by Baseer Naveed
Judiciary, (the sitting and retired judges) and the media houses have always remained on the side of autocratic governments. These people are trying to influence the elections for their narrow minded designs such as the centuries-old Islamic society and the selection of righteous persons who must be a role model for such a society on the pattern of the Taliban. Prior to this election the judiciary had always been a puppet of the military regime in power and up until now had never enjoyed such power of monitoring the affairs of the government.
Now the Supreme Court is coercing the election commission to select only those they consider ‘righteous’ through its judicial dictates.
Before, it was the military that selected the ‘righteous’ candidates and used coercive actions against the candidates who were attempting to create a democracy and who were in favour of political governments. However today the judiciary has taken up the role of putting the country on an Islamic system and is using Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution as the best whip for the candidates to get favourable persons in the coming elections. These Articles sum up the requirements of a candidate. For example, his citizenship, age and registration as a voter, the candidate must be a righteous person and a strict adherent to the laws of Islam; alternatively, the candidate may be considered unsuitable if he or she is of unsound mind, an undischarged insolvent or a relative of such, has taken citizenship in a foreign country or has criticised the military and/or the judiciary. Furthermore, the candidate must have never propagated any idea or opinion contrary to the ideology of Pakistan.
The elections have become a mockery in that the judiciary has already decided the type of person they want in power. The person must be subservient to the higher judiciary, a servant of Islam and faithful to the armed forces. The media houses are also exerting pressure on the judiciary by issuing concocted stories against candidates that they consider unsuitable while at the same time promoting their own favourites. The purpose of this whole exercise is to undermine the rights of the people of the country to elect the person that they want in office. Their ‘line’ is that the only righteous candidates are those that the judiciary and the media houses promote.
The entire process of the nomination papers and their scrutiny has become a mockery due to the type of questions asked by the officers at the EC. Such questions include: how many wives do you have? If more than one are they both treated equally? Why do you have a second wife? How many times should you pray in a day and what are the names of the prayers? Candidates are asked to recite extracts from the Quran at random. Do you prefer your son over your daughter and why? The history and creation of Pakistan, and amazingly, do you prefer summer or winter? Which trees bear fruit and which do not? What is the correct method of taking a bath or shower? What is the correct method of ablution? What time of the evening to return home. These are just a few among the 60 questions that candidates must answer.
Such questions are asked which have nothing what-so-ever to do the suitability of the candidate to rule the country. They are designed solely for the purpose of insulting and humiliating any candidate that dares to take part in the election without the permission of the judiciary and the EC which consists of retired judges.
The judiciary has placed the EC in the position where it has three days to weed out those candidates who have forged their educational degrees, the defaulters of bank loans and those having dual citizenship. In the legal process it can be argued that no case can be decided upon within the short span of three days whereas such cases are pending in the higher courts for over ten years, particularly during the Musharraf era. Even the Supreme Court has failed to decide many cases but here they are forcing the EC and lower courts to do what they have not been able to do.
If the EC does not decide within three days it will affect the whole election process and there is the chance that it will be delayed just because the impossible standards of the Supreme Court cannot be met. In fact, the Supreme Court has taken to issuing arrest warrants for some candidates that they do not like and have even passed derogatory comments about them. It is quite evident by comments and general discussions in the media that this is nothing less than pre-poll rigging.
That the elections are being held by a civilian government should be a good thing and have the support of the civilian institutions as according to the wishes of the people. But when it becomes obvious that the Supreme Court is grooming the candidates of their choice it takes the country back to the era of General Muhammad Zia ul Haq, the creator of Articles 62 and 63. He wanted a ‘righteous’ person to be the candidate of the people but despite having the might of the military behind him, along with the power over life and death, even he failed. However, he did manage to find the most corrupt people of the society at that time using the sword of these articles.
One interesting situation that must be raised is as to how the Chief Justice himself and his judiciary failed to bring his son before the law on charges of corruption. Even the judges sitting in the Supreme Court acted like uncles in order to protect him and this was the most glaring example of nepotism in the history of the judiciary. How then is it possible that these same people have the right to decide on the criteria of a ‘righteous’ person?
The end result of the interference by the judiciary and the media houses is that it is the people who are once again being betrayed. This time not by the military but by those who are supposed to be a friend of democracy. It should not be forgotten that is was the people who are now being betrayed that fought in the streets for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice and the independence of the judiciary and by the same token, the independence of the Election Commission. It is this very judiciary that is now betraying those people.
Free and fair elections are the right of the people. However, it is feared that this right is being stolen from them in broad daylight by the very institutions that are supposed to be protecting that right. The actions of the EC and the higher judiciary are tantamount to influencing the people that they themselves do not have the right to elect the person of their choice. It is as if they do not have the intelligence to make a wise choice without the guidance of these institutions.
The Election Commission is not properly utilising the independence and the respect afforded them by parliament. Indeed, this in turn undermines the supremacy of the parliament for the coming five year period. If this is allowed to happen then there will be little difference between the versions of democracy available in the country today with the military rule that the country fought so hard to overcome.
If the higher judiciary and the media houses are allowed to make the choice for the people then it is the people that are being denied the fruits of democracy. The election process itself is the best trial of the suitability of the candidates.