What is the way forward?
Mohammad Jamil


Our political parties and leaders have been accusing each other of corruption and for supporting the military dictators in the past. The fact remains that conflict between the political parties, intolerance and deep-rooted hatred among politicians in the past provided opportunity to the Generals to intervene. In 1977, it was conglomeration of political parties that had started agitation against Bhutto government on the plea that it had rigged elections. Reportedly, a leader of the Pakistan National Alliance had written a letter to the army chief to topple the government. Before October 1958 Martial Law also, political parties were at loggerheads; a deputy speaker in the former East Pakistan Assembly was seriously injured in a free for all on the floor of the house and later succumbed to his injuries. As regards former General Pervez Musharraf’s military dispensation, the Grand Democratic Alliance comprising more than a dozen political parties was united on one-point i.e. to get rid of Nawaz government.

Almost all political and religious parties and their leaders have at one time or another aided and abetted military dictators and joined their bandwagons. Those leaders who were propped up by the military to become heads of the state often criticized military more than others. Anyhow, no political party could boast about its democratic credentials or impeccable character of its leaders. Even judiciary had provided legitimacy to the military dictators and granted permission to dictators to amend the constitution, which right it itself did not have. During the last 65 years, Pakistan has faced multi-faceted crisis, and once suffered the trauma of disintegration. Today, Pakistan is again at the crossroads; it is facing multifaceted crisis, and there is threat to its internal and external security. Indeed, there is need for unity among the political parties and organs of the state; but how to bring the disparate elements on one focal point i.e. strengthening the federation?

It could be done by establishing truth and reconciliation commission where all politicos and organs of the state should acknowledge the aberrations and flawed decisions in the past, and then forgive and forget to make a fresh start. Though the conditions were different, in South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commissions was formed whereby both sides had forgiven and forgotten the excesses of the past. In Pakistan also, all the pillars and organs of the state should accept their wrongdoings of the past, and apologize to the nation for their flawed decisions. And politicians should stop blaming each other, and also abandon the habit of denigrating the institutions like judiciary and armed forces. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up by the Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid. The conflict during this period had resulted in violence and human rights abuses from all sides. No section of society escaped these abuses.

The TRC was based on the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995, and implemented its mandate through 3 committees: the Amnesty Committee, Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee and Human Rights Violations Committee. The Register of Reconciliation gave members of the public a chance to express their regret at failing to prevent human rights violations and to demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation. The TRC was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. Anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution. It is worth mentioning that following his release from prison on 11 February 1990 after 27 years incarceration, Mandela’s switch from a policy of confrontation to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa.

In Pakistan, politicians who do not have moral high authority because of their dubious past criticize the military. In media the analysts and panelists resort to scathing criticism knowing full well that present military leadership is committed to support the democratic set up. It has to be mentioned that people of Pakistan have suffered in equal measure during elected governments and dictatorships, as our inept leadership has all along been clueless, directionless and even ignorant of how the public feels about it for its indifference to their sufferings. Instead of mitigating the sufferings of the people and ridding them of inflation and unemployment, partisans and pillars of the state even today are at loggerheads. Those who project themselves as self-righteous persons should not forget that the nation is aware of the fact that they are no statesmen and visionaries but pigmies that are out to grind their own axe. Politocos should reform themselves and democratize their parties so that new leadership could emerge to face the challenges confronted by the nation.

The conduct of COAS Ashfaq Parvez Kayani before, during and after February 2008 is admirable. Judiciary’s mindset also seems to have changed and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is reforming the judiciary. Political leaders have to understand that exercise of their right to criticize the government should not smack of hatred towards the ruling party or ‘opposition for the sake of opposition’. In democracies, there could be difference of opinion over methodologies of achieving the targets and timeframe, but the basic objectives of all the political parties with regard to welfare of the masses and stability and security of the country should remain common. Both major political parties, the PPP and the PML-N, should remember that politics of obduracy has not paid in the past and would not pay in future, as in democratic societies the contradictions and controversial issues are resolved through dialogue. Both sides should abandon rigidity and sense of false egos and display flexibility. In other words they should be prepared for ‘give and take’, as nobody has the right to dictate his terms or impose his decisions irrespective of his position or status.