Let the past be just that
Due process cannot be sacrificed at the altar of political rivalries or vendettas. It is every Pakistani’s right, and society must ensure that it prevails.
By: Abbas Nasir
With the military, the judiciary and the executive of the country appearing to be on the same page on key national issues, Imran Khan seems comfortably ensconced in office.
This should give the prime minister considerable elbow room to pursue his manifesto promises and implement his agenda. At the same time, he and his close aides including ministers must also safeguard against becoming so smug that their conduct is seen as rash.
Last Thursday’s exchanges in the National Assembly between opposition members and the information minister which led to the former’s walkout were indicative of how supremely self-confident the government is.
Perhaps, the government can get away with using the sort of language the minister spoke while the going is good. But in the long run, it leads to so much animosity that if, ever, the ride for the government gets a bit bumpy, such an attitude may cost it dearly.
Also, the PTI is a party in power and should now learn to wear that fact too. The kind of oratory and language which some of its leaders might have used during those long years in the political wilderness needs to be parked somewhere.
For then, the party was trying to garner support to challenge one government of the day or the other and needed firebrand, even if a bit rude, speakers. Now it has to govern and legislate. Some laws can be passed by it in the National Assembly, given its simple majority.
Its majority in the lower house is just that. Simple. And in the upper house it does not have even that. For any major legislation such as a constitutional amendment it will require the support of one or more opposition parties.
The prime minister has not left any doubt about his commitment to battling corruption. He also has a low opinion of anyone he considers corrupt but members of parliament no matter which party they belong to represent their constituents.
If there is no legal impediment to opposition members being present in the National Assembly and/ or Senate, then whatever the PTI leader/ ministers/ members may think of them does not take away their entitlement to the same privileges as those sitting on the treasury benches.
The information minister who, I am sure, has his boss’s full backing in being aggressive and tough with those across the aisles, must also temper his oratory with a politer choice of words as against what he actually chose.
This does not, for a moment, mean that the Imran Khan-led government need give up on any of its promises. It can continue to do what its voters and backers expect it to do. At the same time, it is important that it does not insult/ injure opponents when no such thing is warranted.
A news report suggests that the Intelligence Bureau, which was developing reputedly into a fine counterterrorism civilian agency, has now been asked to shift its focus to mainly pursuing corruption cases. Recently, there have been several transfers and postings at a fairly high level in the agency. Possibly, the prime minister was told that many of IB’s key officials, all career police/ IB officers, were suspected of being loyal to the former PML-N government.
Whatever the reason, the prime minister would be well advised to understand the importance of a civilian agency’s mandate to fight terrorism and gather intelligence so the services’ security forces can focus on their own priorities for countering external threats to national defence.
In equal measure, it is important that any anti-corruption campaign the prime minister orders is transparent and above board. Any such badly needed drive will need to establish at the very beginning that it is not part of a political witch-hunt.
This is being said keeping in mind that there have been figures bandied about in the media and WhatsApp groups trying to show that a couple of hundred billion dollars of our wealth is stashed abroad or that the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family have some 300 billion (ill-gotten) rupees hidden somewhere.
If even a fraction of the sums being mentioned has indeed been looted and stashed abroad, no sane person would have a problem with such funds being returned to its rightful owners, the people of Pakistan.
However, if after due diligence the authorities reach the conclusion that was just WhatsApp banter and there was no truth in it, then that should also be openly acknowledged, and officially sponsored media trials must end.
There are partisan people who will only see things from their own perspective. But there are many nonpartisan, impartial observers too who have no agenda except to see the rule of law and Constitution being established in the country.
Due process cannot be sacrificed at the altar of political rivalries or vendettas. It is every Pakistani’s right, and, collectively, society must ensure that it prevails.
Side by side with upholding due process, if the PTI feels the criminal justice system has loopholes that allow the corrupt to get away scot-free then it should legislate to plug them so the net can be tightened.
For such a worthwhile goal as fighting corruption, and in having targets such as building five million homes for the homeless and creating 10m jobs, one has no hesitation in supporting the government unconditionally.
It is incumbent on the government, too, to act as one which respects the rights of all and has compassion at its core. The prime minister and his cabinet need to also spell out their commitment to democratic values and freedom of speech and association.
Neither the PTI nor the prime minister can live in the past. Their focus should firmly be on the future.