By Raoof Hasan
The pace at which the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case progressed before the full bench of the Supreme Court made the beneficiaries of the infamous and despotic proclamation extremely uncomfortable. Nearing the end, their nerves could not hold any longer and they decided to interject by moving a plea that the court should limit itself only to the contours of the original submissions by the lawyers of Dr. Mubashar Hasan and other petitioners and that it should not 'overstep the limits' by adjudicating on the fate of multifarious benefits accrued by various respondents including, but not limited to, the one who sits on the hill.
The plea is seriously indicative of the cracking up of nerves of the beneficiaries under incessantly mounting pressure. Whether it comes in response to the present submission that is before the Supreme Court, or it would unfurl in response to any fresh application that may be moved in the future, the matter is not going to end just with the NRO being declared void ab anitio. It would go beyond that. It would touch the realm of what would be the fate of the benefits passed to over eight thousand people under the NRO and where would the cases relating to loot, plunder, even murder stand that have since been written off. Having displayed a total absence of morality so far, the beneficiaries continue in their elevated public offices and appear determined to try every trick in the bag to put off the dreaded adjudication.
The struggle for the advent of the rule of law is as old as Pakistan itself. It is only now that we finally have a whiff of what should always have been there. Instead, what we had was the 'doctrine of necessity' – an abominable instrument that was used, ever so often, to proclaim the acceptance of dictatorship hands down whenever some charlatan came riding the barrel of a gun. That is precisely why the beneficiaries of this black law are finding it so difficult to adjust to the emerging ground realities and they are fighting desperately to stave off the inevitable. It would have been just that much more graceful if the writing on the wall had been read and the illegal beneficiaries of a black legislation had thrown in their ill-gotten gears, submitting before the supremacy of the decision of the superior judiciary. That, unfortunately, was not to be and it is now left to the court to pass the stripping orders together with the judgement on the fate of the NRO.
True to dictatorial parlance, there are orchestrated murmurings emanating from the vested quarters with regard to the danger to the democratic system in the event an adverse adjudication is announced by the Supreme Court. Of specific interest to this group of cronies of Mr Zardari would be to force the court to limit its judgement to the fate of the NRO alone. This is going back to the days of dictator Zia who equated his continuation as head of the state with people voting for their faith in Islam, or despot Musharraf who sent the whole judiciary packing when confronted with the prospect a danger emerging to the legitimacy of his candidature to be president of Pakistan . Seeds of uncivilized and undemocratic behaviour were planted on each of these occasions and we are still reaping the bitter harvest. Must the charade continue, or should there be an effort to accept for ourselves what we keep preaching for others?
There was no danger to the system. There would be no danger to the system if the Supreme Court throws the NRO out and re-institutes the cases that were earlier waived off under the draconian law. On the contrary, abolition of this infamous enactment would only lead to the cleansing of the system and the strengthening of the institutions. If there is any danger, it is to the survival and the continuing machinations of a select bunch of people who have amassed unbelievable personal wealth by looting the national resources. They feel threatened and, in their desperation, are trying to nurture the spectre of a non-existent danger to the system, or to the democratic institutions. As a matter of fact, a fair and transparent judgement at this stage would provide the long-delayed adrenalin to the starved veins of a nation that is now looking up to the apex court in hope.
The system is not at stake. What is at stake is the monumental illegal empires that a coterie of depraved individuals has erected by depriving millions of others of their right to live, to breathe, to have a roof over their heads, to have two meagre meals a day, to be able to send their children to schools and their sick ones to hospitals. What is at stake is the opportunities available to a select few to continue indulging in large scale loot and plunder so that a predominant cross-section of society should remain underprivileged and deprived of the basic needs and amenities of life. What is at stake is the despicable concept of inequity and inequality that pervades the spectrum. What hurts is the deep-rooted discrimination that separates those who have abundant and those who have nothing. This vast gulf, unfortunately, has continued to increase through all the years that Pakistan has been around as an independent and sovereign country. It cannot continue any longer, and it should not. Look at the un-abating violence and the militant syndrome that have taken deep roots. Look at what human beings are doing to human beings on a daily basis. It is time it was brought to an end. Judiciary is the way out for this to happen because, if it does not come to an end in an organised manner, the only alternative is a bloodbath. Pakistan cannot afford it. Pakistan will not last it.
While a few may be balking at the prospect of the judiciary throwing out an immoral, illegal and unconstitutional enactment, it is the bulk of the Pakistani population that awaits eagerly for this to happen and for the advent of genuine rule of law in the country. In the process, no recourse to unjustified immunities should be considered a hindrance to revive the cases written off under the NRO because, if such discrimination persists, it would only perpetuate a feeling of deprivation and injustice. That would not be the right indicator for a society to start addressing its numerous inherent aberrations including the gospel of militant philosophy that it is caught up in.