Conspiracy theories —Syed Mansoor Hussain

To save himself, Musharraf then might be forced to do what President Ayub Khan did almost forty years ago. Fortunately for the country, General Ashfaq Kayani is no General Yahya Khan

Someday when somebody asks me what I was busy doing on 08-08-08 at 08:08:08 AM, I will be forced to admit that I was probably trying to figure out what exactly happened during the Nawaz-Zardari press conference of the evening before. Or perhaps I will say that at that exact moment I was reading my daily horoscope in different newspapers.

No, I am not particularly superstitious but I do read my daily horoscope before delving into hardcore news. As a matter of fact I read a few of them every morning and the fact that all of them say something different is quite reassuring.

Just as my horoscopes varied, news reports of what exactly happened and what these two leaders were up to differed substantially — at least in the Pakistani newspapers that are available on the web. The basic facts it seems are: the PPP-PML-N coalition is staying put; that these along with other coalition partners will start the impeachment proceedings against President Musharraf; and that once he is gone, the judges will be reinstated.

Reasonably straightforward one would presume. But then the devil, as is often said, is in the details. However, since no details were forthcoming, the entire exercise lends itself to interpretations that can widely differ. Professional Cassandras immediately called the proposals ‘delaying’ tactics and cast doubt on the intentions of Mr Zardari and as always, forecast more doom and gloom.

Supporters of the PML-N were muted in their response; a far cry from their usual vociferous demands for the immediate reinstatement of the deposed judges by executive order. And there was even some grumbling that Mr Zardari had somehow hoodwinked Mian Sahib once again. That Mian Sahib’s supporters believe he is quite so gullible reflects poorly on them. For heaven’s sake, the man has been in politics for most of his adult life and has been prime minister twice.

Members of the now famous ‘civil society’, wherever they could be found, were probably just too exhausted to comment on the whole thing. Or perhaps most of them were on vacation and were just not available to comment on much besides the nice weather in wherever they happened to be vacationing.

The talking heads on TV talked and then talked some more. Op-ed warriors, depending on their political proclivities, thundered in ink for or against the plan. The man on the street went on with his business and the KSE managed to eke out a modest gain. The Punjab government was consumed by the problem of the inundated streets in Lahore and pondered over how to get rid of the water before the CM returned.

Conspiracy theorists presented ever more fancy theories. Some felt that perhaps Mian Sahib and his entire entourage were fed doctored mutton karahi to soften them up and make them accept whatever Mr Zardari had up his sleeve. Here I must admit that a good mutton karahi, even if not doctored, would definitely soften me up enough to make me accept anything, as long as I could get on with it and take a decent nap after.

But the best conspiracy theory that I came across was on the Internet. The conspiracy theorist maintained that by starting ‘impeachment’ proceedings, Mr Zardari plans to make Mr Musharraf a legitimate president under the constitution, since only a legally elected president can be impeached. And once he is ‘legal’, all his illegal and unconstitutional actions will also immediately become legal.

I have my own conspiracy theory to offer. I believe that both these men actually meant what they said. I realise that detractors of Mian Nawaz Sharif and of Mr Asif Ali Zardari are convinced that both of them just want another chance to loot and pillage the country. I believe however that both of these men are now looking to do the best they can for our country, under very difficult circumstances.

That said, I also believe that neither of these two has any abiding love for the deposed judges. Mr Sharif and his supreme affection for the supremacy of the superior courts is a matter of record. Mr Zardari has his own beef with members of these very courts. After all, during his many years of incarceration he found no relief from any of them.

So, putting aside all the political spin, it is safe to assume that the two major political parties in government at this time will start a formal process which, if things go as planned, will end up getting President Musharraf out of the presidency and the ‘hair’ of the people of Pakistan. It is an undeniable fact that Musharraf is extremely unpopular at this time, justifiably so or not, is besides the point.

In this developing scenario, the most important variable is President Musharraf himself. It seems that the people of Pakistan and the two major parties they elected are now quite sure of what they want. President Musharraf on the other hand is equally sure of what he wants and that is to hang on to his job for as long as he can.

But if he tries to drag things out hoping for a miracle, or worse yet, try and dissolve the parliament to prevent impeachment, then things can get a trifle difficult. Surely if he tries to dissolve the parliament, he will have to face the inevitable wrath of a rather irate nation. To save himself he then might be forced to do what President Ayub Khan did almost forty years ago. Fortunately for the country, General Ashfaq Kayani is no General Yahya Khan.

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 11/8/2008

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