Will Musharraf make Zardari chew in his own juices?

By Afzal Khan

ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition has finally decided to move towards President Musharraf’s ouster through an ingenious method apart from impeachment. He will be asked to honour the pledge made before the Supreme Court in October last at the time of his election from the outgoing assemblies – he had promised to seek vote of confidence from the new assemblies after the general elections.

Since his supporters are heavily outnumbered in all the assemblies, the move in practice would turn into a no confidence, bringing Musharraf under moral and political, if not legal, pressure to step down.

Failing this, he will have to face impeachment for which the coalition has the requisite numbers in a joint session of parliament.

Even introduction of the resolution that requires only half the membership of either house of parliament would be lethal. Musharraf will be put in the dock and required to answer charges of subversion of Constitution and misconduct. In the process, he will also confront lot of muckraking. That is why prior to the elections he promised to step down if an impeachment process was initiated.

Asif Zardari was pushed to the wall to act and seek Nawaz Sharif’s help by Musharraf’s vicious campaign in the recent days to discredit the government.

He tried to create a scare about the economic meltdown, law and order, ineffectual governance, terrorism and the increasing US pressure in Fata.

There were clear vibes that he was up to something sinister against the present set-up. His allies were predicting they would soon be back, not through elections, but because Musharraf would scrap the present system.

For his own compulsions, Nawaz Sharif had to support Zardari. He has made a significant tactical retreat and given a concession by rearranging his two top priorities – restoration of judges and Musharraf’s ouster. The impeachment was only of secondary importance as reinstatement of judiciary itself would have set in motion the process of Musharraf’s exit.

Though Zardari has also agreed to restore the judges and even mentioned the Murree Declaration on which he had reneged earlier, he has set two pre-conditions. The judges’ issue would be taken up “after” the impeachment (Zardari laid particular stress on the expression “after” to indicate his continued reservations). Secondly, the PML-N must rejoin the federal cabinet.

Both leaders did not spell out any timeframe for the execution of their plans. So restoration of judges would be as far away as it is now. It would be naïve to believe that Gen. Musharraf will sit idle to wait for that.

He has promised to hit back instead of taking it lying down. What are his options?

His allies have been talking of the use of Article 58-2B for the dissolution of assemblies. But it would lead to fresh elections within 90 days that his inveterate foe, Nawaz Sharif, would sweep. So Musharraf would need a device that avoids holding of elections and creates conditions to introduce the Bangladesh model for the next couple of years.

His recent speeches talked about imminent economic and administrative collapse. That betrayed plans for possible financial emergency.

This would avoid elections but certain parliamentary procedures are required to endorse and sustain it. To circumvent the elections or parliamentary requirements, Musharraf must have the Army on board, which looks a bit doubtful under the prevalent conditions when it is busy refurbishing its image by distancing itself from politics.

Musharraf’s second option is to revert to his handpicked Supreme Court, which endorsed his every unconstitutional act after November 3 emergency. Luckily for him, Asif Zardari has jealously protected the Dogar Court by effectively blocking the restoration of independent judges for self-serving reasons.

If Musharraf gets exemption from election from this court, he would make Zardari chew in his own juices.

Source: The News, 9/8/2008

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