CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

April 27, 2008

Behind the scenes (EDITORIAL)

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 5:22 am
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THE NEWS

APRIL 27, 2008

EDITORIAL


Sunday, April 27, 2008

It seems apparent there is a great deal of political activity taking place behind the scenes. The fact that the NA has been prorogued leaves the issues of the restoration of the judges currently in limbo, though there are reports it may be quickly reconvened. There are varying reports as to what progress the committee set up by the PPP and the PML-N has had in deciding on a formula acceptable to both sides. A great deal is though clearly happening behind closed doors. Stories stating the constitutional packages being worked out by the two big coalition partners target the president, rather than focusing primarily on changes in the tenure or number of judges, have appeared. Under this package, President Musharraf would essentially be reduced to a ceremonial figure with no say in decision-making.

Such a change in the order of politics in the country would fit in with the PPP”s promise to ensure parliamentary supremacy. It would also end a situation in which two parallel centres of power exist within the country, from time to time coming into conflict with each other. The manner in which such friction can trigger dangerous instability has been seen on more than one occasion in the past, with two former presidents Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari playing a part in the premature ousting of elected governments. It is also true that in a parliamentary system, such as that of Pakistan”s, power should rest with the prime minister and the assemblies. In this regard the plan to cut presidential powers may help restore parliamentary democracy in the country and make the task of governance simpler. At present, the existence of what amounts to a “dual” authority leads constantly to conjecture of conspiracy, underhand plots or attempts to subvert efforts made by the government, and this can have only a negative impact, particularly given the rather fraught situation Pakistan faces today.

It is apparent that the cabinet and the president have differing opinions on a range of issues — from the matter of tackling unrest in Balochistan, to dealing with militants to running district administrations. Already, the new government has shown a determination to put in place its line of thinking on a number of issues. This is indeed how it should be. Elected representatives have been given a mandate by citizens, and it is indeed their duty to deliver on what they have promised. They can obviously do so more effectively without intervention from other quarters. As such, a clipping of the president”s wings may take Pakistan closer to the vision laid down in the 1973 Constitution — a document that the PPP has said it is determined to adhere to in its “original” form. The repeated tampering with the provisions of that basic law has in many ways, over the decades, acted only to complicate and murky the picture.

There are also suggestions that the PPP and the PML-N have made it clear to both those outside and within the country that they are determined to carry through their plan. It is assumed that, for this purpose, they have already secured the needed votes in the Senate or else are in the process of amassing the two-thirds majority they need. Certainly, there seems to be confidence that a constitutional amendment can be made and will successfully make its way through the two houses of parliament. The package would, in turn, also make the restoration of judges simpler. The parameters for this are apparently to be laid down in the constitutional package which seeks to look beyond the matter of individuals and strengthen institutions, including those of parliament and the judiciary. Certainly, this building of institutions and a restoration of a single centre of power, based on the decision of people, would act to enhance democracy in Pakistan and increase the possibility of governments completing their term. This is, after all, how things should be in any parliamentary setup.

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