* Pakistanis, don’t fret. There is a silver lining to every cloud, no matter how dark. This is political evolution in action, the learning process vital for the maturing of a society. Who said it isn’t painful? It is painful – very painful. Bad leader is eating bad leader in a self-cleansing process. What’s your problem? That the country won’t survive it? Pakistan is very resilient and will come out of it stronger and better.
* I knew that elections under this imported British system would lead to this mess. Those who couldn’t see it coming have to be mentally enslaved and intellectually challenged fools who don’t know their country, understand its leaders and the essence of democracy.
* Nawaz Sharif, smarting from the humiliation of Zardari taking him for a ride thrice, cannot afford a fourth ride in the name of reconciliation without being declared certifiably stupid.
* Three men driven purely by self-interest and the naked pursuit of power are holding Pakistan to ransom: Mr. Asif Zardari, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Iftikhar Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice. Self-interest and megalomania has joined hypocrisy.
By Humayun Gauhar
Sunday, 15 March 2009.
Ahmed Quraishi-Pakistan/Middle East politics, Iraq war, lebanon war, India Pakistan relations
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Cut to the chase. In a nutshell, three men driven purely by self-interest and the naked pursuit of maximizing power are holding Pakistan to ransom: Mr. Asif Zardari, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Iftikhar Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice. Self-interest and megalomania aren’t rampant alone. They are underwritten by hypocrisy everywhere that stalks the land like a demon. Pakistan, the system, all three institutions that comprise government – legislature, executive and judiciary – perhaps the constitution even and our latest foray into what passes for democracy, are in peril.
Three things drive Zardari.
One: Nawaz Sharif’s fixation on the deposed chief justice’s restoration. He fears that once restored, the CJ will rescind the National Reconciliation Ordinance 2007 that enabled all the cases against him and Ms. Bhutto to be withdrawn so that they could return to Pakistan. That this same chief justice placed an injunction or stay order on the NRO is still frighteningly fresh in his memory.
Two: he knows that without the Punjab his hold over Pakistan and thus over state power is tenuous. With the Punjab he is master of all he surveys.
Three: if the Punjab government is at odds with him – and it definitely will be if the Nawaz League’s government is restored – they will trash Zardari’s Islamabad government faster than you can say “Jeeyay Bhutto”.
Zardari well remembers what Chief Minister Punjab Nawaz Sharif did to his wife’s first government. He cannot trust Sharif even indirectly in charge of the Punjab now after having fooled him thrice and sacked his brother’s provincial government.
Sharif, still smarting under the humiliation that Zardari took him for a ride thrice cannot afford a fourth ride in the name of reconciliation without being declared certifiably stupid.
He has six objectives. One: having been disqualified by the Supreme Court from contesting elections or holding any public office ever again, he is fighting for his and his brother’s political survival.
Two: restoration of his party’s government in the Punjab.
Three: restoration of the deposed chief justice so that he can rescind the NRO and ‘get’ Zardari. The People’s Party will then be Bhutto-less, leaderless. Sharif will have no credible rival and could force another election that he thinks he will win big, perhaps with a two-thirds majority. He can then constitutionally manipulate and mutilate the constitution as he wills regardless of its spirit and intent, as he did during his second term.
Four: parliament or even the Supreme Court will remove the two-term bar on his becoming prime minister again.
Five: then ‘get’ Musharraf too and quench his thirst for revenge.
Six: complete his unfinished agenda of imposing his version of Shariat on Pakistan. Going by his record, independence of the judiciary is nowhere on his radar screen. Sharif too doesn’t trust Gilani anymore. For all he knows, they might be playing good cop-bad cop behind the smokescreen of the seeming ‘rift’ between the president and the prime minister.
The deposed chief justice, perhaps after revenge too, has not had the moral courage to answer the charges against him, having been saved by a Supreme Court judgment that has still not been written. Why? Because in throwing out the reference against the CJ without letting it be heard by the Supreme Judicial Council as required by the constitution, to save their chief from what would have been a highly embarrassing inquiry they might have violated the constitution. How can they now write their judgment without finding a credible justification for violating the constitution?
So what will happen now?
