Stubborn Musharraf has option to restore all judges-By Ikram Sehgal

KARACHI: Given the verdict of Feb 18 and the resolutions passed by the provincial assemblies, the common feeling among his friends is that the president should not have waited to test the impeachment process in parliament. He should have quit while he still had the opportunity to make a graceful exit.

As night turns into day, this was something that had to happen. Partly because he generally feels he can make a difference but mostly because it is very hard to leave the trappings of presidential office, the perception prevailing is that he has delayed the inevitable.

Those who are trying to impeach him are not on moral high ground even though they contend that the NRO-absolved corruption charges and convictions thereof are not correct, could hundreds of officers who served in NAB and collected tons of evidence against those who are in power today be wrong?

Some cases may well have been fabricated; those guilty of fabricating evidence and committing perjury must be tried and sent to jail. This includes those in the Ehtesab Bureau (EB) created by Mian Nawaz Sharif, after all most of the cases against Zardari and company were framed during Mian Nawaz Sharif’s stint as PM.

But what if some of these officers were right? Were all the un-surfaced bank accounts fictitious? Ignoring such white-collar crimes among those in governance today would make those capable of correcting the political anomaly today guilty of abetting and collaborating with those who looted the nation.

An ostrich-like mentality cannot absolve them of guilt by association; at the very least the public perception will be that their loyalties have been bought out. The silver lining is that the president now has a historic opportunity to correct two great wrongs, viz (1) scrap the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and/or (2) annul his action of Nov 3 and restore the superior judiciary.

Restoring the superior judiciary will put himself at risk but in the circumstances what has he got to lose? The onus of responsibility will then be firmly on Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to revoke the NRO.

He is morally bound to send this black law to the dustbin. More importantly the chief justice will be under no obligation to anyone for restoring him to office. This will be Iftikhar Chaudhry’s acid test, otherwise was all the rhetoric about the rule of law during the long period out in the cold mere lip service and Musharraf-specific?

The president’s predicament can be gauged from only a cursory reading of “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”. One can imagine that the situation may be nerve-wracking for even someone as iron-willed as Pervez Musharraf, particularly when the coalition is using the media as a potent spy-war weapon.

Most of those he counted on to be loyal have either forsaken him during his hour of need, or are playing a waiting game on a fail-safe line, nothing new in Pakistan where loyalty is often up for sale. However by repeatedly asking the president to resign and failing to come up with a charge sheet before moving a resolution in the National Assembly, the coalition is less than confident about a successful impeachment process. It may indeed be bluffing, trying to spook the president into resigning.

The allegations that Asif Zardari made about President Musharraf siphoning off funds given by the US for re-imbursement for engaging in the “war against terrorism” is extremely dangerous and contrary to national interest.

Zardari alleged, in sync with Karzai, RAW and what others have been saying for the past week, that these funds have been funnelled to rogue elements in the intelligence agencies (by which he obviously means ISI).

Not only this is absurd, it puts the ISI (and by extension the Pakistan Army) in the dock. Putting Pakistan’s defence structure in jeopardy may be the real reason for trying to impeach the president.

The person of the president may be under attack, the army as an institution is the real target. While the army hierarchy may have become gun-shy of politics, how long and at what cost to the nation will they remain deaf, dumb and blind to the obvious?

On Jan 31, 2008, I had written: “Pervez Musharraf must do comprehensive re-evaluation of his own position, making compromises to bring harmony between rhetoric, perception and reality. He is too smart not to know that the dice are loaded against him, he should not try to brazen it out but to come to terms with reality. His lonely task is to decide (before others do it for him), how to keep his destiny and that of Pakistan in sync.”

The problem is that Musharraf is no pushover, he is a stubborn man who is a born fighter, he will not like to go down in history as a man who could not take the heat when the chips were down. Even if he had inclination to quit, now he has no choice, he has to fight it out.

Source: The News, 12/8/2008

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