Washington Post: CJ should teach restraint to politicians

By Anwar Iqbal
Friday, 20 Mar, 2009 (Dawn)

Mr Chaudhry is seen by many middle-class Pakistanis as representing the rule of law: Washington Post.—Reuters

Mr Chaudhry is seen by many middle-class Pakistanis as representing the rule of law: Washington Post.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry could set an example for the political leaders by embracing restraint and compromise —qualities sorely missing from Pakistani politics, says the lead editorial in The Washington Post on Thursday.

The newspaper describes the lawyers’ movement as ‘a third secular force’ in Pakistan and notes that Mr Chaudhry is seen by many middle-class Pakistanis as representing the rule of law.

The Post says that the lawyers and judges involved in the movement now have choice of either destroying the country’s fragile democratic system by choosing to reopen old cases involving President Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif or former president Pervez Musharraf.

Noting that Justice Chaudhry led the movement for the rule of law, the newspaper urges him to set an example and save the system by ‘embracing restraint and compromise.’

The Post says that while Pakistan’s latest crisis has eased, for the Obama administration, the challenge of political dysfunction in this nuclear-armed state has hardly diminished.

‘As they showed during the past week, Pakistan’s civilian and secular political leaders are more concerned with destroying each other than with fighting the extremists who are rapidly gaining strength in the country,’ the newspaper adds.

‘While saying they recognise the jihadist threat, Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif have resumed their ruthless competition parties’ that dominated national politics in the 1990s.

The newspaper blamed both leaders for using ‘undemocratic tactics.’ It notes that Mr Sharif chose to fight the government mostly in the streets rather than in Parliament, while Mr Zardari tried to block last weekend’s protests with mass arrests and media censorship.

The Post pointed out that in the past; Pakistan’s political feuding led to military coups, which have been tolerated if not welcomed by the United States. ‘But in the era of the Taliban and al Qaeda, which grow stronger with each new crisis in Islamabad, that pattern must be broken,’ the newspaper warns.

‘Pakistan’s military leadership and the Obama administration need to play a stabilising role for the civilian leaders by arbitrating and limiting their conflicts.’

They should insist on faithfulness to the rule of law and to the democratic process, rather than picking a winner —in the case of the United States —or directly intervening, in the case of the military, the Post adds.

It also urges the Obama administration and the Pakistan Army to press for agreement on the country’s main enemy —jihadism —and a comprehensive strategy for confronting it.

The Obama administration should recognise that it cannot combat the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan and western Pakistan without tackling the larger issues of governance in both countries, the newspaper notes.

‘The events of the past week showed that the United States must help to foster a stable and representative government in Islamabad. The same principle applies in Kabul,’ the Post concludes.