Media's Latest Conspiracy Theory

Apr 26th, 2010 | By | Category: The News

Asif EzdiThe latest conspiracy theory to circulate in the media is that, by signing the 18th Amendment, Zardari has managed to gain power. Yes, this is the same media who only weeks ago predicted that Zardari would not sign the bill because it stripped his powers. Now that their predictions have (once again) proved wrong, the media has been scrambling to find some new conspiracy tale to fill their pages.

Asif Ezdi explains this latest conspiracy in his column for The News, “Little to Celebrate.” One suspects that, since the media only celebrates failure, the passage of the 18th Amendment would definitely give them little reason for happiness.

Here is the conspiracy in Ezdi’s own words,

Besides, the new Article 63-A on defection virtually empowers the head of the majority party or coalition of parties to dictate who the prime minister will be. Since political parties are no longer obliged under the Constitution to hold intra-party elections, the current practice of hereditary leadership in the parties has now received constitutional blessing.

It is not inconceivable that the law requiring elections in the parties may be held by a pliant judiciary to be unconstitutional after the deletion of Clause 4 of Article 17. The way has thus been cleared for the seamless succession of the next generation of the Zardari-Bhutto clan, the Sharif family and the other illustrious dynasties which dominate Pakistan’s political arena.

A party head, moreover, does not have to meet the qualifications for holding elective office laid down in the Constitution. He could, in theory, even be a non-citizen or someone less than 25 years old, such as Bilawal. More important, he could even be a person who has been convicted of treason or other serious offence such as graft or money-laundering. That means that even if Zardari is found guilty of corruption, which few doubt would happen if the cover of constitutional immunity is taken away, he could still continue as party head and, in that capacity, dictate the choice of the country’s prime minister, if his party has majority support. The period of disqualification on conviction has in any case been reduced under the 18th Amendment from lifelong to five years.

First, let us examine several words and phrases that Ezdi uses in his explanation. These are,

  1. virtually empowers
  2. It is not inconceivable that
  3. may be held
  4. in theory

All of these words and phrases amount to the same thing. They are a way for an author to say something that is so completely unlikely that it is truly a waste of the readers time, while still pretending that he is making some sense.

Ezdi words can also easily support this sentence: “In theory, it is not inconceivable that President Zardari has superpowers that may be held to virtually empower him to fly.” Ezdi could write this, but who would honestly believe that President Zardari can fly?

Let us look at what Ezdi wrote with the same critical eye. Does he honestly expect us to believe that it would ever happen that a political party run by a 15-year-old Indian money-laundering traitor would place as Prime Minister the head of Israel’s Likud party and the nation would be forced to accept it? Because that scenario fits perfectly with Ezdi’s conspiracy.

Of course, this is too ridiculous to even believe, so Ezdi uses a rhetorical trick by mentioning Zardari, Bilawal, and Nawaz Sharif (just to keep things fair across party lines, I suppose).

But let’s examine what the constitution actually says. This is Article 63A in its entirety:

63A. Disqualification on grounds of defection, etc.
(1) If a member of a Parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House-
(a) resigns from membership of his political party or joins another Parliamentary Party; or
(b) votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relations to-
(i) election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or
(ii) a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or
(iii) a Money Bill;
he may be declared in writing by the Head of the Parliamentary Party to have defected from the political party, and the Head of the Parliamentary Party may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer, and shall similarly forward a copy thereof to the member concerned:

Provided that before making the declaration, the Head of the Parliamentary Party shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him.

(2) A member of a House shall be deemed to be a member of a Parliamentary Party if he having been elected as a candidate or nominee of a political party which constitutes the Parliamentary Party in the House or, having been elected otherwise than as a candidate or nominee of a political party, has become a member of such Parliamentary Party after such election by means of a declaration in writing.
(3) Upon receipt of the declaration under clause (1), the Presiding Officer of the House shall within two days refer the declaration to the Chief Election Commissioner who shall lay the declaration before the Election Commission for its decision thereon confirming the declaration or otherwise within thirty days of its receipt by the Chief Election Commissioner.
(4) Where the Election Commission confirms the declaration, the member referred to in clause (1) shall cease to be a member of the House and his seat shall become vacant.
(5) Any party aggrieved by the decision of the Election Commission may within thirty days, prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court which shall decide the matter within three months from the date of the filing of the appeal.
(6) Nothing contained in this Article shall apply to the Chairman or Speaker of a House.
(7) For the purpose of this Article-
(a) “House” means the National Assembly or the Senate in relation to the Federation and a Provincial Assembly in relation to the Province, as the case may be.
(b) “Presiding Officer” means the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairman of the Senate or the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly, as the case may be.

Obviously, the article that Ezdi refers to says nothing about allowing the head of the majority party or coalition of parties “to dictate who the prime minister will be.” Ezdi’s assertion otherwise is fundamentally not true. How he can say this is beyond my understanding.

What the article does say is that if a member of a political party stops supporting his party, he does not own his seat. He was elected by the people based on his party affiliation, and if he misled the people, he should not be able to keep his seat in parliament as he is not representing the people but only himself. You can agree or disagree with this, but please be honest about it.

Asif Ezdi, a former member of the foreign service, should know better than to mislead people with twisted facts, misleading rhetoric, and patently unrealistic hypothetical scenarios. He should know better than to call the people of his country “losers”, too. Asif Ezdi does not have to like democracy, the 18th Amendment, Asif Zardari or Nawaz Sharif. But, please sir, do not make up stories and spread unsubstantiated fears that mislead the people.

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