In established parliamentary jurisdictions, the Shadow Cabinet consists of senior members of the Opposition who scrutinise their corresponding government ministers, develop alternative policies, and hold the government to account for its actions. In most civilised jurisdictions such Shadow Cabinet is always observing, learning, waiting, and preparing to step in. It can move in only when the hoi polloi, as the ultimate political sovereign, give their own green signal and reveal their preferences through a systematic pulse check or mandate seeking process known as voting.
As we are far better than being merely civilised (we are pious and pure), hence we have come up with new traditions of how to govern this land: we do not merely depend on Shadow Cabinets, and we, being always in hurry, do not allow ourselves to wait for the electorate to reveal its preferences in the lumbering process of voting: we want everything now, no questions asked, no permissions sought, no process followed, no minutiae.
We are the real frontier-mentality people: pragmatic and realistic; for us what is form, why worry about whys! That is why we have discarded the entire civilized system of Shadow Cabinets and have come up with a sui generis mechanism of a Parallel Cabinet. Under this system for each de jure public office (say Cabinet Member), there is a de facto Parallel office, housed on the other side of the capital, which in actuality decides most of the important issues of administration and policy, and the de jure officer follows the instructions of the de facto.
De facto rules the de Jure, just like in all frontier-towns! In merely civilized jurisdictions, in other places, the real Cabinet governs, and the Shadow cabinet waits: not so in our frontier-mentality realm. In our demesne, the shadow Cabinet, the de factor Parallel, governs, whereas the real Cabinet becomes the mere shadow of the Cabinet. The reversal of all norms is our sacred “grundnorm”.
As we are far better than being mere civilized, hence our system of de facto Parallel Governance is not dependent on any signaling from the ultimate political sovereign, the electorate, the mere hoi polloi
Shadow Cabinet exists only in the capital
We have bettered, nay bested, all other jurisdictions in the world in another fashion also. As we are in advanced stage of political development and are far better than being merely civilized, hence our system of de facto Parallel Cabinet is not restricted to one place only. In civilized-only jurisdictions, the Shadow Cabinet exists only in the capital (say London or Canberra).
But we are so enamored of our innovative governance mechanism (the de facto Parallel Cabinet), that we have extended its munificence horizontally and vertically, all across the country, so that the bounty of de facto Parallel Governance, is fairy and equitably distributed to all the people, and is not bestowed only to the lucky denizens of our capital. Hence, if you happen to visit Khyber, or Pishin, or Vehari, or Jacobabad, you will be happy to experience the system of de facto Parallel Governance fully operational, hidden in plain-sight.
No public office is considered too petty to be ignored (even sand can be source of dough, as we all came to know recently): everyone needs to enjoy the welfare of de facto Parallel Governance. Even Patwaris and Inspectors enjoy the benedictions of this unique system.
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And why should all not enjoy the freely available blessings: none of them want to be foolishly unappreciative like that police officer who despite being given the (only) police rank which carries the title of general, in a few rare moments of weakness behaved in the most ungrateful manner. Happily, he was quickly made to relapse into common sense soon thereafter and again made to wear the colored spectacles, after wearing which the pasture always looks green!
It is, what it is
As we are far better than being mere civilized, hence our system of de facto Parallel Governance is not dependent on any signaling from the ultimate political sovereign, the electorate, the mere hoi polloi. It is not grounded on revealed preferences through a maladroit and gauche mandate seeking process. We are practical people: our motto always is: “it is, what it is”: pure subordination of the Pen to the Rapier, of the Ought to the Is!
Let us look at evidence to see whether the de facto Parallel is anything more than this subordination of the Pen to the Rapier. Many of those who, at one point in time, ran this de facto Parallel Governance, being mere humans, soon started to enjoy this role-reversal under which the IS was in control of the OUGHT, the real became the mere shadow, and the shadow became the real.
These de facto Parallel supremos soon developed and embedded throughout the realm an entire libretto according to which their de facto ascendancy was actually a public good as it was based on their inherent merit and superior skills. According to spin of this make-believe script, the predominance of the de facto was necessary as it represented merit technocracy. On this libretto was based the Kelsenian “grundnorm” of our revered and acclaimed Doctrine of Necessity.
The bubble of these, one time, de facto Parallel supremos finally burst when they attempted to market their self-proclaimed merit and skill after shedding their centurion uniforms: we cannot fail to remember how these self-styled epitomai of excellence and accomplishment fared in post-uniform life and how many cheering crowds came out to the airport to receive them! All the decades of marketing of Kelsenian “grundnorm” proved futile and revealed itself to be a fake screenplay, and in the end failed to garner even a few hundred votes for these one time de facto Parallel supremos.
