Jun 042008

By Mohammad Malick

Any observer of Pakistan’s political history will tell you that despite a million other differences in their character, mannerism, style of governance, personal kinks etc., all Pakistani military dictators have one thing in common: none of them knew when to quit gracefully.
The beauty of a dictatorship is that either the power is absolute, or none at all. Of course, the misleading semblance of power lasts a bit longer than real power itself but this fine nuance is unfailingly ignored by the soon to become a has-been master of his world.

But when the once-upon-a-time dictator is openly abused and challenged in public fora, then its time for him to realize that he must either beat the bad, or beat a retreat. Despite the wishes of a weakened despot, there is no middle ground in the world of autocracy.

Just as President Musharraf must be realizing and ruing the day he handed over the COAS’s baton to Gen. Kayani. A poignant reminder to this effect came in the wake of an onslaught of extremely hostile and at times, near derogatory outbursts in the House.

It seemed as if one speaker after another wanted to ensure that the president knew exactly where he stood in the eyes of the people’s parliament, just in case he had missed out on the message delivered to him on February 18th.

The Jamalis qualify as a warrior tribe but even then the outburst of the normally docile and sleepy eyed PPP MNA Taj Jamali took everyone by surprise. As he stood up to speak, he stood a man transformed. If one were to go by his own words, he wanted to be the first man to shoot President Musharraf for what Jamali described as president’s heinous crimes.

His remarks were promptly expunged by Speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza for reasons best known to her. Because, what Jamali had stated was clearly not any intent to literally assassinate the president but simply a use of colloquial phrase to emphasise his extreme sense of annoyance with the president’s conduct.

Dr. Mirza’s party clearly has no stomach to go for impeaching a president who has thrown out the constitution not once but twice so perhaps the least she can do is to allow members to vent their fury, so what if a few end up indulging in some exaggerated verbosity.

And if the argument of the member saying something about a person who is not present in the house is to be used then may be its time for the president to pay a visit to the House and himself face his critics.

Just in case we forget, the president has not even addressed the joint sitting for the parliament since the days when his own PML-Q had been in power. Not that the president was without his supporters to defend his good name.

Marvi Memon stood up and did so. And she had to be doing it out of her own good conscience and not because her father was twice made a federal minister by the president, and she herself was first given a job in ISPR and then a reserved national assembly seat, could hardly have influenced her views. Right Ms Memon? She slighted treasury members as being Musharraf-centric and overtly obsessed with the president. But then wasn’t that what the last general elections all about with even the president himself saying that the defeat of his PML-Q would be tantamount to his own rejection by the people.

So Ms. Memon, your solitary courage notwithstanding, the complexion of the present parliament owes itself exactly to the phenomenon of Musharraf-phobia. To borrow Bush’s words: you are either with Musharraf or against him.

Those who were with him lost. It was as simple as that and the sooner those who lost out at the hustling realized that the better it would be for themselves personally, and for the country at large.

Source: The News, 4/6/2008

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