The 1973 constitution is the supreme document of Pakistan. Parliament is the most powerful and sovereign institution of the state. State affairs are governed in the light of the 1973 constitution. Unfortunately, this sovereign document has continually been violated and abrogated by those who take oath of office under its sanctity and command.
Article 6, Clause 1 of the constitution exclusively explicates that “any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.” Unfortunately, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf disobediently abrogated the constitution in 1977 and 1999 respectively, and forcibly implemented martial law for the military’s hegemony and dominance. The judiciary, media, parliament and its opportunist members also reinforced those military dictators’ attempts at suspending the 1973 constitution.
Additionally, Article 244 of the constitution mandates that any member of the armed forces swear an oath to “uphold the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people, that I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Forces) as required by and under the law.” But in reality, the situation is remarkably contrary to that article. Violation of the oath, involvement in politics, conspiracies against democracy and parliament, media censorship, controlling security policies and electoral processes, backing extremist religious and political parties, interference in foreign, internal, economic, religious, cultural and educational affairs are the subjects of interest of the establishment, which are totally unprofessional in nature and contrary to what has been defined by the constitution.
The April 29 press conference of the Pakistan Army’s spokesman, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Major-General Asif Ghafoor, is a lucid example of political interference and exceeding the authority determined by the constitution. Stating security, political and foreign policies by a military officer in a press conference is a total violation of the constitution. Parliament, empowered by the constitution and led by the prime minister, is the only supreme institution of the state authorized to design, structure and issue policies on economy, politics, security and foreign affairs.
Article 245 (1) of the constitution mandates that the armed forces shall act as per orders and directions of the federal government. Ghafoor’s recent press conference attacking the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and political parties significantly violated the most privileged document of the state. Without showing a single iota of solid proof, he accused the PTM of receiving foreign funding, specifically from the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and directly threatened that “time is up for PTM,” adding that no one would be allowed to fight against the state.
Interestingly, many senior journalists including Saleem Safi and Hamid Mir of Geo News asked questions relevant to current national-security and political scenarios, but Ghafoor categorically avoided answering and disapproved of the request to allow PTM leaders on talk shows on mainstream electronic media. This is total violation of Article 19 of the constitution, which states that every citizen has the right to freedom of expression.
According to Article 90 of the constitution, only the prime minister or federal cabinet (prior to the PM’s permission) can exercise executive power in the larger interest of the state, but the military seems exempted from this and can exercise its power without consulting the federal government.
Articles 8 to 28 of the 1973 constitution define the basic and fundamental rights of every Pakistani citizen. These articles clearly mandate that the state of Pakistan shall ensure every individual’s rights irrespective of his race, religion and ethnicity. The five-point charter of demands of the PTM – presenting persons before the courts for trial if they are accused of any criminal activity, establishing a commission on extrajudicial killing of Pashtuns, clearing landmines from the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, ending Pashtun profiling, and executing Rao Anwar, the former senior superintendent of Karachi Police accused of “encounter killings” – are purely constitutional in nature. Prime Minster Imran Khan, Ghafoor himself and political leaders, lawyers and media persons have also called these demands totally constitutional.
The PTM is purely a civil-rights movement that aims to advocate constitutional rights of the Pashtun community in the state of Pakistan. The rise of a sense of protest among Pakistanis in general and Pashtuns in particular is a positive step toward democratic success and political stability in the country.
The rule of the constitution and supremacy of parliament can ensure an integrated Pakistan. The more the state allows its citizens to protest against wrong policies, the more the state will integrate and progress. Mainstream political parties and notable parliamentarians must support constitutional and human-rights-based demands of any group, movement and about all ethnic communities.
Pakistan belongs to all Pakistanis. Everyone has equal rights to life, property, and expression of demands under the 1973 constitution. Blame-game policy and threats will lead us nowhere.