While the country is mourning the loss of innocent lives in an outrage perpetrated in Sahiwal the issue of inter-institutional dialogue has assumed tremendous importance. It is the abject failure of institutional performance and its proper accountability that has brought the country to this pass where even basic safety of citizens is palpably endangered. Most organs of the state are busy in securing and preserving their turf neglecting cumulative welfare of the people. They appear completely oblivious to the wider national interest though they often purport to justify their actions by referring to it again and again.
The recent spate of judicial activism pointed towards deepening realisation within the echelons of adjudicators that the need for urgently addressing the national malaise could not be further ignored and it is not surprising that the new head of the judiciary officially floated the idea in his inaugural address. The judiciary has gradually emerged as an institution that is trying to harmonise its structure as well as improve its nation-wide performance. Since the judicial tasks involve all segments of official and private segments, therefore, the call given by the new chief justice should be responded to with alacrity.
The new chief justice emphasised the importance of inter-institutional dialogue for developing a charter of governance. He also stressed that the time has come to take stock of the mistakes committed in the past and to come up with a charter of governance to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. He suggested a dialogue involving top parliamentary leadership, top judicial leadership and the top executive leadership, including the military and the intelligence agencies with a view to deliberate the national situation. His call is indicative of the serious concern held by decisive segments of the state who are very worried about the national downslide.
The message contained in the proposal urged that it is indeed the right time to heal the wounds of the past, attend to the sore points and work out a practicable policy framework where every organ and institution of the state exercises its powers and performs its functions within its constitutionally defined limits. Justice Khosa was very specific in emphasising that the sole purpose of the inter-institutional dialogue should be to bolster constitutionalism and rule of law, strengthen democracy and create an environment where the state and all its organs and institutions are able to devote their wholehearted attention to the real issues of the citizenry.
It may be kept in view that senior political figures have been urging for holding such a national dialogue for some time but nothing has ever come out of their exhortations. The intensity of polarisation in the body-politic of the country has kept on increasing making it appear that the institutional structure has completely collapsed. The most unfortunate aspect of national decline is that it is taking place despite constitutional determination of the parameters for all state institutions that also provide guidelines for them to work within the laid-down boundaries.
It is earnestly felt, however, that the best forum to initiate an inter-institutional dialogue is the parliament of the country as it is the true representative of the aspirations of the people. Parliament is the only place whose inviolability is enshrined in the constitution and it provides the forum for unabridged views of all segments of national life. Parliament in Pakistan has traditions of relieving itself of its harmful baggage and it ultimately comes out clean by balancing different points of view representing national mainstream.
The best method would be to call representatives of all segments of people without determining their composition in closed-door sessions. The best office to take the responsibility is the Speaker of National Assembly that has ample staff to handle widespread deliberations. This office can ask for assistance from all relevant institutions of the state and incorporate their input in the overall scheme of things. Prior to holding the dialogue a consistent campaign may be launched to draw home the importance of this activity and to seek views of the cross-section of people.
Pakistan is fortunate to be home to gradually maturing media awareness and it is becoming extremely difficult to muzzle its vibrancy. It is mostly due to the push of media sectors that has made the need for sitting down and working out an acceptable solution to the consistent crisis of governance possible. Media has the ability to garner public opinion, and given the opportunity, can devise parameters of national consciousness. Time has come to employ all sources to gather together for arriving at a national consensus for the future as time is fast running out.