Dawn Editorial: Traitor versus Traitor

To Know more how you can benefit from the Muslim Times, go to our Homepage or About Us page.

Pakistan National Assembly

THE casual way in which epithets like ‘traitor’ and ‘treason’ are thrown about in our political discourse has, over time, greatly diminished the severity of the crimes they were meant to describe. Instead of being markers of absolute shame, as they were intended to be, their over-usage has rendered them little more than everyday slurs intended for people whose politics or ideas one may not agree with.

There was a time when these labels would be reserved for nationalist parties from smaller provinces, to be cynically slapped onto those who dared question the status quo. This labelling was done so that any voices critical of the state narrative would be kept out of mainstream political discourse. The PTM, a youth-led movement that has continued to agitate peacefully for the rights of the Pakhtun people despite being accused again and again of treachery, will be a familiar example.

The reprehensible habit of discrediting public representatives by questioning their loyalty to kin and country has now slipped into the mainstream. It will have lasting consequences on the health of our democracy if it is not checked immediately. The air has been thick with noxious allegations and counter-accusations of treachery since last week, triggered by the PTI spuriously accusing opposing parties of conspiring with foreign powers to bring its government down.

ReadDemocracy is dead. Long live the prime minister

The line was crossed, however, when these same allegations — which have yet to be meaningfully substantiated — were used to invoke Article 5, imply that the vote of no-confidence was the product of disloyalty to the state, and ride roughshod over a simple parliamentary procedure. Not to be outdone, the opposition — stinging from the outgoing government’s devious (and likely unconstitutional) last-minute ploy — reacted with counter-accusations that the prime minister, deputy speaker and all others who aided the decision to throw out the motion of no-confidence had committed ‘high treason’ and should be tried under Article 6.

This is ridiculous hyperbole from both sides of the political divide. High treason is an unpardonable crime, punishable by death; the gravest offence a citizen can commit against their country. Article 6, which defines an act of high treason under the Constitution, describes it as direct tampering with the Constitution itself, such as repealing or suspending it.

ReadThe ambit of Article 6

Misinterpreting or violating the Constitution is not ‘high treason’. That our leaders level the charge at each other in such an offhand manner betrays both a lack of understanding of the law, as well as the fact that most simply do not comprehend that it exists to safeguard the supremacy and inviolability of the Constitution, which many of them seem to have little regard for. It is telling of how seriously our civilian leadership actually takes high treason if one considers the fact that they have never been able to bring to justice those anti-democratic elements who have actually committed the crime.

Read further

Suggested additional reading to understand the situation

Kripkean Dogmatism: The Best Metaphor to Understand Religious and Political Debates

Categories: Political, Politics

2 replies

  1. A constitutional crisis in Pakistan has emerged after the PTI government accused the joint opposition of colluding with the American establishment to bring about a regime change in Pakistan. The notes from a meeting between Pakistani and US officials on March 7 in Washington, DC, are at the heart of the crisis.

    Interim Prime Minister Imran Khan, who recently advised the President to dissolve the National Assembly, alleges that the meeting notes carried evidence that the opposition parties in Pakistan were colluding with US authorities to oust him in a vote of no confidence. The US government has denied the allegations.

    Instead of investigating the allegations of a conspiracy or facing the no-confidence motion, the PTI government dissolved the National Assembly, plunging the state into a constitutional stalemate.

    The Supreme Court is currently deliberating the legality of the Speaker’s decision to block the vote of no confidence and the subsequent dissolution of the lower House of Parliament. Meanwhile, it is incumbent to scrutinise the government’s claim that the communique exposed a conspiracy in which leaders of opposition parties colluded with foreign entities against the state.

    The unfortunate ambassador-designate
    A review of the official statements released by the government of Pakistan after March 7 — the day the memo was received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — suggests that Pakistan was actively seeking economic and other cooperation with the United States. The press releases issued by the Pakistani government indicated that interim premier Khan made no mention of a conspiracy in his advice to the ambassador-designate Masood Khan, who is taking over from outgoing Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan and who held a series of meetings with the civil and military establishment before assuming responsibilities in Washington DC later in March.

    Speaking with the ambassador-designate on March 14, the interim PM, accompanied by then foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, stressed that “Pakistan-US relations were based on partnership and shared goals”. He further advised the diplomat to “work for further strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries”.

    He also expressed the hope that the ambassador-designate would improve “Pakistan–US relations, particularly for enhancement of trade, investment and public diplomacy”.

    The advice by Imran Khan and his foreign minister to the ambassador-designate does not hint at any conspiracy. Interestingly, the meeting took place at least a week after the alleged memo was received at the Foreign Office.

    One does not envy Ambassador-designate Masood Khan, who has assumed responsibilities when diplomatic ties between the US and Pakistan have hit rock bottom. With Prime Minister Imran Khan accusing the US establishment of destabilising his government, Masood is expected to present his credentials to President Joe Biden later this month. Already, three US lawmakers have lobbied the Biden government to reject his nomination papers.


  2. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court did not interfere in matters of state and foreign policy and would only determine the legality of National Assembly (NA) Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling on a no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

    He said this while hearing arguments from PML-N’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan on the dismissal of a no-confidence motion against the prime minister by the NA deputy speaker, who had linked the motion to a “foreign conspiracy” to topple the PTI government and ruled that the motion was contradictory to Article 5 of the Constitution.

    Subsequently, the CJP had taken suo motu notice of the matter, following which a larger bench was formed to hear the case.

    The five-member bench is headed by the CJP and includes Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.

    At today’s hearing, when the CJP said the court would not interfere in policy matters and would focus on the deputy speaker’s ruling, the PML-N’s counsel proposed that the apex court may seek an “in-camera briefing about the foreign conspiracy from the intelligence chief”.

    “Right now we are looking at the law and Constitution,” the CJP replied, adding that all the respondents would be told to focus on this matter at the moment.

    “We prefer that a decision be taken on this matter only,” CJP Bandial said. “We want to see if the court can review the ruling of the deputy speaker.”

    The court, he added, didn’t interfere in the state or foreign policy. “We don’t want to indulge in policy matters.”

    Justice Ahsan, too, said that the court only wanted to see constitutional matters for now.

    The PML-N’s counsel, however, argued that the court could judicially review an illegal and unconstitutional move.

    Here, Justice Akhtar said the NA and provincial assembly were masters of their respective houses.

    The distribution of powers was also enshrined in the constitution, the judge added.


Leave a Reply