Civilian Supremacy 'Greatest Casualty' In Prevailing Political Crisis: HRCP

Civilian Supremacy 'Greatest Casualty' In Prevailing Political Crisis: HRCP
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has warned all political stakeholders that the failure to resolve the prevailing political crisis will have an irreversible impact for a fragile democracy.

In a statement on Wednesday, the commission said further provocation will make it impossible for those want the situation improved to steer the country safely through the multiple crises.

The HRCP further said that it has closely monitored the ongoing political crisis and notes with great alarm that civilian supremacy has emerged as the greatest casualty.

"The government’s inability — or unwillingness — to safeguard civilian supremacy or to preserve the dignity of Parliament has proven tremendously disappointing," the commission said.

Violent riots

At the same time, it added, the political opposition's history of hostile politics and contempt for rule of law has played no small part in triggering the wanton destruction of property during May 9 – 10.

"These were not peaceful protests. The evidence points to acts of arson, rioting, looting, vandalism and trespass onto state and private property," according to the human rights body.

Judiciary's role

HRCP noted that the judiciary too has been found wanting, its unity and nonpartisanship compromised, with serious implications for the trichotomy of powers.

It regretted that the failure of judiciary to credibly maintain its independence and impartiality has exacerbated the rule-of-law crisis in the country.

Probe into detentions

According to the commission, while many allegations of violence and custodial torture against political workers and PTI supporters — including women and minors — have yet to be verified, all such allegations merit independent investigation.

It reminded the authorities that torture or any form of degrading treatment of persons in custody are serious violations of human rights.

"The disappearance of at least two journalists must also be investigated in a transparent manner, the findings made public and the perpetrators held strictly to account," it stressed.

Military trial

Of particular concern is the government’s decision to try civilians under the Pakistan Army Act 1952, the HRCP said.

While those responsible for the destruction of public and private property must undoubtedly be held accountable, there is ample provision in civilian laws for this, it noted.

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"Any government seriously committed to upholding civilian supremacy would strongly consider repealing Article 2(1)(d) of the Act, which allows civilians to be tried in military courts, thereby denying them their constitutional right to a fair trial."

The commission also objected to the arbitrary manner in which certain cases are selected to be tried by military courts, thereby violating the principle of equality before the law and its equal protection.

Proposed ban

It said that while all political parties must adhere to democratic, peaceful and bona fide means to further their political agendas, it sees no benefit to Pakistan's polity in banning a party in the prevailing political crisis.

"We consider any step by the government to ban the PTI both reckless and disproportionate. In the long term, it would strengthen a bad precedent and prevent political parties from developing naturally in line with the wishes of their electorate," HRCP said.

General elections

The commission insisted that, under no circumstances, should national elections be delayed beyond October 2023.

Such a step by the government would amount to derailing the democratic process and compound the current political instability, it added.

"Anything less than free, fair and credible elections in an environment that allows the exercise of all fundamental freedoms, will leave the country open to further ill-judged and undemocratic political ‘experiments’."

'Reverse engineering'

The HRCP expressed deep concerns at the rapid pace at which nonpolitical forces are wresting the space for which Pakistani civil society has fought long and hard.

The democracy that Pakistan’s people want and deserve cannot be built on fluid loyalties and shifting narratives, it said.

The commission opposed what it saw as political engineering in the 2018 elections. "It objects just as strongly to the tactics employed in the attempt to reverse-engineer the democratic process."