By Amjad Mehmood
The country full of natural blessings is struggling on all fronts after 75 years. Before we talk about solutions, there is a need to identify the devil forces causing all bad to prosperity of Pakistan. Putting aside the self-centered mythologies one can advocate, there are proven causes of this pitfall due to inefficiency of the judiciary, establishment, and politics.
The judiciary is responsible to administer the justice system as per law in the country. It is obligation of the judiciary to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. The provision of justice to the common man and supremacy of law is the identity of an efficient judicial system. The establishment is a broader term and in civilized countries, it is responsible to develop an efficient, effective, and motivated human resource following an institutionalized merit system whereas, in Pakistan, the establishment is always signified as a “Military Establishment”. Then its core task is to defend the country from potential internal and external threats. Their legal mandate restricts them to safeguard the country and maintain the security situation by devising strategies of warfare. Lastly, politics establish a society with standard legislation, norms, and values where citizens enjoy basic rights and demonstrate civic responsibilities. Pakistani politics circle around power with no character and sense of responsibility.
The contemporary circumstances in Pakistan are the results of misdeeds performed by our judiciary, establishment, and politicians who did everything beyond mandate to gratify their ego and vested interest at the cost of nation’s future. This gloom did not surface overnight; rather it was sketched by the military establishment with the help of incapable judicial and political systems in Pakistan.
Historically, there are examples of several nations who have progressed to the pinnacle through their honesty and resolve including China, Argentina, Brazil, and India. China started its journey in 1978 after introducing economic reforms and is now positioned as the world’s second-largest economic power. India and Pakistan share an independence history and after 75 years India’s reserves are $573 billion while we have $3.1 billion in reserves which are actually borrowed from other countries. With 2nd largest population in the country, India is touching a 6.8% GDP growth rate in 2023 and comparatively, Pakistan is making all-out efforts to avoid an economic default by accepting all conditions imposed by the IMF to release a bailout package. Bangladesh is a classic example to quote as the country was liberated in 1971 from Pakistan and now established its identity as the world’s rapidly growing economy with $33.78 billion in reserves with a figure of $52.08 billion in exports.
The tale of our economic disaster is not a secret. The multidimensional crises have gripped Pakistan’s economy including poor policies, lack of planning, corruption, high inflation, political instability, more imports than exports, and natural calamities. Except for natural calamities, the rest of the reasons are self-created and structural problems of the teetering economy of Pakistan. The lack of a transparent economic system & sustainable policies, disproportionately higher involvement of government in economic activities, and inappropriate tax system are adding sullenness to financial health of the country. The recovery roadmap demands coherent & sincere efforts and sacrifice from all stakeholders. Theoretically, everyone is dying in the grief of the country without taking a single substantial step to end the catastrophe.
Starting with the judiciary role in Pakistan, a deep insight offers nothing to share with pride. The institution created to safeguard the constitution and justice system has a history of compromises over its basic role and responsibilities. Judicial independence is critical to the functioning of any democracy. The country ensuring judicial independence also protects the feebler from the powerful, the minority from the majority, the poor from the influences of richer, and the government from misuse of power. The most simplified definition of an independent judiciary is the ‘ability and duty of a judge to decide each case on merit according to applicable law and without influence of outside factors’. The absence of all these values attributes to the existence of a compromised judiciary in Pakistan. Provision of legal cover to military dictators, the awry decisions of death sentence to an elected prime minister, and toppling of elected governments are pendants of the Pakistani judiciary. History is full of judges like Maulvi Mushtaq Hussain who made controversial decisions putting aside merit and law to uphold justice. Regular pressure from bar associations and senior lawyers set the fate of the cases in Pakistani courts.
