Rule of law or the ‘law of rules’?
By Shafiq Awan
In the House, the honourable members act and behave as their masters bid them to. If a voice crosses the threshold laid down by them, it is silenced. Personal interests are the priority, not the ‘real’ issues. Sometimes, compromises are reached so quickly on these issues that it is hard for the political archers to lower their bows in time. Be it Moonis Elahi’s inexplicable acquisition of Robert Farms or the Sharifs 2008 Bank of Punjab loans, the National Reconciliation Ordinance or Rana Sanaullah’s precious plaza, ‘save my skin’ is the rallying cry.
It seems our elected leaders believe in the ‘Law of Rules’ instead of the ‘Rule of Law’. There is a big difference between the two. Rule of law is defined as the provision of justice and equal opportunities to all, whereas the ‘Law of Rules’ is the means to amend any rule to serve the purposes of the rulers and influential. As a society, this formula is employed as and when necessary by parliamentarians, lawyers and bureaucrats alike. Downstairs in the cafeteria, you can hear a lot more. Conscience seems to speak louder than words here, and many can be found ‘confessing their sins’ to their trusted ‘priests’.
Sanaullah’s precious plaza: Following a deal between the opposition and the ruling ‘People’s League’, the issue of Law Minister Rana Sanullah’s plaza was literally buried alive. A committee was constituted to “hush up the issue” and soon, the Q-League and the PPP will forget this issue ever existed. Mark my words, in a few days, the committee will find that the law minister’s plaza was “by the book”.
Defending himself and his plaza amid calls for his resignation, Sanaullah argued, “If the NRO ministers and the president resign, then I will quit too”. Doesn’t this sound like an admission of guilt to you? Sanaullah is a seasoned campaigner and faced the wrath of the khakis at the end of the last Nawaz government. Although he was brutally tortured, he did not change loyalties and stood by democracy. But while I have the utmost respect for him, he does have a tendency to be ‘too blunt’ most of the time. And when he gets started, he usually doesn’t spare anyone. But this attribute, however much of problem it may be, is nothing to get overly worried about. After all, even the Sharifs had a hard time tolerating the kind of statements he made about them back in the days when he was a dyed-in-the-wool jiyala – a label he’s had to work hard to live down. But Rana Sahib should know that the estate of Raiwand will never award him citizenship, he will always be a ‘refugee’. Indeed, the Sharifs would not think twice about replacing him if they had a better choice.
32 jails: Prisons Minister Chaudhry Ghafoor declared the Gujranwala Jail a “corruption-free establishment” on the floor of the House today, and actually admitted that corrupt practices existed in the 31 other facilities in the provinces. The worthy law minister could scarcely conceal a smile, especially when the prisons minister went on to disclose that no Punjab jail was on the list of the world’s ‘Top Ten Most Corrupt Jails’. Was this an achievement or a miserable failure?
Legal double-standards: Lawyers too have their own rules about law, and I was shocked when a few MPAs – who also happened to be lawyers – defended the actions of the lawyers’ community on the death of 12-year-old Shazia Masih, allegedly at the hands of ‘one of their own’. While I agree Naeem advocate has not been declared guilty by a court, doesn’t the same standard apply to anyone accused of any crime? Why do these very people forget their standards when they treat President Asif Ali Zardari like a condemned man?
Finally, I believe that the House has changed very little in the 11 years that I have been familiar with it. A lawmaker, Syed Nazim Ali Shah, was trying to secure exemption from paying toll tax on the highway and had brought with him a few receipts. The question arises, is this why his constituents voted him into office? Apparently, getting a refund on toll tax is more important to him than raising his voice for his people. After all, democracy is the best revenge, from one’s constituents!