Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pakistani Elections 2008: fair results?

The starting point has to be Mr. Nawaz Sharif's attempted return to Pakistan in September 2007. Apparently, the masses did not turn up to receive him and he was deported to the Kingdom of the House of Saud. The lack of public agitation and reaction to this deportation was analysed as a proof of the lack of popularity of PML(N) and a poorly managed political party. However, the results of 18 February's elections have gone totally to the contrary. They reflect in Mr. Nawas Sharif a popular leader who can galvanize public in a mere couple of months and a highly organised political party which can contest and almost win an election in the shortest possible time in the most adverse circumstances possible. Something is amiss!

According to the unofficial results the PML(N) received around 20% of the total votes but gained more than 24% seats. The same statistics for PPPP are 32.7% and 32.7%! And, those for PML 24% and 15.4%. Now despite getting less votes than PML, PML(N) has gained more seats! Generally, this is taken as a classical sign of rigging! Is it? In the 2002, elections the PML(Q) got 26.63% of the votes but earned 33.2% of the general seats in the National Assembly. It was assumed by all and sundry that those results were rigged.

There is a theory circulating that the establishment wanted a weak government at the center which could be goaded by it. However, the establishment was afraid of the PPPP's landslide victory especially in the wake of the tragic assassination of late Ms. Benazir Bhutto. The PML could have stopped that landslide but even a fair victory for PML would not have been digested by the masses and could have resulted in wide spread chaos in the aftermath of the elections.

Thenceforth, entered Brigadier (R) Niaz in the picture and the alleged meeting between Mr. Shahbaz Sharif and President Musharraf. The only way to stop the victories of the PPPP and PML both of which were unacceptable for different reasons was to manipulate the elections in favour of PML(N) provided that it was ready to play ball. Apparently, the results it indicate that it was so ready! Nobody could have cried foul as a so called most opposed opposition party was favoured at the expense of the most favoured political party! The real victim was the PPPP.

It certainly is the case that PML(N) has agreed to play the role of the Queen's opposition but is pretending as having as an anti-establishment stance to save face. However, Mr. Zardari has called PML(N)'s bluff. By offering coalition governments at the centre and province Mr. Zardari's is trying to preempt the role set for the PML(N) by the establishment.

The only option for the PML(N) will be to create differences with the PPPP on one issue and part ways. The most likely issue will be the restoration of the former Chief Justice Ifitkh(ar Ch.

(The article was written in March 2008 but not published to give the PML(N) the benefit of doubt)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Proclamations and PCO(s): What then is the law?

(Still a draft)

General Musharraf has again given an opportunity to all and sundry to decide afresh what is the law by proclaming the Proclamation of Emergency and PCOs of November and December 2007.

To determine the validity of these pronouncements as law one has to determine what is law?

Following are some of the definitions of law:

(1) Law is what judges say it is.

(2) Law is what the man with the gun says it is. Law flows from the barrel of the gun. People have an ingrained habit of obedience to power and they accept the strictures of the man with the gun. The notion of revolutionary legality espoused by dear old Justice Munir is within this genre.

(3) Law is what God has ordained and exists regardless of whether or not it is followed i.e. natural law.

(4) Only those rules are laws which are recognised as such through the use of the rules of recognition i.e. those are formed in accordance with the accepted rules regarding how the laws are to be formed. For instance if the rule of recognition is that only a rule passed by elected representatives is law then a rule formed in any other manner will not be law.So is the PCO(s) law?

Lets apply these definitions or descriptions to the PCO(s).

(1) According to the first definition the judges will determine this question. The question then is who are the judges? If the PCO is law then only those who took oath under it are the judges. However, if the PCO is not law then the persons who acted as judges under the previously accepted law are the judges.

(2) The man with the gun has said that the PCO is the law and hence according to this definition so it is. The only challenge can be that another man with a bigger gun says that the PCO is not law.

(3) So what has God ordained? As the majority of us are Muslims so let us see what Allah has laid down as law and if the PCO is in accordance with it? The question in our common parlance becomes is the PCO Islamic or not?

(4) In our history the rules formed as has been the PCO have been recognised by the judges as laws and those were also followed by the public-at-large. Thus, it can be said that the PCO is a law. However, it can also be argued that the last valid rules of recognition were enshrined in the constitution and as the PCO is not in accordance with those hence it is not a law.

Now, you will see that there are no clear answers as per the above criteria. The answer will depend on what criterion one chooses to follow and what interpretation one adopts.

In my opinion the law and the morality can never be disentangled. Well, not generally by ordinary mortals. And, in Pakistan the morality is hardly ever different from self-interest. The equation thus becomes a simple one: if the PCO satisfies the interests of the people who have more power than those whose interests the PCO harms then the PCO will be accepted as law but it will not be so accepted if the reverse is the case.