There are two kinds of mirrors. One: the bathroom mirror, which tells you what to change about your appearance first thing in the morning when you are in your most natural state. Two: the doorway mirror, which gives you a made-up view of yourself once you are all dressed up to go out. Unfortunately, we the people, and our institutions tend to depend more on the doorway mirrors, which never let the naked truth out when it is only the naked truth which can tell you what to change or improve as human beings or organisations. Do we have men and institutions with the courage to face the bathroom mirror, to face the need to change and accept mistakes and punishments and move on? To this question, ‘no!’ is the naked truth whereas “yes” is the doorway lie.

Our national past is full of examples where we as individuals and institutions conveniently preferred flattering doorway reflectors over the truth. Never revealing the truth to the people was not a bigger crime than the guardians of these secrets never learning a thing from it. In the name of national interest and national security, the arbiters of our destiny only meant to conceal and destroy the evidence of their treacherous failures. It started with the concealment of truth about the first murder of a Prime Minister and constitution, and to conceal that concealment, individuals and institutions had to kill more and more. If only we had believed in the unflattering naked truth back then and had the courage to nip the evil in the bud. Perhaps we might have avoided the crisis of credibility our institutions are facing.

Today, most of our institutions including Parliament, government, judiciary, the media, the armed forces and other professional bodies, refuse to stare into the eyes of reality. These institutions and the individuals heading them have mastered the skill of “creating realities” through self deceptive image building and public relations exercises with public money. It is standard practice for governments to exaggerate their performance or speak half truths, but it will be disastrous for them to believe their own lies. This disaster has indeed hit the polity of Pakistan.

The elected Parliament and provincial assemblies are behaving like a club of the elite, demanding and sanctioning privileges for themselves. Demands of Punjab assembly members for ‘blue passports’ and the increase of emoluments without a public debate are recent examples of how an institution can be hijacked by a self serving bunch of opportunists. Parliament’s reaction to the apex court judgments over dual nationality and fake educational degrees is another example of animal-like self preservation instincts, with not a single man of moral courage and character announcing to resign before a court decision. This is a Parliament which under the constitution is empowered to vote for no confidence in the Prime Minister or even impeach the President in case of serious allegations and evidence. Similarly, the standing committees of Parliament and political parties are in complete disarray with no intra-party accountability mechanisms. Of course, mechanisms within parties would mean overthrowing the family dynasties that have captured Parliament as well. This explains why it is important for these emperors to believe in the doorway mirrors which present a cosmetic reality only.

Now, speaking of the judicial muftis who are lecturing the state every now and then on the constitution and fundamental rights. The supreme and higher judicial forums too have faith in doorway mirrors. Specialized public relations departments in the courts are no different from publicity seeking government departments. The supreme judicial council constitutionally mandated to act as a bathroom mirror for the judges has not met for a long time now. The criticism in court over inaction or what some may see as bias or incompetence of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) may be justified, but what about the “Judges’ NAB”- Supreme Judicial Court? What about the competence and ability of this forum? The media is proving to be a doorway mirror to the judiciary with headlines of what the judges say and do on the courts even before they deliver a judgment (or not).

Linked with the judiciary is what is called the other wheel of the chariot of justice, namely, the lawyers community. Gone are the days when lawyers were feared for their arguments only. Adding insult to the injury of many is a twisted approach of the lawyers’ largest body, the Pakistan Bar Council, regarding disciplining the black coated, (or one may say, the blackened community). In the treason trial of former military ruler General retired Musharraf, his lawyer called the judge “a hired assassin” to his face. The court directed the Bar Council to take action against the lawyer, Advocate Rana Ijaz. Instead of taking action, the vice chairman of the Bar Council Mr. Ramzan Chaudhry along with the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Kamran Murtaza, went to the judges and sought an apology on behalf of the accused lawyer. There are countless examples of how our institutions have become victims of what some may see as “dirty politics.” But it is safe to assume it’s not the institutions or the politics, but individuals that tend to act “dirty.”

Lastly, another incident that shows the complete lack of control and courage by an institution, is that of the federal Defense Minister requesting the police to register a criminal case against a naib subedar of the Pakistan army accused of kidnapping 35 detainees from an internment Center in Malakand. It’s ironic and beyond  logic to understand how a defense minister, supposedly the government in charge of all three forces, pleading for the help of the police in proceeding against the lowest of the army rank: a naib subedar. Either he has deliberately done this to highlight his predicament and helplessness, or he wanted to trigger a process which he knows never meets its logical end in Pakistan. As the defense minister couldn’t he just ask the army to proceed against the havaldar under military laws? And now that the case is registered, if the havaldar refuses to appear before the police, won’t the police ask the complainant defense to produce his own accused? Will the minister be able to comply? How long will we live with the doorway truths of civilian government exercising complete constitutional control over the military establishment.

The media too, with its impotent Press Council of Pakistan (PCP), has failed to look into the bathroom mirror. The public is still unaware of where to complain if wronged by a newspaper, and there is not a single judgment of the council which provides a leading light to the citizens about their media rights. We the media are also averse to our accountability under ordinary laws and the press laws too are never pressed into service to do the job. We are the mirrors for society but we don’t have the courage to look into the right one. We get to choose the mirror in the name of self regulation but never dare to use it for ourselves.

It seems that our governments and decision makers, along with other institutions, conveniently choose mirrors to avoid truth and responsibility. But for how long shall we be able to keep this up? Bathroom mirrors are an indispensable part of our lives. Let us use these for our politics and see if they are still dirty.

The writer is a senior supreme court reporter and anchor for Waqt News.

Email:matiullahjan@gmail.com