Articles of the year 2009

The Supremacy of Law
Published: January 31st, 2009

The combined sins of our rulers have finally brought our legal system to its present sorry state. The Musharraf era will be remembered for his allowing a crony, General Naqvi, to tinker with the Civil Service of Pakistan, a system that had been in place over two hundred years, and one that had run the Mighty British Empire successfully. The brilliant Bhutto tried to hobble the civil service, but then thought better of it.

The bureaucrat will always be more refined and polished by virtue of his high academic qualification followed by years of further training till at the secretary level he is at par with any bureaucrat in the world - no mean achievement. Musharraf through Naqvi succeeded where Bhutto had failed, bringing the bureaucracy to a state of demoralised paralysis where it still lies.

The main flaw in the civil service system is its greatest strength - the strict observance of rules. Many a ruler has been thwarted in his designs by the rules quoted by the bureaucrat in non-compliance of the master's instructions. Yet it is these very rules that keep our politicians in check, and the government functioning. For General Naqvi to try and change this system was indeed the height of optimism, and lead to the demoralisation of the Civil Service cadre, a severe blow to Pakistan's governance. It allowed the Chaudhrys of the world to push through their seizure of the government to bolster Musharraf. Their incompetence led to a predictable demise of the 'Q' government and Musharraf's ouster, mourned by none.

The damage to Pakistan was at many levels, the most dangerous was the bringing to heel of the judiciary. For it is this pillar of state that controls the course of governance, and stops any waywardness by the politicians who will always try to bend the rules to suit their will. The awarding of extra marks in the matter of the CJ's exam result is a minor flaw, compared to the benefits that are being heaped upon the government, in all matters where the advice of the judges is taken. This benefit though small is to be seen in the larger context of the 'manipulation of the law'. This is a bigger crime in itself far greater than the benefit taken. And as the beneficiary is the daughter of the CJ himself, the action takes a very serious tone. The CJ's daughter is to be viewed in this context. Any and every manipulation is to be considered a breach of the law, and punishable by the appropriate law. The individual act may not be of significance, but the players involved give the importance far greater than the deed itself. On this could hinge the fate of the Chief Minister of the Punjab whose case is up for hearing in the same court of the same CJ. The other effect is the appearance of a bent judiciary on the world stage. As a nation with its leadership functioning under the largesse of a cleverly crafted NRO, it is difficult to fend off the criticism emanating from the other sections of society, and until the infamous law is rolled back, not only will the beneficiaries be looked upon askance, but the entire judiciary will be tarred with the brush of injudicious behaviour. The Taliban themselves will heap scorn on the escape from justice of thousands of criminal actors.

The honours bestowed upon Justice Chaudhry by the World of Law are therefore to be cherished that much more, for the general standard is that much lower.

Meanwhile the civil service in its demoralised state, is certainly in no mood to offer support to the army who they roundly blame for landing them in this mess in the first place, courtesy General Musharraf.

So the judiciary finds itself unable to cope with the thrust from the government without the tacit support of the bureaucracy. The entire ills of the nation today can be placed at Musharraf's door, for having reduced the judiciary and the bureaucracy to mere handmaidens, the media is the last pillar still independent - for how long remains to be seen.

The precarious financial condition of the country is also a matter of serious concern, and we are slowly but surely sliding towards an economic failure, and the IMF platitudes, will not give us more than a whiff of oxygen - nothing more. We have to help ourselves, but with the two main parties locked in a power struggle, it is evident that the supporters of both sides have convinced their leadership that their side has the necessary numbers to win the day. Not realising that the off-stage players in Pakistan (under foreign control) are far more resourceful and dangerous than previously admitted. The revenge for Mumbai has not yet been taken, but it should not be ruled out, nor should we assume the Indians to be that forgiving.