of reaching a judgment unbiased, it is saying something along the lines of, “how dare they?”.

But this question need not be answered, not by me, not by anyone else, as any one questioning this need merely be told that their question is in contravention to the rule of law, and does not deserve an answer.

Then it would be up to them if they are able to figure out what this means.
The question that needs to be answered though is whether the democracy, in the proper meaning of the word, has even been a reality in Pakistan over the last couple of years.

And what, you ask, brings me to this question? Well, it is the resignation of the prime minster of a country (also a parliamentary democracy) over the panama papers, and various other resignations that are tendered by public officials around the world anytime they fall victim to a substantive allegation or controversy.

They do not pass the torch over to another institution, even if they claim innocence. They are not forced out of office, rather embarrassingly, for the whole world to see. They leave their office with whatever dignity is left with them, and they then fight if they claim innocence.

But this was exactly what did not happened here. This did not happen when the name of the sitting prime minister and his family members were revealed in the ‘Panama Leaks’, it did not happen when it was shown that a sitting prime minister had lied in his address to the nation and on the floor of the parliament, it did not happen when the court took up the proceedings (by accepting petitions) against a sitting prime minister of a democracy (what a sight for the democratic parts of the world to see), it did not happen when the sitting prime minister and his family members were unable to account for their assets in court, it did not happen when the JIT was formed and investigated a sitting prime minister and his family over allegations of corruption, it did not happen when fake documents were taken to have been presented by a family member of a sitting prime minister to the JIT, it did not happen when a sitting prime minister was revealed to have held a work permit of another country during his tenure, and it did not happen when the sitting prime minister became a laughing stock for the whole nation and the world at large over all of these.

The significance of what did not happen then and what is happening now is not concealed to the open minded or unbiased political observer. It clear as clear can be: it was the (then) sitting prime minister that violated democracy by not doing what he should have done being the prime minister of a democratic country; and it is now the ex Prime Minister that IS actively trying to violate the democracy by questioning the authority of the rule of law.

What can further be deduced, rather coherently, from this, and to answer the question set, is how the democracy has been affected by the ousting of the prime minister: well, it hasn’t been!

 

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