May 032008

Shamshad Ahmad
In politics, as in every other aspect of life, what people “know” and “understand” largely depends on what they see, hear, and feel and how they think and act. In looking at the unfolding events in our country, and at the acts of our rulers, we see what is not, and see not what is, because all of us accepted to be prisoners of our system and find it convenient only to interpret what is easiest to see because we just suppose we have no other alternative.
If Plato was sometimes cynical about politics, he had reason to be. As he wrote in his Apology, “A man who really fights for what is right must lead a private, not a public life, if he hopes to survive, even for a short time.” After all, he had been raised by a distinguished Athenian family to have a political career but then saw his city-state torn apart by the conflict between the politicians themselves.
Disheartened by the oligarchs’ attempt to discredit Socrates, his teacher and friend (though not formally his “master”), Plato refused their offer of a political niche although some of the oligarchs were relatives and friends. He was even more profoundly disillusioned by the democrats who, when restored to power, condemned and executed Socrates, and so he fled both the country and politics for a self-imposed exile with Euclid in Megura.
Now Pakistan’s “democrats” on being restored to power are behaving no differently. They seem to have learnt no lessons, and within days of coming to power are going back on what they committed to the people of Pakistan in the Bhurban Declaration and on everything they agreed in their Charter of Democracy in London two years ago. The 30-day deadline they had themselves set for reinstatement of the real judges has come and gone. Whatever the reasons or restraints, this is the first post-election failure of the “democratic” leadership. 
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto must be tuning restlessly in her grave on what her party is doing to the pledges she had made to the nation during the very last days of her life. She had pledged a genuine democracy rooted in the will of the people, and had also promised to reinstate the real judges deposed illegally by General Musharraf as army chief only to escape ruling against his eligibility for “re-election” as president while he was still in uniform. She had told the chief justice that he would soon be back in his chamber.
The nation expected a faithful follow up on this solemn commitment. But we saw the new “democrats” seeking to create linkages of the judges’ reinstatement with constitutional packages and other conditionalities. The people were asked to be patient. The media was prodded not to overplay the issue. The scene then shifted to Dubai where the talks between the two mainstream parties ran into a cul-de-sac. PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif had to rush to Dubai in a last minute effort to rescue the roller coaster final round of talks, and apparently he did rescue them.
Nawaz Sharif must be credited for salvaging the ruling coalition from a precipitous collapse. After the final round of talks in Dubai, he declared the deadlock had been resolved and the judges will be reinstated through a resolution of the National Assembly. 
On return to Lahore, he announced the judges will be reinstated in ten days. “There is no ambiguity, no doubt about it” he told reporters. 
This announcement did bring some relief to the people after several days of uncertainty and bickering between the coalition partners, and may have dispelled some of the fears over the future of the ruling coalition. It now remains how this decision will be carried out, and what will be the reaction of the lawyers’ community.
Our people had voted for the restoration of the 1973 constitution and independence of judiciary. They wanted immediate reinstatement of the judges of the superior courts removed illegally on November 3 under PCO. This was their verdict on February 18. They had voted against Musharraf and his illegal presidential re-election. They had mandated the mainstream parties to undo the wrongs done by General Musharraf in his November 3 draconian martial law. 
It was a clear mandate to the two mainstream parties, the PPP and the PML (N), to deliver on their commitments to put the country back on the path of democracy, based on constitutional supremacy, institutional integrity, rule of law and good governance as envisioned by them in their Charter of Democracy – the pact signed in London between Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in May 2006.
This was a formidable challenge. The two parties were required to transcend all factional considerations, and join together in implementing the verdict of the people in letter and spirit. Indeed, the success of the post-election process was predicated on the ability of the newly elected leadership to forge an effective government capable of being in command of the state after eight years of military rule.
There are no signs of the new government being in control. Decisions are still being made by the same powers even though invisibly. The system continues to be haunted by the same ghosts and the same wizardries. The same persons, the same problems and the same policies continue to be the hallmarks of the present system. Lord Voldemort is still out there and calling the shots. The wizard attorney general is still busy in his manipulations. Washington continues to interfere in our internal affairs. The democratic government does not seem to have any powers yet.
The mainstream political parties did join hands in building an unprecedented grand coalition. This was an important, and laudable, first step, but they soon lost direction and were caught in a controversy over the modalities of implementing their mandate. They should have realised that after the crucial restoration of the judiciary, they had other benchmarks to accomplish, undoing Musharraf’s November 3 wrongs and his illegal re-election as president in violation of Articles 41 and 63 of the Constitution.
The parliament must invalidate the November 3 measures just as it must revisit the question of Musharraf’s eligibility for re-election while still in uniform and from the same assemblies that had elected him for his earlier term. In the absence of a vote of confidence from the newly elected assemblies, Musharraf’s presidency would remain devoid of legitimacy or moral authority.
Pakistan and its people do not deserve this illegality at the level of their head of state. Regretfully, however, like any other wilful ruler, Musharraf is determined to hang on to power, no matter what happens to the country or its people. He is still exploring “power sharing” deals. He is ready to work with everyone. One thing is, however, clear. In Pakistan, Musharraf and democracy cannot co-exist.
As the events since March last year have shown, he is the root cause of all the problems, domestic as well as external. The people are conscious of this reality and have already given their final call. They have overwhelmingly voted against Musharraf and want him to go. Despite all that he has already done to the country’s constitution, judiciary and institutions, he could perhaps still save himself from a place of ignominy in history. 
Next couple of months should be very crucial for Pakistan’s future. The people have given him the final democratic call: Go Musharraf Go. He must listen to the people. They want him to go. He should respect their voice and avail himself of this opportunity for an honorable exit. And the “war of one against all” must now come to an end in this beleaguered country. 
Likewise, Pakistan’s newly elected government and Parliament are also obliged to carry out the inalienable will of the people. Even if the impeachment proceedings are to await until after the US presidential elections, there is no reason why the proposed constitutional amendment clipping the unconstitutional powers vested in an individual’s presidency should be delayed. And no more Dubai Chalo, please. Our problems are here in Pakistan; tackle them here. 

Source: The Nation, 3/5/2008

 Posted by at 5:33 pm

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