Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Corrupt Opposition

The current opposition does not believe in democracy.

Despite sitting in parliament, it has by its actions over the past few weeks demonstrated how far it is willing to go to hold back the development of democracy.

Democracy is about accountability. For a party in opposition, this means holding the ruling government accountable. Normally, the opposition grasps any chance it has to do this. Yet, the majority of the opposition - led by the PPP - has refrained from holding the PML-N government to account for the state oppression that it has inflicted on the protestors in Islamabad. Some opposition politicians have made vague references to the brutality of the police. But the tone of the opposition has predominantly been one of unconditional support to the government.

This support is all the more surprising when one considers that the PML-N has a majority government. In such a scenario, the ruling party has the opportunity to violate any number of rights. It attempted to do so when it signed the Protection of Pakistan Bill into law. The law allows security forces to detain suspects for a maximum of 60 days without revealing their location or the allegations against them. It is a law which has been totally rejected by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan but which is now planning to be used against the Islamabad protestors.

Democracy isn't just about accountability of the government - it also means being accountable to the public.

When the public, however small the amount, protests for an extended period of time it is an indication that the issue they're protesting about is worth examining. Even if the protestors themselves don't believe in parliamentary means, their concerns regarding economic hardships, corruption and the provision of law and order should be considered legitimate. The opposition, as a counterweight to the government, should be particularly sensitive to protestors who are claiming that these issues occurred during the present government's time.

The primary issue that the PAT has raised is the lodging of an FIR over the Model Town incident. The main concern of PTI is the electoral rigging which occurred during the 2013 elections. The former is an example of state brutality which democracy is supposed to prevent. The latter is an electoral issue. However, the opposition has wasted no time in painting the protestors - especially the PAT - as terrorists bent on destroying property and overtaking Islamabad. Even the PTI protestors have not been spared despite belonging to a party which has National Assembly representation and is also currently running the province of KP. Valid democratic concerns have been cast aside by this democratic opposition.

Opposition members such as Khursheed Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan, and Mahmood Khan Achakzai claim that by supporting the PML-N government they are supporting democracy itself. What they are actually supporting is the completion of Nawaz Sharif's 5-year term and nothing else. They are equating the uninterrupted presence of a parliament complete with joint sessions, law-making, resolutions, and parliamentary committees with democracy.

But this is nothing less than a facade.

No amount of parliamentary activity matters when a corrupt opposition fails to hold the government accountable, and doesn't believe the public should hold it to account.