Monday, December 03, 2007

Pakistan PCOed

Pakistan PCOed
By Naeem Sadiq: Dawn, December 3, 2007

AS the president took an oxymoronic oath on the “nowhere to be seen” 1973 Constitution, administered by an ever too keen Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) Chief Justice, a $60m Lear jet landed at Islamabad airport to become the fourteenth aircraft of the VVIP fleet that caters to the travelling comforts of the leadership of Pakistan.

Besides a convoluted order of priority, is there a direct relationship between the number of expensive VVIP aeroplanes and respect for the Constitution in a country?

How come a country conspicuous by the absence of a decent education, health or public transport system for its ordinary citizens, be so disproportionately sympathetic to the well being and luxuries of its leaders? Perhaps these aeroplanes support tasks of supreme national importance, such as the Frontier governor’s weekend partridge hunting visits to Nawabshah. After all we don’t expect him to be travelling by Khyber Mail or Chenab Express.

No wonder there is a long queue of people, ever so ready to rattle out oaths for such cushy jobs. The contents and the legality of such oaths is a matter that should interest only the finicky lawyers, the chattering journalists or the emailing civil society.

Pakistan has been badly PCOed and trapped in a tortuous cobweb of illegalities. The ‘emergency’ itself is illegal. It was promulgated by a person not authorised to do so. The Constitution cannot be suspended. Anyone doing so, must be given a fair trial under Article 6, instead of being upgraded to the post of the president. Can we have a president and a prime minister who take oath under a ‘non-existent’ constitution?

Having done so, they could at best be referred to as ‘non-existent’ president and prime minister. It is on record that within the first few hours of its promulgation, the seven member Supreme Court bench had declared the PCO as illegal and extra-constitutional. Thus the judges who took oath on the PCO and subsequently administered it to many other individuals can also be suitable candidates for a fair application of Article 6 of the Constitution.

Pakistan and its people find themselves torn and ravaged by the man-made disaster inflicted upon them on the afternoon of Nov 3. Do we continue to retain our citizenship, after the country itself has renounced its own Constitution? Do we even continue to remain a country which gives up on the core document that defines its nationhood -- almost like denying its own existence?

For how long will the people of Pakistan continue to be PCOed? Why must Pakistan and its people suffer such humiliating global indignity and such demeaning personal assaults? They must put an end to the PCOing of their lives, once and for all. They must refuse to vote for political parties that find it politically expedient to support such unconstitutional arrangements. For sixty years the judiciary and the political parties have extracted their pound of flesh from each PCO. They have regularised, validated, supported and even appreciated each arriving PCO. It is only now, and for the first time that a sizeable number of judges have taken a clear and firm stand of saying ‘No to PCO’. If the citizens of Pakistan do not rally behind their call, we must be ready to live with a fresh five yearly PCO for the rest of our lives.

Pakistan is suffering from an acute disease of compulsive constitutionlessness. The citizens of Pakistan must intervene to save this country. The politicians will not do so. They are only awaiting the next oath taking ceremony that would clear the way for their endless global junkets and Umrahs at the tax payers’ expense, aboard the 14luxury aeroplanes parked in the VVIP section of Islamabad airport.

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