Human Rights Commission calls for building strong democratic traditionsHRCP press statement

Lahore, July 29. Commenting on the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama papers case and the subsequent developments the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for a nationwide effort to build strong democratic traditions. In a statement issued here today the Commission said:

The highest court in the land has spoken and its command has been duly obeyed. This is an occasion not so much for celebration as it is for sober reflection for the case revealed a great deal that should prick the people’s conscience for long .Whatever may be said about the majesty of the law having been demonstrated Pakistan cannot afford to be known as the country that hangs or sacks its prime ministers after short intervals.

In their judgment announced on Friday the honourable judges of the Supreme Court have more than once declared their reluctance to take any action until they found it justified on the facts before them or concealed from them. This is as it should be, But there can always be honest differences on the ways laws can or should be interpreted. One should like to hope and pray that the present verdict will survive scrutiny by tomorrow’s judicial minds and the collective wisdom of a democratic community.

A section of the people, including many outside the group of defendants in the case, have expressed reservations about the unusual methods employed to prosecute the correspondents. These people need to be satisfied so that justice is not only done it is also seen to be done. One way to do this will be to ensure that the democratic system continues without let or hindrance from any quarter. It will especially be necessary to ensure that the civil-military relations are regulated within a democratic framework and the impression, however unfounded, that the democratic dispensation is at the sufferance of any institution or service is banished from the minds of the people.

The Panama case has revealed much that is wrong with the way democratic institutions, including parliament, the cabinet and political parties, have been functioning. The removal of all such drags on the democratic system should be a priority item on the agenda of all politically conscious groups and citizens. Nothing short of a nationwide drive to save and rebuild democracy will see Pakistan out of the woods. The action against the outgoing prime minister has been taken under a provision (Article 62) that has no place in a democratic system. The political leaderships must seriously consider ways of freeing themselves of this albatross around their necks.

At the same time efforts must be made to revamp administrative policies and practices so that all loopholes that permit nepotism, graft and abuse of authority are plugged and timely action can be taken against any deviation from law or propriety.

Dr. Mehdi Hassan

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