Political Problems Must Be Resolved On Floor Of The House: HRCP

Political Problems Must Be Resolved On Floor Of The House: HRCP
LAHORE: The crux of the ongoing crisis is political and not legal. There is no other option for the political opposition and the government but to hold serious and meaningful dialogue in Parliament to resolve this in the larger interest of the people of Pakistan. This was stated by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson Hina Jilani on Tuesday during a press briefing on ‘Pakistan’s current political and constitutional crisis’ at Lahore.

Ms Jilani was flanked by HRCP treasurer Husain Naqi, HRCP secretary general Haris Khalique and vice-chair HRCP Punjab Raja Ashraf.

“All political decisions should be taken by political parties and politicians, and no one else,” Jilani said.

The HRCP chairperson maintained that nobody should look towards the military establishment and courts. Political problems should be solved on the floor of the house, i.e. the National Assembly.

She noted that unfortunately, there is a leadership crisis in Pakistan and we don’t see anyone who can bring all political parties to the Parliament, which should have been the epicenter for resolving all pertinent political issues.

The panelists were deeply concerned that this crisis has resulted in polarisation across the political spectrum. This state of affairs was, regretfully, triggered by events that were designed to stall the democratic process and undermine the efficacy and legitimacy of Parliament.

The HRCP chairperson pointed out that one political party first abandoned the National Assembly and then dissolved two provincial assemblies.

“Others in government blocked the subsequent reversal of this move by thwarting the opposition’s attempt to return to the National Assembly,” Jilani said.

Despite its considered view that the dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies was politically expedient, HRCP is concerned that these assembly elections have been postponed till October 2023 by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The panelists said that they are also aware of legitimate apprehensions that such decisions could become a precedent to be used to derail the democratic process in the future.

“While HRCP believes that the Constitution does provide solutions that may legitimize delayed elections, it should go without saying that any such delay should be as short as possible, and necessary and proportionate to the aims of the delay,” Jilani said.

Consensus among all political parties

Accordingly, Jilani said, there must be consensus among all political parties and stakeholders on the rationale for such a delay. Political stakeholders should also recognise that this is an unwelcome precedent, and must not recur.

“The election process must also remain free, fair, credible and transparent, and the results acceptable to all political stakeholders,” Jilani said. She also pointed out that the census is not completed as yet.

“The elections of two provincial assemblies would take place on the old census and the elections of two provincial assemblies and the National Assembly on the new census,” Jilani noted.

She further stressed that delimitations are done on the basis of census; all the political parties must sit together in the Parliament and solve all of these problems on their own.

“Military establishment or courts should not intervene in the political domain,” Jilani stressed.

“The establishment has said that they are apolitical now. We want to believe them but they have to practically show it this time as in the past despite such claims interventions in the political spectrum were witnessed,” she said, while adding that the Constitution doesn’t consider the military establishment as the state itself.

Agreeing with her, Husain Naqi said that the “army is not an institution, it is a service. Parliament is an institution, courts are institutions.”
The courts and military establishment should not intervene in the political domain.

In concluding an extraordinary meeting to deliberate on the current political crisis and constitutional impasse, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)’s governing council resolved that it was of utmost importance to uphold and strengthen the democratic process.

Judicial overreach

The panelists noted with dismay the incidents of judicial overreach which appeared in conflict with the constitutional principle of the trichotomy of powers.

“There is a need to dispel the impression that, in interpreting the Constitution, the Supreme Court enhances its own powers at the expense of other democratic institutions,” they said.

Jilani was of the opinion that constitutional courts need to be established “where 7-8 judges take up the matter and benches are not needed to be formed.”

Courts should not intervene and let them do their work, Jilani stressed. The HRCP chairperson further stipulated that the judiciary must safeguard its independence, integrity and credibility.

“It must resist any urge to interfere in the domain of other constitutional bodies and instead help strengthen all such institutions by giving them the room to resolve issues that fall within their constitutional remit,” she urged.

“We also firmly believe that there is no room for threats of any undemocratic interventions,” Jilani said.

The HRCP office bearers strongly condemned violent and unlawful behavior by political elements aimed at creating disorder to further their political agendas. At the same time, they denounced the strong-arm tactics and disproportionate use of force by the state as a means of political repression.

“We are deeply concerned to observe that this has involved resorting to the use of colonial laws of sedition, unwarranted charges of terrorism against political opponents, enforced disappearances, and attempts to gag freedom of expression through ill-conceived proposals and actions through PEMRA,” panelists said.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.