The malady of Judicial populism and activism was introduced in 2007 when Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had a conflict with military dictator General Musharraf. He started to enjoy populism as the media framed his heroic image in public. He also started to use the power of suo moto frequently and paved the way for judicial activism. The glamor of popularity allures judges to focus on remarks rather than justice. Their names and statements flashed on TV screens and printed in newspapers are becoming a source of contentment. The only goal achieved by the Pakistani judiciary is to ensure ultimate privileges and facilitation for judges and support staff during and after retirement. The recent confessions of a few judges and military bosses for the involvement of establishment in the Pakistani judiciary are alarming and a big question on the justice system. Without a guarantee of an impartial judicial system, the concept of development in any democratic society remains ineffective. The selection and elevation process of judges in Pakistan is a topic of debate and demands an overall review to address the ambiguities of the system. An overhauling of the judicial system in Pakistan seems essential to put the judiciary on the right track and free from all inadequacies.
Military establishment has a vital role in orchestrating the concept of deep-state dominance in Pakistan. Operating beyond the mandate, they repeatedly made utterly wrong decisions and caused irreparable losses to the country. Ideally, they should have expertise in the security domain however, they always preferred to show muscles in the political sphere through covert intervention. Targeting a political figure, nurturing to a slot of leader, and planting in government have been their core strategies since the 1950s. Pro-military politicians and judges provide seed and justification to the military generals to rule over the country. They regularly hunt such compromised politicians and judges to provide them convenience in safeguarding their luxuries and goals. By making all these efforts, the idea of rule of law and country stands nowhere for power elites.
The various phases of martial law and indirect movements against civilian governments are the identity of Pakistani establishment. The country recurrently paid heavy prices for their adventurous approach and for making new experiments. The civil-military power equation is a topic of concern in Pakistan but the debate never advanced to outline a practical formula. The country with a devastating economy which is breathing on international monetary support offers lucrative perks and privileges to the armed forces. The list of allied benefits ranging from essential to luxuries is even mind-boggling. The annual spending on defense services surges to Rs. 1,523 billion. About Rs. 500 billion for pensions for retired armed forces employees is a separate liability which is being managed from the civilian budget since General Musharraf’s regime. A poor country is handling such heavy economic liabilities with a ‘wish’ that the military operates within its constitutional role.
The lust for power and ruling the country enabled the military establishment to intervene in political affairs. Recently, former Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa announced that the military has distanced itself from politics and would maintain ‘apolitical’ status in the future. There are a hundred reasons not to believe this claim until the military establishment proves it with their actions and character.
Pakistan is a political reality after unmatched efforts made by the Quaid-e-Azam and his fellows for freedom from the British rulers. After his demise in 1948, it was the politicians’ duty to cherish his political legacy. The partisan and self-centric approach of political parties led to an unstable Pakistan. Political crises in Pakistan have not developed overnight; rather politicians’ egoism and lack of vision fueled to reach a contemporary state of disaster which is constantly hurting the country. No political party is exclusively responsible for the current circumstance however; all have an equal share to spark off economic, social, and political crises.
The constitution of Pakistan provides a complete framework for politics in the country. The formation of central and provincial governments, functions, authority, limits, transparency, audit, and all essential roles are well-defined. The three branches of government known as executive, legislative and judicial have their dedicated mandate to function within the constitutional role. In a democratic state, the political parties devise their manifestos to remain distinct from each other and contest in elections. The victorious stands eligible to form a government and serve the nation.
So far, real democracy has not landed in Pakistan. Otherwise, Pakistan would have progressed like India and Bangladesh who have witnessed significant growth in all walks of life. A controlled and partial democratic system is functioning in Pakistan with a number of acute diseases. The political parties intend to have worshipers instead of political workers. There is no vision and planning for the future to bring social and economic prosperity. All efforts circle around the attainment of power through any legal, illegal, or shortcut method to lead the government and grip the resources. The greed for power forced politicians to sacrifice democratic values where public has great values and participation in the formation of policies. The mutual rifts and intriguing nature of politicians create a vacuum for non-democratic forces to play their role time and again.
Pakistan, being a nuclear power heading swiftly toward an economic default with the potential threat of social unrest. Judiciary and establishment have an obvious role to reach this adversity, however, politicians have miserably failed to demonstrate political maturity. Time is ticking fast to a make-and-break situation and demand from all stakeholders to show some mercy on Pakistan by performing their role as assigned to them by the constitution of Pakistan.