The Tale of Rebellious Institutions


The Tale of Rebellious Institutions

After witnessing the revolutionary tide that swept away Hosni Mubarak from his office in 2011, Egyptians were not the only ones rejoicing in exultation at the ousting of the military dictator; Pakistanis too were glorifying their Egyptian counterparts. But after two years, when more than 33 million people (a number alleged by the Mainstream Media) took to the streets again, it did not receive the applause or appreciation from the same audience.

 

Is Democracy the way?:

 

To the anti-Morsi protesters, the overthrowing of a democratic leader was as justifiable as the ousting of a military dictator. But in Pakistan, the sudden rejection of Morsi made many pro-democracy Pakistanis slap their foreheads in dismay. This despondency was also followed by an inner fear that continues to reside within Pakistanis who have witnessed their nation battling its own series of military coups.

 

 The Irrevocable Mistake of Morsi:

 
On November 22nd, 2012, Morsi granted himself extensive powers, gaining immunity from any legal challenge. Although, he annulled his decree later, the mistake was irrevocable and it was the beginning of the end of his career as president. There were mass demonstrations that demanded Morsi’s ouster and the liberal opposition found a golden opportunity to further demonize the Islamists led party, the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

 

But if one questions Morsi’s decree that would exempt his actions from judicial review, Pakistan might be the best answer to provide. Just a few months prior to Morsi’s constitutional decree, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani was battling with corruption charges against his own president, the then-Asif Ali Zardari. Eventually, the Supreme Court ordered his dismissal after he failed to comply with its demands. While the verdict was welcomed by anti-government factions and pro-military supporters, to Pakistani political analysts this was a fractious blow to the country’s already striving democracy.

 

 

To Law experts, the judiciary was trespassing its constitutional boundaries by acting as a supreme body and extravagating its limits by removing a democratically elected prime minister before the completion of his term.

 

Ours- a more rebellious Judiciary than Egypt’s?:
Pakistan’s judiciary, which had long disassociated itself from politics, gained acclamation when the judges deposed by the former dictator General Pervez Musharraf got reinstated on the increasing demands of the Lawyers’ Movement and civil society activists. But over the years, the judges’ continuous defiance of the parliament’s role as the “principle architect of law” has strayed the institution from regulations imposed on it by the Constitution of 1973. Gillani’s deposition resulted in a war between the judiciary and the then- government, the Pakistan People’s Party.

But Pakistan is not the only nation with a rebellious judiciary. In Egypt, the Supreme Judicial Council refused to adhere to the regulations introduced by its own democratic regime. Apparently, after the first revolution, the Council started to visualize itself as the principle institution. The judges refused to oversee the drafting of the new constitution under Morsi, demanding that the judicial portion of the draft should be filled in by the judges themselves.

 

 

The continuous nit picking by the Council delayed the constitutional process. Judicial activism in Egypt further bruised the fledgling democracy of the country; the judges portrayed themselves as the primary lawmakers, they diverted themselves from the duty that officially binds them under the Rule of Law as “Interpreters of legislation” not the creators.

 
In Egypt, the army has remained an authoritarian institution and has received unyielding support from the pro-Mubarak judges. Their loyalty towards the army paid off when Al-Sisi appointed the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour as the new interim president. But unlike Egypt, where the judges and the army generals go “hand-in-hand”, in Pakistan, post Musharraf’s withdrawal from power, Pakistani judges’ fear the heightening tensions within the country that might lead to the emergence of another coup that will propel them back to the era that left them no choice but to subjugate to their military leaders.

 
The common belief among Egyptians is that the army was motivated to intervene by the mobilization of the crowd. However, in Egypt, the military has always had an internal grip on the country’s political system and other state institutions. Its slow and clandestine power grab resulted in the overthrowing of Egypt’s first democratic government. The Egyptians who proudly distinguish themselves from the world as great revolutionaries just reinstated a regime from which they first revolted against, whose policies are now comparatively more draconian than before. After Mubarak fell, SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) regenerated itself and continued to operate from behind the scenes.

 

 

Eventually, it materialized as a coup and abolished civilian rule. The army has now launched a witch hunt against the members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, simultaneously preparing to transfer Morsi to the same prison where Mubarak is detained.

 

Heavily Involved Military:
In Pakistan, same similarities can be drawn; the military is heavily involved in the socio and economic activities of the country. The institution continues to keep a cautious eye on political  developments and dominates the private and public sector. However, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a democratic regime completed its full term without the army’s intervention.

 

 

And despite the eruption of violence that further aggravated during five years of democratic rule, and which aroused fears of another coup d’état, the PPP held on firmly to power until the party’s safe transition of power during May elections.

 

 

The Pakistani military, whose image was severely battered during Musharraf’s reign, remained unusually quiet during turbulent times. However, the failures of the then-democratic government have further augmented the support for the military.

 

Parallel Grounds:

 

Pakistan and Egypt stand on parallel grounds when it comes to military coups and judicial activism. Egypt is on the brink of collapse; the country is locked in an inevitable showdown between the army and pro-MB supporters. Pakistan, on the other hand, has pulled through the hurdles created by factions that have tried to destabilize democracy. But civilian rule is slowly losing popularity in Pakistan due to its strategic failures in tackling economic and energy crises, unlimited corruption and security issues. Only time will tell whether or not these crises will amount to a fourth coup.

 



Fatima Ansari

A contributor for The News/Geo blogs