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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Cheating the Constitution after 50 years

The PTI lead­ership has strongly condemned the “state terrorism” launched at the residence of party chairman Imran Khan which they said was “part of a London Plan to eliminate him”. As Mr. Khan left his Za­­man Park residence in La­­hore to appear before a judge in Islam­abad, a heavy contingent of police launched a search operation at his house.

A constitution is an agreement between the rulers and the ruled. On August 14, 1973, after enactment of the unanimously agreed document unwavering compliance was expected yet the cheating has continued unabated. On March 29, 2023, Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court (LHC) declared the 1860 Colonial Era Law of Sedition, Article 124 of the Pakistan Penal Code was declared unconstitutional. Finally, it has been struck down. The big question being raised is why it has taken us 75 years to get rid of such Draconian legislation. The late Arshad Sharif was being tried under the same law that carries the death penalty, punishment and fine.

Then there is the Official Secrecy Act of 1923 and the Government of India Act of 1935. In 1960 the dictator issued the MPO Act (Maintenance of Public Order) which still holds ground. My student Barrister Hassan Niazi the energetic activist was arrested in Islamabad and then taken to Quetta, from where he arrived in Karachi but before he could reach back home after getting bail was required to go to Nowshera. Finally, he came back home yesterday after getting bail from the LHC.

Read more: Zaman Park operation: Police enter Imran Khan’s residence after breaking front doors

Understanding the matter better

During my tenure at Pakistan Science Foundation, I ordered a departmental inquiry against the misconduct of the Admin. Officer. To avoid accountability, he used his ‘ Mafia Networks’ to get himself transferred to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat without permission from his parent department. I wrote to the Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to accommodate the employment of PSF in the PM Sect on a permanent basis instead of a forced unlawful deputation from an autonomous organization. In reply, I received a copy of an interesting Ordinance.

During the Civil War in East Pakistan, government officers were reluctant to go to the Eastern Wing. In the year 1971, the PM issued an Ordinance under which it could place any government employee where ever it desired. Despite the passage of the Constitution in 1973, the Secretary had the audacity to send this document to me in 2004. It was the biggest joke ever which indicated the ‘Colonial Mind Set’ of the powerful but evil bureaucracy. On the recommendation of the inquiry committee, I sent the employee on forced retirement. The Secretary came to his rescue again by using another Martial Law Ordinance (Civil Servants Reforms Act 2000) which was not even applicable to autonomous organizations like PSF. My term ended in August 2005 and I returned home with many unanswered questions about the conduct of our bureaucrats and how they have managed to cheat the constitution.

In the year 2017, a Right to Information Act was enacted by the parliament which has now replaced the 1923 Official Secrecy Act yet the government departments are unwilling to provide the required information. The mystery is always mischief yet departments are very reluctant to reveal information to the public. The Information Commission is very active in Punjab with several milestone decisions. As my focus has been on Administrative Reforms leading to good governance, I lost focus on the many Human Rights Ordinances that were stealthily carried over despite the passage of the 1973 document. Now that the LHC has highlighted the ongoing foul play it is time to revisit all the ‘ Colonial Era ‘ laws together with the Martial Law Ordinances that continue to pollute the constitution of the republic.

Read more: Imran Khan thanks SCBAP for condemning police brutality at Zaman Park

The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will celebrate its Golden Jubilee of enactment on August 14, 2023, but with several leakages that need to be plugged in. In order to introduce ‘Administrative Accountability’ the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto included Clause 216 in the interim constitution of 1972, and a toned-down version was made a part of the 1973 permanent document under Clause 212. Administrative Accountability courts were to be established. In the year 1979, the clause was removed, instead, Mohtasib or Ombudsman office was created for this purpose which is ineffective as they are headed by the peers of the same bureaucrats against whose complaint has been lodged.

Barrister Hassan has been a civil rights lawyer. He has boldly contested several important cases despite life threats. Now that he has been seriously harmed by the very system in which he works, it is time for a massive operation clean up of the 1973 constitution to restore it in its original form. The document itself and the connected Penal Codes have to be purged of the Colonial Era Acts and the Martial Law Ordinances that were quietly made a part of our legal system by the skillful maneuvering of the bureaucrats. There are about 20 Clauses in the constitution that cover human rights not one of them has ever been followed or debated in the parliament. This forced  Watan Ki Sair (Journey of the Motherland) of Hassan must not be allowed to continue. There are several political workers arrested under these Colonial Era Draconian Laws who need to be bailed out.

The recent raid on the Zaman Park residence of the former PM speaks volumes about the dismal state of ‘Human Rights’ in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Hopefully, some lessons must have been learned by now. The area is named after the maternal grandfather of Imran Khan. It’s an enclave of the Pathan’s of Jalandhar who were mostly in the service of the state. Ik’s father Ikramullah Niazi hailed from Mianwali. He built his house here on the land inherited by his wife. Ik grew up in the safety of Zaman Park where the Burki Clan would gather even at a moment’s notice to ward off evil or external threats but not any anymore.

Read more: Security barriers removed from Zaman Park as Imran Khan leaves for Islamabad

The journey of the Zamans continues. Looking for the freedom they migrated to Lahore. Their son of the soil rose to be the PM yet they were subjected to Colonial Era indignation after 75 years of so-called freedom. The rulers have succeeded in cheating the agreement that was declared the law of the land on August 14, 1973, some 49 years and 8 months ago. It is time to stand up for the constitution by removing the irritants that come in the way. IK is right if elections are not held within the stipulated ninety days after the dissolution of the assemblies, Buigles for the ‘Battle of the Constitution’ should blow loud and clear. This cheating of the constitution must be brought to an end.


The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at  fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.