Vestiges of Tahirul Qadri’s dharna have turned into splinters and are strewn in all directions today. A sanctimonious brigade, armed with Articles 62 and 63, is rumbling to haunt politicians. In a modern, democratic country, politicians being disqualified for not remembering parts of the Scriptures is highly unfortunate. An incognito ideology is another warhead in the arsenal to deal with “traitors” of the country attempting to reach parliament, which is supposedly reserved for the pious.
The much revered and vaguely defined lofty “Ideology of Pakistan” is yet to be deciphered. The arbitrary use of this term in the absence of any standard definition is incomprehensible. It is a pity that a highly credible personality like Ayaz Amir was knocked off his pedals on flimsy grounds of desecrating the national ideology although this decision was thankfully reversed on appeal. Several others are being precluded from contesting the elections because they were unable to satisfy the returning officers concerned about their knowledge of religion. One wonders how a lack of religious knowledge justifies purging people from their right of public representation.
Politicians are also being denigrated for not striking off these clauses through the Eighteenth Amendment. In fact, the Amendment also circumvented several other objectionable clauses in pursuit of a consensus package. It will be unfair to consider the Eighteenth Amendment a panacea for every ailment. Seeking the concurrence of right-wing parties probably cramped revoking such clauses from the Constitution. A similar development in Bangladesh can make for a pertinent reference point. In January 2010, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh removed the Fifth and Seventh Amendments inserted in its country’s Constitution during military regimes. The verdict realigned the Constitution with four basic principles of its original document — democracy, nationalism, socialism and secularism. These Amendments were subsequently validated by parliament with a three-fourth majority. Despite such a valiant initiative, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the prime minster, found it too audacious to proceed with and in October, she and her advisers agreed to not remove the Islamic phrase of inception from the Constitution, which was inserted by dictator General Ziaur Rahman. The decision relegated the legal reforms proposed by the Court and also invited the ire of the liberal and secular parties of the country.
In contrast, in Pakistan, state institutions frequently exude their obstinacy in these matters. Also, a motley of evangelical religious outfits have turned the country into a tinderbox. Such a lethal combination makes it practically impossible for political forces to take far-reaching decisions in isolation, unless society rallies behind them. The recent episode of scrutiny of candidates is a clarion call for our society. If inanities in the name of faith and illusive morality are left unquestioned, the country will plunge into medieval times and nothing will be able to extricate it from such a morass. A politically impotent society will have to face far more serious consequences than just perceived turpitude and corruption. While Bangladesh reversed the constitutional amendments made by its Zia, in Pakistan, still Zia zinda hey.