Cheating on wives by Asma Jahangir

It was the first good news of the year — Imran Khan never cheated on his wife. The shocking disclosure was that the others did! Politicians need to grow up and give some credence to their viewers. Multiple marriages or extramarital affairs of politicians have, unfortunately, never hurt the sentiments of our people. On the contrary, in some cases, it has won them admirers. More disturbingly, the wives take it all and there appears to be no dearth of women prepared to be additional wives to those in power.

Infidelity to wives has a painful history in Pakistan but it has also had indirect advantages. A former prime minister’s first wife died penniless in a destitute home. His second in wedlock was celebrated as a pioneer for women’s rights. Another stalwart of the Pakistan movement ditched his first wife to marry her sister.

A former PM had a childhood wife, a social wife and a closet wife but this made no difference to his popularity. Many a Sher-e-Punjab has been through several wedlocks and their exploits only added to their charisma. A number of political Khans, Sardars and Sains maintain several households and baithaks but remain sagacious under the law. Nevertheless, there is a silver lining amongst all such stories of female woes. A prime minister took an additional wife, in the presence of his first APWA going wife. This raised alarm bells in APWA and all wives first, second or third, were outraged and felt vulnerable.

For the sake of domestic peace, the first Women’s Commission was constituted. Resultantly, the Family Laws Ordinance was promulgated, which otherwise may never have become law for decades to come. Hence, cheating on wives has produced collateral advantages too. However, Khan sahib rightly points out that his personal life as a bachelor is kosher as long as he remained loyal in wedlock. He, therefore, stands on a higher pedestal over those who have uneventful pre-marital youth but show their true colours subsequently. The moral of the story is that the chances of disloyalty in wedlock are greater if the groom is young and green, rather than if he has sown his wild seeds and has had enough of it.

The low level of mudslinging by politicians only convinces people that none is worthy of being elected and therefore they will be reduced to selecting the worse among the worst. Seasoned politicians never stoop so low. Rather than blowing their own trumpets and beating the war drums for others, politicians should address issues and present solutions to the economic and political mess the country is challenged with. The bankruptcy of vision is strikingly apparent. Perhaps, it is now high time for our politicians to evolve a common code of behaviour towards each other, especially while addressing each other in public. This restraint may affect the ratings of some anchorpersons but will bring sobriety to politics. In any event, corruption has been ruthlessly politicised. Powerful individuals, even when caught red-handed will call it a conspiracy against them, while others go scot-free. Only the foolish get caught and pay for it too. The defence to charges of corruption is often responded to by counter allegations and very few have been brought to justice or punished, despite the fact that corruption in Pakistan is endemic and nepotism a contagious disease. The moral of the story is that everyone be given an equal opportunity to their right to corruption. If trapped, act indignant, play martyr and plead unequal treatment. Or better still; paint it as an ugly conspiracy against democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. Make certain that all your beneficiaries stand by you and shout foul. Those who have blind faith in the impartiality of the courts may also resort to public interest litigation in an attempt to secure a certificate of innocence in their favour.

The next good news is that the 2012 law on contempt of court has been declared void ab initio. In its place, the 2003 Ordinance has been restored. It was a victory for the legal fraternity, who were falling over each other to find a space in the long list of petitioners. The success was later celebrated in the Multan Bar Association. The 2012 law was indefensible but the manner in which the legal battle was fought around the bar associations was highly distasteful. They were the petitioners, the agitators and the commentators in all evening TV shows. Would that not amount to trying to influence the administration of justice? What was all the fuss and strikes about? A law was challenged and the courts have the power to strike it down. It would have happened. Yet, unnecessary hype was created as though its existence for a single day would destroy the edifice of justice. No time was wasted and the jurisdiction of the High Courts under Article 199 assumed by the Supreme Court. A short order was passed, not only striking down the entire law, but also curtailing the powers of the legislature. The 2012 contempt law was a bad law but not half as appalling as the new laws applicable to PATA and Fata where prisoners can be kept in custody for countless days and the evidence of security personnel is considered conclusive for conviction. The moral of the story is that the freedom of our judges to haul anyone for contempt is far more sacrosanct than the liberty of lowly citizens of PATA and Fata.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.