SARAS
South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

Better sense has prevailed
Mohammad Jamil
4/3/2018

Leaders of religious parties on Monday eventually reached an agreement with the government to amicably end a 22-day long Faizabad sit-in, which has been appreciated by all strata of society. According to the details, Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Federal Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza signed the agreement from the government’s side, while Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri and Muhammad Waheed Noor signed the agreement on behalf of the religious parties.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid tendered his resignation, which was accepted by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Earlier on Sunday, civil and military leaderships had decided not to use force against the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasoolullah (TLY) protesters staging a sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. However, a few politicians and some analysts were irked by the Army’s role in reaching the above agreement, which averted the catastrophe.

There were rumours that the government wanted to pitch the army against the protesters, and with the use of force the army would be blamed for any untoward incident. However, after police failed to end the sit-in, the Ministry of Interior had issued a notification to authorise deployment of the Pakistan Army troops in the federal capital to assist civil authorities under Article 245 of the Constitution.

In reply, the Pakistan Army sought clarification from the government regarding its deployment notification, but said that Army is ready to perform constitutional obligation. According to news at a TV channel, COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had agreed not to use force to avert the crisis. Article 245 (1)] states: “The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.”

In a constitutional polity, which we are, it is indeed the constitution which is supreme, whereas every pillar of the state insists on its primacy. In fact, none is superior over others; none is inferior to others; all are subservient to the constitution, and all are bound to follow its dictates and stipulations

However, it is not mentioned that when called in aid of civil power, armed forces must resort to use of force and not to use other methods to control the situation. According to a report, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif is not happy over the way Interior Minister has dealt with the sit-in; however, Interior Minister I Ahsan Iqbal explained that in case the agreement was not reached there would have been bloodshed and anarchy.

One is likely to agree with him because it was no more a matter of sit-in at Faizabad, as there have been protests demonstrations in many cities including Peshawar, Gujranwala, Multan and Lahore. Khadim Hussain Rizvi announced that the TLY reached an agreement with the government to end protests after the government accepted their demands. Following his announcement, protesters staging a sit-in protest in different cities including Peshawar, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Multan terminated their protests.

There is no denying that the situation was created because of ineptitude on the part of the law ministry and also on the part of parliamentary committee members. The army in fact helped to resolve the crisis peacefully, even though it is being criticised. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has objected to the terms of agreement between the federal government and the Faizabad sit-in leaders, besides questioning the role of the armed forces as mediators in the debacle.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui questioned why an army officer was playing the role of a mediator. He added that an impression is being given that the military is the panacea for all ills. He also said that if an army officer is passionate about politics, he should retire and then play politics. Of course, the military would not like such remarks.

The IHC observed that it was a matter of record that the most abusive and filthy language was used against the honourable judges of the Supreme Court, but the government and the arbitrator did not bother to persuade the leadership of the group to even tender an apology in this regard. It has to be mentioned that chattering classes and some politicians have also subjected military to scathing criticism on one pretext or another, and they should also be condemned for violating the provisions of the Constitution.

After addressing the Islamabad Bar, former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry speaking to media had said that “both the judiciary and armed forces were not debatable topics”. Article 63 (1) g of the Constitution of Pakistan censures even elected representatives, who defame or bring into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan.

In a constitutional polity, which we are, it is indeed the constitution which is supreme, whereas every pillar of the state insists on its primacy. In fact, none is superior over others; none is inferior to others; all are subservient to the constitution, and all are bound to follow its dictates and stipulations.

No doubt, constitutional disputes and differences occur even in entrenched democracies; however, incidences of such tiffs is indeed reduced to the minimum if all the state pillars respect the supremacy of the constitution and abide by it in letter and spirit.

Constitution experts are of the view that judges should not pass remarks, and their judgments should speak. Justice John G. Roberts, present Chief Justice of the United States, during the hearing of a case declared: “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at mjamil1938@hotmail.com


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