Former US President Trump has called the United States akin to a “broken third world country”, which has become “corrupt, on a level never seen before”. He made the statement after the FBI recently executed a search warrant at Mr. Trump’s Florida residence as part of an ongoing investigation into his taking of classified documents from the White House.
Mr Trump called it an “aggression” against him that could only be possible in a broken system. US law requires US presidents to transfer all documents and emails to the National Archives when they leave office. However, in February, fifteen (15) boxes of classified national security information were recovered from Mr. Trump’s resort at Mar-a-Lago, which marked the start of the investigation by the US Department of Justice.
A similar betrayal of democratic values was expressed by former Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan after the arrest of his chief of staff, Mr. Shahbaz Gill: “This is a kidnapping and not a arrest. Can such shameful acts take place in any democracy? Political workers treated as enemies. And all to make us accept a foreign backed government of crooks,” Mr Khan tweeted. The tweet was a defense of Mr Gill arrested by Islamabad police for sedition.
A caveat might be added here that any similarity in recent statements by two former leaders decrying the state of democracy in their particular countries is mere coincidence. However, given the myriad violations of the democratic order for which they are both accused during their respective terms, one cannot help but notice how laments over the weakening of democracy appear when they emanate from them.
Mr. Trump faces no less than seven (7) ongoing investigations, including a criminal probe into his role in the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol – rightly characterized as an unprecedented assault on the democracy in the United States – his role in overturning the 2020 presidential election or the interference, finance and tax filing cases in Georgia aimed at determining whether Mr. Trump and his company engaged in fraud tax and insurance, and the investigation of potential mishandling of classified documents. In addition to insulting the US democratic system, Mr. Trump has dismissed all the investigations as politically motivated to damage his potential plans to run for the US presidency again.
Even though no formal charges have yet been filed against the former Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan, the recent ECP order stating that the PTI has received illegal funds from foreign companies and foreign nationals, the alleged non-disclosure of assets in the Toshakhana case and the sedition case against his chief of staff emerge as the main legal challenges he faces.
He chose to defend the three in a public address on August 10. He called the ECP order in the prohibited funding case a ploy to ban PTI and the Toshakhana case a ploy to technically knock him out. He argued that successive military leaders and heads of state and government should first be investigated into their personal use of state gifts before he is held accountable. These cases, he said, are being used against him as an assassination attempt because his party cannot be defeated in the polls and has the power to shut down the country.
Although he chose not to openly defend his chief of staff’s remarks, he said if Mr Gill had broken any law he should be given the opportunity to present his views in court. It is unclear whether he did so to defend his party’s position or in unison with other political leaders when he chose to air clips of his fellow political leaders repeatedly speaking out against the political role of the establishment.
Mr. Khan did not choose to condemn the despicable campaign against the martyrs of the Balochistan helicopter crash. He seemed to suggest that any accountability of his party should only take place after other parties and leaders have been held accountable. Taking a new stance away from his previous audience and vociferously lagging behind and weaponizing the word ‘neutrality’, Mr Khan said there was a terrible controversy going on to drive a wedge between the armed forces and the more main party of Pakistan, the PTI, which could lead to disastrous consequences for Pakistan.
Mr. Khan’s political posturing aside, as he has only himself to blame for statements emanating from his party, there is merit in a statement that a rift between the security apparatus of a country and its political parties should be a source of grave concern. The fact that Pakistan has already paid a catastrophic price by dismembering a party because of this should have already taught us valuable lessons. Sadly, as we approach the 75th anniversary of our independence, there is little evidence that we have used any of our hard-learned lessons.
Among major national institutions, the Armed Forces of Pakistan has historically enjoyed the highest public approval rating as the most trusted institution in the eyes of Pakistanis, and rightly so. Their constitutional role of defending Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war and when called upon to serve in the relief of the civil power demands unwavering faith from the citizens. With this resolute public trust comes an equally enormous responsibility to be honest and non-partisan. Their oath not to engage in any political activity is based on established democratic principles of separation of powers.
It is therefore natural that any overt or covert political involvement and political influence aimed at manipulating a course of action or a preferred outcome should result in a gradual weakening of this role, regardless of the perceived short or medium term dividend yield. wrongly. The national setback in this scenario is both a negative impact on the stability and sustainability of the country’s democratic order and on the public image of the institution.
Despite suffering severe fallout for most of our fledgling existence, Pakistan is still a de jure electoral democracy with a complex political governance model that has morphed into de facto power-sharing or hybrid governance+ . Instead of moving towards the consolidation of democracy, we have witnessed a regression of our democratic governance despite four (4) military coups.
The way forward, however, is serious civilized inter-institutional dialogue, within the parameters of the constitution and laws of the land, aimed at ensuring that each institution of the state works within its constitutionally delineated scope. . The use of incitement to mutiny and defamation of the martyrs is not only utterly deplorable and calls for criminal prosecution, but a dangerous and desperate measure that could not be further from the results we need to move forward and prosper as a country.
The author is an analyst working in the area of politics, democratic governance, legislative development and the rule of law.