November 07, 2007

Emergency in Pakistan

Pakistan has been dragged into an emergency by yet another dictator. That’s not much news, considering the fact that the country's citizens have largely not seen what democracy is after its cessation from India.
However I wouldn't call it a "failed state" or anything like that, because it’s quite simple to write off a country but it’s difficult to set things right. I firmly believe many of Pakistan’s problems such as the Talibanisation of its North West Frontier Province, tribal warlords of Balochistan have solution not in the military might but by enforcing the voter's right.

Emergency: What is it?
I'm not sure when Emergency option was last used for the "right" reason. Let’s first analyse what we mean by Emergency and its effect on the country at large.
Emergency leads to
1. Cancellation of a citizen's Fundamental Rights such as - Right to freedom of expression, to assemble peacefully, to choose a profession of any choice etc
2. It gives ultimate power to the president/head of the executive.
3. Bills are passed without consultation in the legislature.
4. None of the rights can be enforced in the court of law.

Why does a state need this provision?
Emergency is a “necessary evil” for any country. Consider India for example. Being a large country (7th largest in the world) it is divided into states for administrative convenience. All its citizens, irrespective of which state they belong, enjoy the Fundamental rights (articles 13 - 21) as mentioned above modeled along the lines of Bill of Rights of USA. The Indian constitution is common to all, except for J&K which has its Ranbir constitution. However the framers of our constitution felt that there were some contingencies which warranted the country to behave like a unitary state and to restrict the rights given to its citizens. For instance during an Emergency, the state can virtually issue “fatwas” or directions to a citizen. A car manufacturer for example could be forced to produce jeeps which will be more useful to the military, though it is unconstitutional during normal times.

In India emergencies were declared thrice - 1962 war with china, 1971 Bangladesh war, the infamous emergency declared by Indira Gandhi between 1975 and 1977 for which the congress is paying a price to this day. Infact during the emergencies even the Right to life (article 21) was denied to citizens. This means that if a person was shot dead, it could not be heard in any court of law. It was the Janata Government which passed the 44th constitutional amendment act which made Right to life mandatory even during emergencies.

Pakistan’s situation
The military plays a big role in Pakistan. The military has taken to itself even developmental administration. In Pakistan, bridges, roads and other civil establishments are constructed by the military. Military plays the role of a “businessman” without restricting itself to protecting the borders. This situation exists, unfortunately, in many countries of the world say – Fiji, Thailand, Myanmar. In Myanmar the military even calls itself SPDC (state peace development council) and has been ruling since 1990 when it cancelled the elections in which Aung san suu kyi won.

In a country where military has such a pronounced role, coups is only a natural phenomenon. In the countries mentioned above too there have been many coups and are presently ruled by military heads. In such countries a mere change of a military head receives so much attention as compared to large democracies – for instance how many people even took notice of the fact that Gen.Deepak Kapoor replaced Gen.JJ Singh as the new chief of army staff in India? I was happy to see that this news occupied only an insignificant place in the front page of newspapers. That’s how it ought to be.

Democracy is the only weapon with which we can fight the evils of terrorism, social inequalities and other maladies. It is by giving representation and not by gagging the citizen that development can be achieved. Development without democracy is like the comb in the hands of a bald man. Simply useless!