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Welcome to the new Chief Justice in Pakistan

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Justice Nasirul Mulk was sworn in as the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan. Although we all are excited about a person who is very honest and committed on fundamental human rights in this position, we are concerned about the challenges he will have to face in a crisis prone environment and power brokers in every sector. he was among the judges who were deposed and suffered equally with the judges who took a stance on the illegitimate Martial Rule.

Mukhtara mai’s gang rape case became an icon for the struggle of women against violence. It went on for 8 years and finally met a disappointing fate at the Supreme court. Only one rapist was convicted all the others equally guilty in the gang rape went Scott free. Among the three judges on the Panel on Justice Nasir wrote a note of decent and fully supported Mukhtara Mai’s testimony. the decision of the case resulted in nationwide protests but at least women were happy that one of the three judges understood the social pressures women have to go through to file a case of this nature and the social dynamics around such cases. His historic note makes him popular among women and at the same time the expectations from him are more than it would have been from another justice.

He comes from the Swat Valley  and was brought up in a politically and socially aware family. His father was a Senator and so was his brother. He did his law degree from Peshawar in 1972 and his higher studies from London. He became the chief justice of Peshawar high court and was appointed as a Judge of the supreme court on 15 April 2005. Being the most senior Judge after the retirement of the last Chief Justice he has been appointed as the new Chief Justice. This smooth transition helps Pakistan’s judiciary to become stronger.

We welcome Justice Nasirul Mulk as our Chief Justice, a person with unblemished record, with the hope that he will keep the Judiciary independent. We need this support to stabilise our democracy.

 

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SEVEN LESSONS FOR PROMOTING A DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM

The elections in Pakistan have brewed up many sentiments. Some people are happy, some are sad and some are angry. I see on the social media a string of slurs against others in the form of comments like “this is a nation of poor and greedy people who sell their vote on one plate of biryani”  or lashing at one sector as the “burger class”.  I am hopeful that the emotions will calm down soon and the focus will be on a substantive development agenda for Pakistan.

More focused on the political process and strengthening of our democracy, I have been more of a staunch supporter of certain social issues and have taken very strong stands, as a citizen, for the sovereignty and supremacy of the Parliament. Although it was pretty painful to be stuck in DC and not being able to vote, my struggle for several years has been on promoting politics and eliminating the demonization of all politicians.

So as a student of democracy I have made a list of seven points for our voting citizens of all kinds. Friends are welcome to add more points to it.

SEVEN LESSONS FOR PROMOTING A DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM

1) Democracy does not mean that if it doesn’t produce the results I WANT it is not a democracy. We can have our voice, but not necessarily control over the collective outcome.

2) If you support one party don’t think you are the only one who loves your country. Others can have exactly the same feelings.

3) Democratic systems have a certain conflict inherent in it. Competition and the tension resulting from it is a part of democratic process.  However,  it has to be balanced by consensus building and legitimization of the larger framework by the citizens. Any imbalance in this process can derail a democracy.

4) Democracy is not as efficient as an authoritarian government, therefore one has to be patient and mull through the mess if we do not want to revert to a dictatorship. There are no short cuts to democratic decision making.

5) The electoral system will evolve. We have come a long way. Voting lists are now computerized. Results are more transparent so as to bring out the anomalies and get them aired by mainstream media and resolved by the ECP. These are good signs.  If we keep up the pressure,  the process will continue to change for the better. Incremental improvements should be acknowledged.

6) Skepticism and accountability for those in power is necessary to strengthen the system. However, too much of it takes away the legitimacy of the democratic institutions and inculcates destabilization. A balance is necessary. (This point is also very relevant for the citizens linked with mainstream and social media)

7) Democracies that gradually become more consolidated and strengthened are characterized by a collective mindset where the right of other parties to run and voters to vote for them is legitimized. You cannot argue that if you do not vote for my party we might as well have a dictatorship.  The larger sense of legitimacy and respect for other parties, politicians and voters has to prevail.

To repeat point #3:  Competition and conflict is inherent in democracy, but it is the right to compete that ensure the legitimacy of the system, and this, above, must be respected.