by Aakar Patel Jan 20, 2013 08:58 IST
We should see the demand by Tahirul Qadri to have more moral politicians in Pakistan as part of a sequence.
The charismatic religious scholar wants leaders to pass the test of article 62 of the constitution. It requires of a legislator that:
"(d) he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions;
(e) he has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practises obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins;
(f) he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen."
This isn't the sort of thing other nations seek, but the idea of Pakistan is utopian. The seed of this is in its creation. Whether one sees it as a homeland for Muslims escaping oppression by Hindus or as a fortress for Islam, this aspect, creating a perfect society, is common.
This search for perfection usually expresses itself through rejecting what is available because it isn't up to the standard.
Ayub Khan abrogated the 1956 constitution ("not suited to the genius of Pakistan") and invented indirect democracy. Samuel Huntington thought Ayub was the right man for Pakistan and likened him to the Greek lawgiver Solon. Alas, Bhutto abrogated Ayub's laws and had his laws in turn mauled by Zia, because none of it seemed right.
The decade of the 1990s saw the ejection of elected leaders who went not because they were voted out but because of their moral flaws or unsuitable character. Benazir was corrupt, secular and nepotistic, Sharif was independent of the army and soft on India.
Pakistan's system has swung from dictatorial (Ayub and Yahya) to presidential (Zia and Ghulam Ishaq Khan) to prime ministerial (Bhutto, Benazir and Sharif). One theme has persisted: The suspicion that whatever is current, whether law or leader, is not right and must be replaced.
Musharraf thought it was the British bureaucrat-based district administration that was undemocratic. No matter that it is the backbone of administration in India. The system was all wrong and unsuited to the genius of Pakistan. Uprooting it was the solution and so he went to grassroots democracy like Ayub.
Today it's difficult to understand what the system of Pakistan's government is even for those who have studying it for some time. Under Zardari, we now appear to be back in presidential mode, though nobody can be sure. What is constitutionally a parliamentary democracy looks like a triumvirate with executive power being shared by the president, the army chief and the judiciary, which is increasingly writing law and executing it.
Last Wednesday, my friend Bilal Minto, representing what remains of the communists in Pakistan, asked the Supreme Court to consider restricting the amount of money spent on elections. The court took this up while hearing a matter on electoral reform. Personally I think it wrong that Bilal and others should take to the courts what is essentially a legislative function. However, it's sensible to have this law. Chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry did not think so, and said it will be difficult to implement. Instead, he's asked for compulsory voting, something for which I see no benefit coming to Pakistan. I mention this point because this idea of compulsory voting is also utopian. It assumes that press-ganging everyone into polling stations will produce true democracy. It won't, of course.
Pakistan has the same problems as India - poverty, illiteracy and corruption (in that order). We can add perhaps two additional ones, a lack of religious diversity in society that inclines it towards extremism and, because of this, a lack of pluralism in law.
The outsider suspects it is a mess that is actually internal and cultural, not one that is soluble in new systems or more moral politicians.
Whether or not that is correct, it is likely that my three-volume Constitutional Law of Pakistan, not that old but already out of date, will keep expanding. The search for Utopia will continue in Pakistan. Thomas More wrote about the ideal society and called this magical nation Utopia, a word derived from "no place" in Greek.
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