May 042008

Well, well, times are indeed a’changing. Things are looking up for the President of the Republic, General Pervez Musharraf – with justification considering his highly erratic actions of 2007. How fickle is politics in Pakistan! The American agenda is prevailing. Even the man shot into the prime ministerial post, the mild mannered Yousaf Raza Gillani, seems to have forgiven and forgotten his trials and tribulations imposed upon him by a dictatorial regime during the opening years of this century.
There was much jollity late last month in the prime ministerial hacienda-style mansion, with an evening of pomp and music held in honour of the army top brass, with the retired General Musharraf very much part of the celebrations and with a handful of PML-N ministers in attendance – no black armbands or refusals to munch on a pakora this time round. And to boot, the prime minister buttered up the army by telling its chief that it was not only the guardian of our physical boundaries but of our ideological boundaries as well. Now apart from the fact that no Pakistani politician, priest or citizen is capable of defining an ideology, strictly speaking it is not up to the military to meddle in the matter. The prime minister, rather than extending an open invitation, should remember the vow made about the military being relegated to its proper place in the national scenario.
And by the way, we read that his military secretary has been transferred. We must hope that he has not been replaced and that this can be the start of phasing out the undemocratic and undesirable habit of having a democratic prime minister watched over by military uniformed men who could be rightly employed guarding the national boundaries rather than the boundaries of the prime ministerial hacienda. If it is not, it should be.
The President General, after having been more or less blacked out by the media, is back with us again. We have front-page photographs of him fraternizing with his prime minister and with the President of Iran, we have shots of him and his prime minister, wives in tow, on our screens exchanging pleasantries. How fickle is politics indeed !
And not only fickle, but flexible, as witnessed by what transpired in Dubai. No heavens fell when the flexible powers-that-be met to thrash out the matter of the passing of the deadline set in Murree for the restoration of the deposed judges. Asif Zardari is sticking firmly to the American agenda and quite rightly – because that is what has placed him where he is. And he is making all the right noises about the wisdom of reappointing a chief justice known for his unpredictability. After all, the National Reconciliation Ordinance from which Zardari and many of his men (and others of the MQM now in favour) have benefited must not be put in jeopardy, and, as a part of the American agenda as imposed with the agreement of Musharraf and Zardari, it must be protected.
Zardari is also absolutely right when he says that his party did not fight the elections with the famous ‘restoration’ on its agenda. The question of the judges is media-imposed, backed by the protesting black coated brigade, backed in more ways than one by the PML-N and its chief for whom it became the be-all and end-all as a means to rid himself of a president he loathes.
It is high time that politics moved on from the specific non-people friendly agenda to the realities of life in Pakistan for its deprived and struggling masses. It is time to stop wrangling over issues that are non-people and that affect the politicians personally. It is time to stop trying to save face – and this applies to the lawyers as well. As for the media, it should now desist from insisting that the ‘masses’ are preoccupied with the judges issue. They are not. They are preoccupied with the daily rise in prices of petrol, diesel, flour and other foodstuffs all of which affect their stomachs and their minds. The ‘masses’ are not holding their breath, waiting anxiously for the deposed judges to be reinstated. It is Nawaz Sharif, Aitzaz Ahsan, a bunch of retired judges and the lawyers who are agitated by the matter.
As for the deposed judges, is the Prime Minister or any minister in his government aware that some of them are in deep financial distress? Apparently, none of them has received any salary, or any form of payment from the government which employs them, since they were removed. This is disgraceful on the part of the Musharraf dispensation and on the part of the newly installed neo-democratic government. Does no one care? Why has the legal fraternity, at least, not agitated on this point?
It is obviously the fate of this country that it will be ruled and administered from other parts of the world, by remote control, never directly internally. Washington plays its major role, decisions that affect the ‘national interest,’ and the interest of many citizens of Karachi are taken in London by the Pir Sahib of the MQM. When out of power, the opposition, whether in self-exile or not, gathers in London or Dubai or Vanuatu to chalk out its program and come up with charters posing to be democratic. And now, the matter of the Pakistani judiciary has been thrashed out in sunny Dubai. What’s wrong with Pakistan? Does it paralyze the thought process?

Source: The Nation, 4/5/2008

 Posted by at 7:06 am

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