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In the post-uniform world these de facto Parallel supremos lost their minimum-security deposits at the polling booths and the real preference of the political sovereign, the people, was ultimately revealed in the form of their utterly shameful rejection. The electoral admonition of these erstwhile de facto Parallel supremos belied all their uniform-days claims of ascendancy based on superior skills, better organizational capability, and superior coherent governance.
Their electoral denunciation exposed the reality:
Their ascendancy was nothing but the subordination of the Pen to the Rapier and of the Ought to the Is. There was no merit, only the Kelsenian “grundnorm” of Doctrine of Necessity, recently rechristened and rebranded as some form of “restraint” by another de jure office, which wears the sacred robes!
This electoral revenge of history, and of the Ought, against the Aristotelian “noble falsehood” of merited ascendancy of the de facto Parallel, sadly, comes with a time lag. In the meantime, real de jure officers have to work out how to manage and work with the de facto Parallel officers.
It will come, sadly, though with a time lag. But when it comes it will again uncover that the Kelsenian grundnorm of Doctrine of Necessity is an Aristotelian noble falsehood
The de jure officers, who are so subordinated to the de facto Parallel officers, seldom, if ever, begrudge their subservience to the de facto: there are hardly any known cases of conscientious objectors in our de jure lot of pragmatists and realists. Not only that there is no known case of conscientious objector, but the more loyal de jure Officers have also concocted a self-justification thought-process for working in quiet and peaceful subordination to the de facto Parallel officers.
In this fantasy thought land, the de facto Parallel officer is considered, branded and portrayed as “the Arm Of The Ministry”. Taken as a Freudian slip this confusing “Arm” of the Ministry with the real “Arms” from which these de facto Parallel officers come, evidences some subliminal understanding and lingering appreciation by the de jure Officers that the Pen has been subordinated to the Rapier.
Display of irony
If on the other hand, this mix-up of ‘Arm’ of the Ministry with ‘Arms’ is taken as a display of irony, it would indeed be considered a grave transgression against the celebrated Kelsenian “grundnorm” of Doctrine of Necessity, and may expose those de jure Officers to culpability of displaying infidelity. So, let us hope, this mix-up is mere Freudian slip and not irony, for the sake of well-being of those de jure officers, and for giving them the benefit of doubt, with the faith that some iota of normative integrity is left.
Such rosy-colored spectacles may, in reality, be a necessary outfit for the de jure Officers who wear such specially tinted glasses to block out reality from disturbing them while they walk with bended knees in the shadow of the de facto Parallel officers, always one step behind with smiles ready on their facades to disarm the “Arm” of the Ministry and keeping that “Arm” at arm’s length, in case that “Arm” come to harm them personally, in this realm of extreme discretion! Hence, the de jure Officers, being in a subservient position, have to work hard day and night to prove their loyalty to the de facto Parallel officer, and have to prove every day, as Dante described in the 8th Circle of Hell, that the “two heads had already fused to one”.
Picture of deformity
But tragically when such fusion of two-head takes places a “picture of deformity” emerges in the end: “The two heads had already fused to one and features from each flowed and blended into one face where two were lost in one another…Each former likeness now was blotted out; both, and neither one it seemed – this picture of deformity.”
The price of this “picture of deformity” is paid by the hoi polloi, who remain, since many decades, unfed, uncared, unhoused, “poor, bare, forked animal”: Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. —Is man no more than this? Consider him well.—Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! Here’s three on ’s are sophisticated. Thou art the thing itself. Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. [Shakespeare: King Lear]
Let us have confidence that the future holds in its breast to reveal, and repeat the electoral revenge of history, and victory of the Ought, against the Aristotelian “noble falsehood” of merited ascendancy of the de facto Parallel. It will come, sadly, though with a time lag. But when it comes it will again uncover that the Kelsenian “grundnorm” of Doctrine of Necessity is an Aristotelian “noble falsehood”.
Let us hope, at that time, we learn to develop new norms in which the shadow Cabinet has to await electoral signal of hoi polloi to step in and our kind of de factor Parallel Governance does not use chicanery and potency to make the real Cabinet a Shadow Cabinet, once again!
Asim Imdad Ali is currently a partner in an Islamabad-based law firm. He earlier served in Central Superior Services, at positions of increasing responsibility, in its prestigious DMG group (1992-2006), and later served as Head of legal and regulatory affairs in a major multinational company. He is LLB (gold) from Punjab University, LLM from Kings College London, and did Masters in Public Administration at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University where he was an Edward S Mason Fellow. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.