Who knows? They will try more unnatural things in hysteria to diffuse the immediate crisis and avert a possible bloodbath today and tomorrow. They toyed with a possible PPP-PMLQ marriage but that has probably floundered on the rocks for being even more unnatural. The rumor rife is: lift governor’s rule; the Punjab assembly that meets tomorrow elects another leader who will become chief minister and form another Nawaz League-led government; restore the CJ through presidential ordinance, limiting his term and powers so that he cannot touch the NRO and the constitution. What credibility will a highly politicized judge have? How will the current judges react? They might decide to break the Supreme Court in two, one constitutional and the other the rest of it. We already have numerous legal systems in the land, why not two Supreme Courts? That will weaken the institution further. Why not two parliaments then, one law making and the other as check and balance? How is that any different from the late Mr. Bhutto’s suggestion of two constitutions and two prime ministers? Divide the spoils, eh? What they will be dividing will be a carcass. The next crisis will make this one look like a picnic and will be upon us soon.
More questions. Having come this far and smelled blood, can Sharif pull back or dump the lawyers without losing all credibility? Can Zardari risk restoration of the CJ and an enemy Punjab government? Will the lawyers accept anything less than return to the pre-November 2007 judiciary much less the symbolic short-term restoration of a castrated CJ?
They have all gone too far to be seen to compromise without going into oblivion. Sharif is hardened now, having spent time in Attock Fort and in exile. Zardari has been to hell and back. They are no longer mollycoddled softies who can be frightened into automatically bending to the will of the jackboot. Zardari could refuse the army chief. Then what? The chief can hardly mount a coup because his ultimate superior and appointing and dismissing authority didn’t listen to him.
The best would be to take the question of the CJ to parliament. If they think that the charges against him are weak or groundless, let him be restored. If not, stop bellyaching. An act of parliament should then be passed that no judge who has ever taken oath under any Provisional Constitution Order should ever be appointed judge again – exactly what the Charter of Democracy requires. A mechanism should be incorporated in the same Act that prevents governments from stuffing courts with stooge and corrupt Judges. This will ensure genuine independence of the judiciary and every solution will flow from that.
I knew that elections under this imported British system would lead to this mess. Those who couldn’t see it coming have to be mentally enslaved and intellectually challenged fools who don’t know their country, understand its leaders and the essence of democracy.
But don’t fret. There is a silver lining to every cloud, no matter how dark. This is political evolution in action, the learning process vital for the maturing of a society. Who said it isn’t painful? It is painful – very painful. Bad leader is eating bad leader in a self-cleansing process. What’s your problem? That the country won’t survive it? Pakistan is very resilient and will come out of it stronger and better. Else the guillotine, not too far distant now, awaits these people. If this pallava leads to the departure of Zardari, the Sharifs and the deposed CJ from the political chessboard, it could pave the way for the reunification of the Muslim League, the party that founded Pakistan but failed to transform itself into a real party from a liberation movement leader. The People’s Party might shed its cultism with the Bhuttos as icons and become a truly progressive and liberal party that it has always claimed to be but could never credibly become while it remained a family limited entity based on dynastic leadership. That would be a much-belated Great Leap Forward.
P.S.: My heart is heavy tonight. Not because of the latest political mess in Pakistan at the hands of a hypocritical, self-serving power elite but because another very dear friend and brother is leaving us. Ambassador extraordinaire Ali Asseri of Saudi Arabia for the last eight years is going to Beirut. It’s not easy to make genuine friends in any capital city. At the rate of the exodus, soon we will have few left. Ali, helped by his wife Ayesha and three beautiful sons, is the best ambassador of any country that we have ever had, loved and respected by everyone. They enriched our lives and the lives of everyone they touched. He will leave behind a trail of glory and an example of modern yet realistic diplomacy. He helped everyone he could, especially those without money or influence, particularly in making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. And his contribution in arranging Saudi help during our earthquake will never be forgotten. It was in recognition of this that President Musharraf most deservedly conferred the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s second highest civilian award, on him. But look at the bright side: it will give us an excuse to visit Beirut, which remains a naturally beautiful city despite the havoc that the Israelis have played with it.
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