Pakistan emerged on the map of the world as an independent state on August 14, 1974. Just three days before its independence, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. In his historic presidential address, the Quaid laid down the guiding principles of a truly modern Islamic democratic welfare state.

After the establishment of Pakistan, it was expected that the task of framing the Constitution would be done at the earliest, so that elections could be held without delay to form a government that would run the state’s affairs in accordance with it. Unfortunately, the objectives or goals set by the Quaid could not be achieved due to his early demise. And also, because none of his successors made any serious effort in this direction.

Needless to say, India and Pakistan got independence at the same time. Despite this, India completed the process of constitution-making and held elections without delay. But in Pakistan’s case, when Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was asked how long it would take to frame the Constitution, his reply was: “We already have a Constitution laid down in the Holy Quran. Giving it a formal legal and constitutional shape of a document would take no time.” However, it remained a dream since he too could not implement it during his lifetime. Hence, the newly-independent state was pushed into the darkness of enmity, hatred, revenge, bitterness and endless conflicts. The rest is history!

The main question, however, remains: Is Pakistan any better in 2012 with a democratically-elected government that is about to complete its five-year tenure? the answer is ‘NO’!

In the past, the democratically-elected governments have always blamed the military establishment for all acts of omission and commission. With this, the politicians should have learnt some lessons from their bitter experiences. But that did not happen! Unfortunately, the political leadership failed to produce a single statesman after the Quaid, who, as said earlier, had a vision for establishing specific targets and key performance indicators for every organ of the state.

If a roadmap had been evolved, the state institutions would have remained within their parameters. Unfortunately, such an exercise has never been undertaken by any civilian or military government.

The latest confrontation between the executive and the judiciary is a case in point.

The PPP-led government, which came into power after the 2008 elections, had a golden opportunity not to repeat the past mistakes, and design and implement polices to improve the people’s lives and Pakistan’s image worldwide. Four years have past. Despite this, the internal and external challenges facing the country are the worst ever.

The new Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, is caught in a Catch-22 situation. According to reports, “Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered Prime Minister Raja to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, who also heads the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.” The court asked him to submit a report on compliance with its orders by July 25. Otherwise, it will take action against him according to the Constitution.

In accordance with the Constitution, Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified as PM by the Supreme Court after he was convicted of contempt of court for failing to reopen these cases. In case the same happens to the present Prime Minister and the one that follows him, it will have serious implications for the country. Obviously, the entire democratic system is threatened and the prime responsibility rests upon the political leadership to avert such a crisis!

Nevertheless, the decision to appoint Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim as Chief Election Commissioner is like a breath of fresh air and augurs well for Pakistan, especially in light of the current situation. And we can hope to have free, fair and independent elections only if the PPP-led government allows him to work honestly and independently without creating hurdles in his way. That is, however, most unlikely!

n    The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum.