Musharraf to be made non-functional president


By Hamid Mir

ISLAMABAD: Leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have decided to make history by turning President Pervez Musharraf the first-ever non-functional head of the state.

He would be no more welcome in any government function. Verbal orders have been issued to all the federal government departments and also to the four provincial governments not to invite the president of Pakistan for any ceremony.

All the four provincial assemblies will pass resolutions against the president next week and no chief minister will welcome him in any provincial capital.

Last year, Musharraf declared Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry a non-functional chief justice of Pakistan and this year he is becoming a non-functional president of Pakistan. This will be the politicians’ revenge.

Some close friends have already advised Musharraf to step down quietly but he is still confident that his handpicked Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will rescue him soon.

According to the Constitution, President Pervez Musharraf is still more powerful than the prime minister and parliament. The president is the supreme commander of the armed forces. He can dissolve the National Assembly with the help of the Army anytime. He also has the powers to impose the governor’s rule in any province. He can even sack the Army chief if he likes.

PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif think that President Musharraf is not in a position to suspend the government with the help of the Pakistan Army. They are sure that the Army is already doing military operations in Balochistan and the tribal areas.

If the Army will help Musharraf against the newly elected democratic government, then the people in Sindh and Punjab could react furiously and it could land into big trouble.

The Article 41 of the Constitution says that “there shall be a president of Pakistan who shall be the head of state and shall represent the unity of the republic”.

If the president of Pakistan will become non-functional and elected chief ministers of four units of the federation will not welcome him, then it will be very difficult for Musharraf to claim that he represents the unity of Pakistan.

The ruling coalition has decided to call the National Assembly meeting to initiate the impeachment process against Musharraf next week. The National Assembly speaker will hold a debate in the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament on impeachment resolution. According to Article 47 of the Constitution, two-thirds members of the total number of both houses must declare that president is unfit to hold his office due to incapacity, or he is guilty of violating the Constitution or he is involved in gross misconduct. Musharraf will face the first ever impeachment motion in the history of Pakistan.

Highly-placed sources in the ruling coalition claimed that a comprehensive and lethal charge-sheet against President Musharraf was already in the making.

This charge-sheet may open many new Pandora’s boxes. The joint meeting of the two houses of parliament will try to pass a resolution against a person who abrogated the Constitution of Pakistan not once but twice (October 12, 1999 and November 3, 2007), who arrested an elected prime minister in 1999 and then arrested the chief justice on March 9, 2007.

The charge-sheet will say that according to Article 56 of the Constitution, the president was bound to address both houses of parliament at the commencement of the first session of the National Assembly after the general elections but he never performed his constitutional obligations. The charge-sheet will accuse President Musharraf of conspiring against the sitting elected government with the help of the PML-Q.

The ruling coalition members will also quote from his memoir “In the line of Fire” during the debate and say that as the Army chief and head of the state, Musharraf created the PML-Q on the advice of his close aide Tariq Aziz in 2002, which was a clear violation of the Constitution as well as the Army rules.

PML-N members will demand to set up an independent inquiry commission against Musharraf to investigate the Kargil episode.

According to sources in the ruling coalition, Musharraf will have a safe exit if he resigns in the coming days. If the impeachment motion will be passed by parliament, then it will be difficult for the government to provide him a safe exit because many in Pakistan would want him to be produced in a court of law for breaking the Constitution, for the Lal Masjid operation last year and for the killing of innocent people in Balochistan and the tribal areas.

Just weeks back, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher advised Pakistani politicians that they should stop squabbling about President Musharraf and focus on extremism, food shortage and power crisis. He said Musharraf was not a problem in Pakistan but now the ruling coalition has given him a message that Musharraf is a problem.

Coalition leaders are claiming off-the-record that the Bush administration has finally discarded Musharraf and nobody from Washington will come and rescue their most trusted friend in Pakistan.

One federal minister has cautioned his leadership about the possible dangers in this new game. The said minister is of the view that both the ruling coalition and President Musharraf are playing a very risky game.

The numbers are very important in this game. Coalition partners need 295 votes out of 442 to impeach President Musharraf. They claim to have the support of 305 members. If Musharraf can convince Pir Pagara of PML-Functional to hold his party’s six votes and some dissidents in the PPP led by Makhdoom Amin Fahim decide to abstain, then the coalition partners will be in big trouble.

Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif were very relaxed on Thursday and they claimed that they would ultimately win the support of 350 members.

Both camps are very confident but there is one difference. One camp is led by a functional federal government having the support of four provincial governments. The other camp is lead by a virtually non-functional president who is looking towards the Army, which is claiming to be neutral and no more interested in politics.

If the Army does not come to rescue its supreme commander, then Musharraf will become a “lesson” in the history of Pakistan.

The News, 9/8/2008

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