May 262008
Dr Naeem Chishti
There have been at least four developments on the national scene on 24th May 2008 which point to the same direction. In first such development, the lawyers’ fraternity restarted its movement for restoration of deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. In this regard, a lawyers’ convention was held in Faisalabad on 24th May while more such conventions are to follow in the coming days. These conventions will culminate in the ‘Long March to Islamabad’ scheduled to start from Multan on 10th June 2008. The important thing about the Faisalabad convention is that it displayed the same vigour and zeal among the lawyers and the civil society that was witnessed during the first phase of the lawyers’ movement in 2007. Addressing this convention, the deposed chief justice, who was accorded full protocol by the Punjab Government, declared that the violators of the Supreme Court’s order of 3rd November 2007 will be punished. In the second such development, a meeting of the working group of the Ex-Servicemen Society was held in Islamabad which was attended by at least twenty-six high-ranking retired officers of the Pakistan Army. The participants of the meeting demanded that President Pervez Musharraf should not be given a safe exit and he should be held accountable for all his actions, which included abrogation of the Constitution and his role in the Kargil conflict. The participants of the meeting further demanded that an independent inquiry should be held to fix responsibility of General (retired) Musharraf’s deeds during the last eight years. The working group hailed the decision to get the Army House vacated from President Musharraf describing it a step in the right direction. However, the working group observed that this decision should have been made long ago because “this has been giving a wrong signal to the people, as if the Army is supportive of President Musharraf’s unconstitutional acts”. In the third such development, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) demanded to hold a joint session of parliament with single-point agenda of President Musharraf’s impeachment. Addressing a news conference at the party office in Islamabad, PMLN spokesman Siddiq-al-Farooq said that the country and the nation would suffer both economically and politically if a delay is caused in convening the joint session of parliament. He alleged that President Musharraf, former chief minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and former director general of Intelligence Bureau Ijaz Shah were behind the murder of Benazir Bhutto. He further alleged that President Musharraf was also responsible for the killing of a large number of soldiers in the tribal areas and during the Kargil war. He said it was time to go ahead with the president’s impeachment who was “forcibly occupying” the presidential office and was “hatching conspiracies” against the democratic and elected government. In the fourth such development, Pakistan Peoples Party’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari reiterated his party’s position that it did not accept President Musharraf as a ‘constitutional president’ but they it only maintaining a working relationship with him. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad after presiding over Central Executive Committee meeting at Zardari House, he said that President Musharraf should decide to step down voluntarily rather than facing impeachment: “We intend to walk him away, rather than impeach him away.” Revealing his sixty-two point constitutional package, most of which was aimed at clipping presidential powers, Zardari told the CEC that President Musharraf could not be forced to quit through an impeachment motion or some other means, at least, in the near future: “The reason for abstaining from such a measure is the fact that Pervez Musharraf still enjoys the American backing and the establishment’s support.” Only couple of days before his recent remarks, Zardari said in an interview with Press Trust of India that he was under tremendous pressure to oust President Musharraf from his office. According to him, the public was telling the PPP that “we don’t want bread, we don’t want electricity, but we want him (Mr Musharraf) out.” Following this interview, the presidency reportedly asked for confirmation form PPP circles about the contents of Zardari’s statement particularly on terming Musharraf as a ‘relic of the past’. Responding to such reports, the party’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar refused to show any flexibility on the issue and went a step farther by stating that the PPP co-chairman was keen on winning and retaining the trust and confidence of the people of Pakistan, and not of any individual. In this background, President Musharraf reportedly decided to express his reservations on the performance of Prime Minister Gilani’s government, particularly on the economic and political fronts. Although some analysts believe that the recent issuance of strong-worded statements by President Musharraf and Asif Zardari is ‘Noora Kushti’ aimed at befooling their opponents, nevertheless the fact remains that the storm is gathering against President Musharraf. In this connection, the lawyers’ long march starting from 10th June can prove to be crucial. The long march will start from Multan and will be joined by marchers from Lahore on 11th June. The marchers are expected to reach Islamabad on Saturday 14th June 2008. On its way to Islamabad, the main procession will be joined by several other processions from other districts of Punjab. A similar procession is likely to start from Peshawar as well. The long-marchers comprising lawyers, civil society and political workers of PMLN, APDM and other parties are expected to besiege Islamabad on 14th June. Their stated destination is a sit-in outside the parliament but they may change their mind and their route on the actual day. President Musharraf has made it clear in his meeting with PMLQ leaders on 24th May that he is constitutionally-elected president of Pakistan and he will complete his term of five years. His past conduct also shows that he may be quiet for a while but he is most likely to hit back with his famous fist at an appropriate time. European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other western diplomats have also reaffirmed that President Musharraf is the constitutionally elected president of Pakistan and he must complete his term of five years. All these statements are in line with PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari’s comments that the Americans are still supporting President Musharraf and that there is no likelihood of his impeachment in the near future. Therefore, for the reasons best known to him, Asif Zardari has deferred the question of restoration of deposed judges until the approval of his sixty-two point constitutional package. The long march against President Musharraf will start from Punjab. The convention held in Faisalabad on 24th May shows that the APDM as well as the PMLN will give full support to the lawyers’ conventions scheduled for 31st Many and 9th June and their proposed long-march starting from 10th June 2008. Apparently, the leaders of the long march intend to install the deposed chief justice and judges in the Supreme Court by use of public force. The PPP government may not openly side with President Musharraf but the sitting chief justice and the judges may come forward to pre-empt the long march as they did to stop the talk-shows on the judiciary on the private television channels. In these circumstances, President Musharraf will be left with no option but to impose Governor’s Rule in Punjab exercising his emergency powers under article 239 of the Constitution. The dismissal of the PMLN government in Punjab would however give birth to another cycle of processions in the coming months. Pakistan has suffered a lot, both economically and politically, since 9th March 2007. All those who claim to love Pakistan need to sacrifice their personal interests over the national interests. The main responsibility lies upon President Musharraf himself. Some foreign powers may be interested in his presidency. However, he must realize that the present storm against him will not subsidise on anything less than his removal. He must therefore agree to the change of face even if he does not agree to the change of system. This must be a difficult decision for him but he is fully capable of making this decision. President Musharraf has made difficult decisions on numerous occasions in the past but he always thought like a military man. This time he must think like a statesman. He must realize that he has to leave power one day. However, if he decides to step down voluntarily like President Ayub Khan, he will still be able to get his due share in the history of Pakistan.

Source: The Frontier Post, 26/5/2008

 Posted by at 10:51 pm

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