Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto
The NRO, the product of a deal between the Pakistan People's Party and Gen Musharraf and sponsored by the British and the Americans, opened the door wide to politicians absconding abroad or hiding inside the country, or those who were locked up in jails on charges including massive corruption and multiple murders. It also guaranteed immunity from prosecution and continued presidency to Pervez Musharraf, despite all his sins.
The shenanigans of these persons have brought Pakistan's fortunes to their lowest ebb. They have made the country dependant on handouts for survival while the hapless people are driven to suicides and selling their children in bazaars.
Yet, the beneficiaries of the immoral and unconstitutional NRO have the gall to declare that without it there would be no democracy. However, this so-called democracy ushered in by the NRO is corrupt and bogus, with only the faces changed but all else remaining the same as was under the Musharraf dictatorship. The president enjoys all the powers that the military dictator had, plus the co-chairmanship of the largest party in the country, which he is not supposed to hold.
The obligation to implement the Charter of Democracy, which initiated a march towards a genuine democratic setup, remains totally ignored. Promises to restore the judges were repeatedly broken until Zardari crumbled under pressure in March. The commitment for the repeal of the 17th Amendment is being dodged for twenty months and clearly will not be fulfilled until there is pressure once again.
We have a parliamentary system which is being run by the president. The prime minister had to admit that the setup is neither presidential nor parliamentary. The parliament has sunk into insignificance and has nothing to say on the multitude of problems facing the country, most of all the raging civil war which started at Khyber and has now reached Karachi. Parliament is usually bypassed and legislation is through ordinances even when it is in session. As for reconciliation, this has become a deadweight around the country's neck, leading to greatly increased corruption and doubling of the bill for running the government and parliament, without any corresponding benefit to people. Various opposing parties have huddled together to enjoy the perks and pleasures of pulao politics, leaving the democratic process precariously balanced on a virtually one-party system, which in itself is a negation of democracy.
It is a big relief, which came not a moment too soon, that the Supreme Court has stepped in to bring the curtains down on the disgraceful NRO, but the after-effects will nevertheless persist for some time. The world sees that we have ministers and members of parliament whose corruption and murder cases have been reopened. They are running helter-skelter for legal advice or petitioning the courts for bail. Similarly, very many bureaucrats are also in a whirl.
While the world and the people of Pakistan watch with amazement, the credentials of our head of state are not something to be proud of, and that is putting it mildly. Not only is this a matter of serious embarrassment for the nation, but it reduces the weight and stature of the country in dealings with foreign institutions and countries at a very critical juncture. It is a well-established practice for honourable politicians to give up politics altogether merely on being accused of wrongdoing (some have even committed suicide) rather than manifest a thick skin by insisting on presentation of proof of guilt.
And now, with the refusal by the government to restart the Swiss cases against Zardari, the verdict of the apex court is being challenged. Conflict with the Supreme Court which could, under the Constitution, ask even the armed forces to implement its verdict may lead to catastrophic results for the government and the country. This is all the more dangerous when the government already feels threatened and there are complains about the hostile disposition of the "establishment," when usually the government and the establishment are assumed to be one and the same.
However, it cannot be ruled out that when the government is in the hands of people with no academic credentials and their political and social standing is dependent entirely on past links with a distinguished personality, the establishment feels constrained not to lower their standards beyond a respectable level in performing their functions.
Was it a mistake that Kamal Azfar, an Oxford graduate and a barrister who has been governor and provincial minister, disclosed in the Supreme Court that the government was under threat from the ISI and the CIA? Or was he instructed to voice this fear? All this at least projects a state of uncertainty, if not chaos, which has been amply expounded by Zardari in his speech in Naudero on Shaheed Benazir's death anniversary.
However, what has really made the current setup the target of suspicion and doubt is the declaration that democracy is the revenge for the murder of Benazir Bhutto. How can a corrupt, meaningless and dubious democracy, being run by individuals with criminal cases against them, be a revenge for Benazir's murder? It is clearly visible to most that this expression, along with recourse to Scotland Yard first and then the United Nations, is merely a façade to delay proper investigation and diffuse the situation, the real intention being not to open the Pandora's Box of Benazir's murder . But the trick is not working. With each passing day more and more questions are being asked and fingers pointed.
Be that as it may, is not a benefactor desperately required who comes and relieves the agony of the masses, recovers the looted wealth of the nation, lays the foundation for economic progress, changes the mindset of people focused on individual benefit to that of collective good, regenerates pride in and allegiance to the country, ends lawlessness and civil war, restores the dignity and stature of Pakistan in the community of nations? Is not history replete with records of kings and conquerors who have ushered in golden eras in their lands? By no means do I advocate the rule of a king or a conqueror, but redemption from the NRO-generated black democracy has become a sine qua non.