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Uniting Pakistan: A Roadmap to Mending Political Factions

(Protests in Pakistan: May 9th)

The Army's Role in Ensuring Security and Prosperity

As the military begins to crack down on thousands of protestors and senior PTI members for their supposedly reckless actions on May 9th. The Pakistani army looks to use its own military courts to trial the protesters they’ve captured. Unfortunately, international human rights organizations such as the UN and Amnesty International have indicated grave concern about the legitimacy of these regarding the bias they hold. At the heart of military courts is the issue of defendants not being able to have adequate access to lawyers that would litigate against army prosecutors. 

On the other hand, the actions taken by protestors following Khan’s arrest on May 9th showcase the instability of the country and the absence of the rule of law within its streets. Actively attacking one’s military is an indication of a lack of confidence in the country's institutions. While it is true that the army must be held accountable for its role in politics and due electoral process, the citizenry must be equally held accountable for its disregard for the country’s primary security department. Furthermore, it’s important to recognize the army’s position in Pakistan’s geopolitical situation, with terrorist attacks plaguing the country from neighbouring Afghanistan through the TTP. As of 2023, a whopping 850 people were either killed or injured as a result of terrorist or anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan, with a majority of these conflicts happening in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Just today, a suicide bomber nearly killed Jamaat-e-Islaami leader Emir Haq. Therefore, the more the army is exposed to be weak and vulnerable as was on May 9, the more the TTP and other terrorist organizations feel compelled to attack Pakistanis.

Nevertheless knowing the events of May 9, the army should still recognize its own blunders that led to such an event and recognize the need to rebuild the country’s institutions. For starters, the army should completely disassociate itself from political discourse and decommission roles within the army and ISI that are specifically tasked with managing political discourse in the country. Such efforts to influence politics by the military are useless phenomena that does nothing but give the army more leverage in the country’s institutions. In other words, any blackmailing, information gathering, managing, advising, and policy direction initiatives should be abandoned by the army and left to the devices of Parliament, federal departments, and bureaucrats.

Exposing and Fixing the Partisan Judiciary

After Khan’s unexpected bail and released by the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice on the issue of corruption charges against Khan. The judiciary itself - through its own voluntary decisions making - has indicated its decisive partisanship towards Khan. Although this move by the Supreme Court proved to be beneficial for Khan in the short term, the long-term impact of courts having biased rulings based on the political leanings of the Chief Justice showcases yet another weakness of the country.  This a weakness which exposes the lack of consideration for the constitution’s application on special cases that have national ramifications. The Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Khan’s corruption charges is a provincial and municipal matter, where the responsibility of the administration of criminal charges is held, the highest court of the land therefore should have no say in such matters. 

Furthermore, the judiciary’s political leanings are likely to further shift in September when current Chief Justice Bandial retires and Qazi Faez Isa takes the reign. Considering Isa’s judicial leanings, he will likely not give any favourabilities to Khan as does Bandial. As a result, the future of Khan’s support group within the government is numbered. The judiciary will eventually play no favours to him, the political establishment will continue to criticize his actions, and the army is already ready to punish him.

For a prescription, the judiciary of Pakistan should be solely interested in ensuring that legislation and court cases within the country abide by the enshrining constitution. They ought to purge any judges that have a shred of political bias and rid the system of Chief Justice. Having no Chief Justice would ensure a balanced unbiased court with all judges having equal veto power. 

Politicians and Cracking Down on Corruption

But it isn’t just the army and judiciary that are holding the country back. The politicians of all major parties in the country have a vested internal interest to hold the country back. There is a lack of meaningful policy initiatives for the country; the platforms of these parties are based on attacking other politicians rather than based on policy platforms on what could improve the country. And although politics certainly welcomes the criticism of other politicians, that should not be the sole focus of one’s political discourse. There should be a healthy balance between government criticism and government policy initiatives that improve the material conditions of the country. The focus for politicians should be on basic amenities like education, infrastructure, healthcare, electricity, water, and food production.

National Accountability Bureau should be impartial to who it applies, it should also ensure that such settlements avoid plea bargaining, a method that essentially removes the fear of punishment in exchange for a deposit to the NAB’s coffers. NAB also ought to remove any warning procedures by NAB officials to those they investigate for corruption; such a move would ensure that corrupt persons in Pakistan conduct business in a constant state of being watched by NAB. This way, once a corruption claim is filed against such persons, NAB would be in a better litigatory position to prosecute them. 

If Pakistan itself cannot ensure the impartiality of NAB, then perhaps it is best for a third party like China to contractually back oversight over the bureau’s internal investigations and processes. Any deviation of a NAB investigation deemed politically motivated or corrupt should come with a hefty fine or infrastructure stake onto the Pakistani government issued by the Chinese government. With China backing such oversight onto NAB, only then will the army and political establishment of the country be truly fearful of NAB’s awarded powers.

Institutional Cooperation

What’s required for Pakistan’s primary institutions is multi-faceted cooperation on all fronts as well as a positive feedback loop of how politicians ought to conduct politics. Pakistan’s institutions have a responsibility to ensure secondary education to all, basic infrastructure services such as transit and roads, a focus on domestic energy production and an integrated electricity grid to rid of load-shedding, funnel public dollars into food production to help feed the poor, ensure a generous supply of cheap gas by importing from Russia and Iran, inking a free-trade deal with India and Bangladesh to propagate economic success, and working towards a basic standard of living for all Pakistanis.

Such goals are only some out of an infinite number of achievable goals, it’s only a matter of political will and righteous decision-making.

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