Jun 082008

“THROUGH this executive summary, I order that all deposed judges be restored to the positions they occupied on Nov 2, 2007.” — Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Prime Minister House, Islamabad, 00:02 hrs, June 1, 2008
Simple, as the pro-restoration caravan has been suggesting for so long … except that, among the other things that we are lacking these days, we did not have 00:02 hours on June 1 this year.

The Zardarian guile, which has been so transparently flaunted before the people ever since the election on Feb 18, predicts such a trick any moment. Everything that the PPP co-chairman has done over the last few months has been diligently and meticulously painted as being part of some conspiracy.

He plotted the sidelining of the party’s ‘chosen’ candidate for prime minister and eliminated challenges from a few able men to sneak in his own choice for the post. He has been proudly introducing one important appointee after another as ‘my jail companion’. The refrain led the nation into believing that he was talking about the future until someone did some research and concluded that he was actually talking about incarcerations of the past.

Sure, some others have also been privileged to spend time in jail, but to their misfortune either they didn’t belong to the period specified by Asif Zardari or they didn’t belong to the party he now spearheads. For instance, he doesn’t appear to view with due empathy the case of the judges who were imprisoned in their homes after March 9, 2007, along with their families.

Aitzaz Ahsan keeps highlighting the point, but his protestations about the judges make as little impact on his party’s chief as do his frequent references to the long nights he has spent in police lockups in the company of terror and a few diehard PPP workers. What is noticed, instead, and on an international scale, are words that he says he had never uttered to a reporter.

Javed Hashmi, one inmate in Zardari’s time zone but quite outside the party, recently suggested that it was beyond him to comprehend the politics perfected by the PPP co-chairman. Mr Hashmi did, indeed, leave the most discerning of observers envious, with his humble submission that he was the one who understood the politics of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

And since he belongs to a veritable group of agitators who cannot set a foot wrong, with this analysis of his he caused ear-to-ear smiles all around. People like him and the other faces in his camp. They can be allowed to proceed with no pressing questions asked and no explanations sought. The only answer that is demanded of the pro-justice campaigners is the answer we all know: that there shall be no deal on the restoration of the judges.

A reported statement in which Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif had seemed to agree to a compromise which protected the Nov 3 PCO judges is either not mentioned or summarily dismissed as a minor aberration. Much more important, the impossibility of impeaching as president a man that you do not recognise as constitutional president is never discussed. It can perhaps be argued that an impeachment is as big a proof of a legal president as is an indemnification, yet the campaign that pursues the just ideal of a free judiciary has no time to be bogged down in details such as these.

Mian Nawaz Sharif wants to go over the man whereas Asif Zardari has been saying he prefers to go around him. This is understandable given the old feeling that the individual who may have facilitated the PPP’s coming to power is the one who has for eight long years stood between the PML-N and the establishment. It is in the course of a comparison of the short-term and the long-term that Mr Zardari risks losing ground — especially in Punjab — to his friend Mr Sharif.

The PPP leader was under no moral pressure to restore the judges as his party had emerged as the single largest entity in the Assembly after the Feb 18 polls. The party was not committed to a restoration of the judiciary and it did not raise the slogan of restoration in its poll campaign. But didn’t things change after he had signed the Bhurbhan declaration with Mian Nawaz Sharif in March this year? It was after he had made this commitment that he realised that it was imprudent to give a timeframe for accomplishing a job as complicated as this.

There is no doubt that in the midst of so many big issues confronting the government, its distance from the free-judiciary procession is costing the PPP in terms of popular support. All mistakes and errors committed by other politicians pale before this very visible flaw in Mr Zardari’s politics. As Pakistan watches, the people are finding it hard to toe the party line.

Source: Daily Dawn, 8/6/2008

 Posted by at 11:55 am

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