The controversy surrounding President Musharraf’s impeachment has driven the whole nation crazy. The president’s enemies not only want him to be impeached but also make him a lesson for future adventurers. On the other hand, his supporters also want him not only to stick to his guns but also fight his enemies tooth and nail.
If we go by Polonius’s analogy as detailed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet we can see that there is definitely a method in the madness. Both the time and scheme for impeachment show that those who planned the game want to raise the political temperature of the nation to such a level that the people and their leaders, both civil and military, remain fully occupied with internal intrigues so that their enemies can take them unaware when they knock the country along its northern borders just before the start of the winter. Incidentally, that will be the time when the American nation will be electing its new president on November 4.
A military action by the US-led allied forces along the Pak-Afghan border on the eve of the US presidential election would also pave way for victory of the Republican candidate in the November 4 elections. If that does happen that will be a bonus for the Bush Administration. The other significance of carrying out a military operation inside Pakistan by October is that the local warriors, dubbed as the miscreants of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, will be landlocked in their hideouts and it will be difficult for them to move freely from one range of the mountains to another due to heavy snowfall and heavier bombardment. The next two months are, therefore, very important for the allied forces to execute their plan. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that the ball of impeachment has been set into motion for diverting the attention of the whole nation from what is being planned on their northern borders.
The chargesheet against Musharraf is very long. He is being accused of not only violating the military discipline by launching the Kargil Operation without the approval of the then PM but is also being charged with high treason for sabotaging the constitution of Pakistan not once but twice. He is being alleged for selling his own countrymen, and women, and murdering innocent people committing gross violations of human rights in incidents like the Operation Silence against the twin sanctuaries of Islamabad. At the top of it, he is being held responsible for destroying the national institutions like the parliament and the judiciary by unlawfully arresting and humiliating the Chief Justice of Pakistan and scores of other judges of the superior courts. These are but a few of the allegations that the ruling coalition wants to include in the charge sheet against Musharraf.
No one can deny the gruesome nature of all these allegations. However, none of these allegations are new. All these allegations were there when the coalition partners formed government in March this year. If the coalition leaders really intended to bring the president to book they could have done so in April when he was passing through the weakest period of his eight- year-long military rule. The non-seriousness of the ruling coalition at that time can be seen from the fact that its Law Minister Farooq Naek proposed to solve the judges issue through a constitutional package which can rightly be described as the eighth wonder of the world as it left even Sharifuddin Peerzada wondering about his own abilities.
Further, if the ruling coalition wasted four crucial months in a non-serious manner around the issue of the restoration of the deposed judges to the pre-emergency position of November 3, 2007, their mood does not seem to be much different in connection with the impeachment of President Musharraf. Once again they have started their campaign in a high profile. However, the path they have chosen for themselves to get rid of the president shows that they will be testing the nerves of the nation at least for a few weeks as they had done in connection with the restoration of the judges. It is quite possible that the fate of the Islamabad Declaration on August 7 (the day the coalition partners decided to impeach the president) will not be much different from the Bhurban Accord.
The procedure prescribed in Article 47 of the constitution for the impeachment of the president can be completed within 10 days at the most. However, the ruling coalition has decided to prolong the exercise to 10. In the first instance, the national and the provincial assemblies will pass resolutions demanding that the president must take a vote of confidence from the electorate as promised by his constitutional expert, Sharifuddin Peerzada, during the hearing of the case of his eligibility in the Supreme Court in October last year. One ponders as to why the assemblies did not pass such resolutions in March and April this year in their opening sessions. Anyway, even now no time limit is likely to be given to the president to take fresh vote of confidence.
This would mean that the process of impeaching the president would comfortably be postponed to the next month. Meanwhile, the whole nation will continue to focus on this issue instead of securing its borders and safeguarding its sovereignty, if at all we still have it. As the deadline for the US presidential elections, as also the time for a military action inside Pakistan, draws closer, the coalition partners will start the constitutional process of impeachment. Before the parliament can vote on the impeachment resolution, a buffer state may already be in existence between Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is perhaps the time when Musharraf might announce to resign leaving the nation guessing as to who is responsible for the debacle: the military ruler or the political leaders. We saw this in 1971.
Can we take care of our stock before it is too late? It is clear that the GHQ will not side with President Musharraf at the time of his impeachment. On the contrary, the generals have advised the president to resign. It is also clear that the president cannot dismiss the government and dissolve the assemblies without the GHQ’s active support. Yet the crisis caused because of the president’s impeachment will continue to aggravate in the next few weeks for which the coalition government will be as responsible as the president himself. To worsen the situation, Maulvi Iqbal Haider Advocate has already challenged the impeachment resolution in the Sindh High Court which will soon make its way to the Supreme Court. Naturally, the judges who took oath under the PCO will be more inclined to support the president when they know that it will be their turn after him.
In these circumstances, it will not be less than a miracle if President Musharraf could be removed through an impeachment resolution. The storm in the bubble caused over his impeachment may or may not end in his actual removal from office. However, it will certainly create an atmosphere of political anarchy in the country giving the nation’s enemies a chance to strike whenever and wherever they want to. The time has come for all those who profess their love for Pakistan to revise their strategies. Even if the president is to be removed, he should be removed in such a way that it causes minimal damage to the state, be it political, economic or strategic. The question of Musharraf’s impeachment is a test for all our leaders, both military and civil, as to how they will overcome the crisis.
The writer is a practising solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales
Source: The Nation, 12/8/2008