Constitutional democracy - BY: Dr Farrukh Saleem

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a constitutional democracy. And a constitutional democracy is a “system of government based on popular sovereignty” in which the “authority of the majority is limited by legal and institutional means”. In a constitutional democracy, “political authority –ie the power of the government – is defined, limited and distributed by a body of fundamental laws called the constitution”.

The first essential ingredient of a constitutional democracy is the “constitutional ingredient”: constitutionalism. This is the ingredient that “relates to how political authority is defined, limited, and distributed by law. Under constitutionalism, the constitution, the basic law of the political community, (1) defines and limits the power of government and (2) determines the degree and manner of [the] distribution of political authority among the major organs or parts of the government”.

The second essential ingredient of a constitutional democracy is the “democratic ingredient”. The democratic ingredient relates to “(1) who holds and exercises political authority, (2) how political authority is acquired and retained and (3) the significance of the latter as regards popular control and public accountability of those… who hold and exercise political authority”.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a constitutional democracy. Under the constitution, Pakistani voters elect their leaders. Under the constitution, Pakistani courts can disqualify the same elected leaders. And disqualified elected leaders cannot be restored by voters. In a constitutional democracy, the election of leaders by voters and the accountability of the same leaders by the courts is a parallel process.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a constitutional democracy. There are 193 member states of the UN. Of these, there is only one country whose parliament has passed a legislation whereby a person who has been disqualified by the apex court can become the president of a political party. And that member state is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. That’s truly unique in the entire history of 193 member states of the UN.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a constitutional democracy. There are 193 member states of the UN. Of these 193 member states, 123 countries are constitutional democracies. Of the 123 countries, there is only one constitutional democracy where a serving finance minister is a fugitive from justice who has “fled to avoid prosecution for a crime or to avoid giving testimony in a criminal proceeding”. That’s truly unique in the entire history of 123 constitutional democracies.

An accountability court has declared the ex-finance minister a “fugitive from justice…[who should be] arrested and presented before the court by the state”. The constitution of the state has vested the executive authority of the state in the prime minister and the federal ministers. The executive authority of the state, however, is not prepared to do what it is required to do under the constitution.

Isn’t our constitutional democracy in a state of constitutional deadlock?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Posted on Nov 29, 17 | 11:46 pm