By DR FAROOQ HASSAN
In a rapidly changing political scenario the future of Musharraf seems to have taken a back seat. Suddenly the attention has shifted to the future role of Zardari who has now offered his services for the country’s presidency. Evidently not only in Pakistan that this news item is prominently visible as far way as London and Australia this development has evoked high interest. Presumably in this context it was reported by the world’s media on August 26 that PPP co-chairman has had to regretfully deal with mental problems in the past. I say “presumably” since this information was available as public documents in the British High Court having been tendered by Zardari himself in 2007. So the reports that surfaced in two British newspapers of high credibility, The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times on that day were timed by someone to bring this matter into focus.
So the matter at hand until August 18 of what fate awaited Musharraf has been suddenly and most sadly reduced to merely that of academic importance despite the fact that it was his misdoings that had brought constitutional havoc to the country. I wish to remind the readers that the appropriate modality of prosecuting such constitution violators is provided by Cromwell’s precedent. Let me remind the readers who are now clamouring for indemnity for Musharraf that General Oliver Cromwell took over the British government in the 17th century. He was tried after his death in 1661 for overthrowing the parliament and for sabotaging the constitution of the realm. The parliament which was convened after his death in 1660 ordered the exhumation and posthumous execution of his body and that of several of his collaborators. In January 1661, Westminster Abbey was dug up for the remains of Oliver Cromwell and others. Three corpses were duly produced and conveyed to Tyburn, where they were hanged and his already dead body was left at a public place for people to see what fate awaited those who dared to alter the constitution of that land by force.
Similarly, in 1998, my friend and former classmate at Oxford, Bill Clinton was prosecuted for such transgressions by the Congress by the nations Legislature and in courts at the behest of those afflicted by him. In July 2001, Tory member of House of Lords Lord Archer was jailed for four years after being found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice. The jury found him guilty of lying and cheating in his 1987 libel case against the Daily Star. The verdicts were unanimous on each count. Lord Archer, who was ordered to pay £175,000 costs within 12 months, was told by the judge he would have to serve at least half of his sentence. In January 2001, similarly right now by my count there are at least five such prosecutions pending against well known US leaders who are members of the Congress.
Some view the development regarding Zardari’s sudden accumulation of the country’s presidency as a grave threat perception to Islamabad’s key power centres; it was felt that this action required closest scrutiny. The concern was not about his political right to contest the election but about the way he had adopted, the tactics that he was using, the misleading claims, broken promises, petty politicking and other tactics to achieve his political ambitions. The PPP co-chairman’s unilateral decision to fast-forward the presidential election was correctly seen by analysts as disturbing to say the least.
The power garb had been made easier by the lacklustre ability of the PML-N to see though the schemes that were being hatched around them making their own future entirely ephemeral. I know that they were and still are simply lost in strategic thinking of what needs to be done and what steps are needed for protecting the only government office they have, namely the Chief Ministership of Punjab. For instances, after entrusting to me the filing of objection petition against Asif Zardari in the presidential election they simply changed their mind at 9 AM on the August 28 because they did not want confrontation but mufahamt (reconciliation). This is just an incident of a public nature that shows the indecisive nature of workings of the minds of the present leadership of the PML-N.
In this evolution, Asif Ali Zardari has been clearly emboldened by this “no contest” attitude of PML-N and the easy successes of his men to the PM’s seat, the speaker’s chair, and in Sindh and at the federal level to all key ministries in the Cabinet; simultaneously he has sidelined important PPP friends and foisted his old buddies of the ‘exiles club’ to other state institutions.
No one should be-grudge Zardari’s democratic credentials as head of the biggest political elected party to accomplish such results. However, the problem arises from the fact that it appears that in doing so he had actually misled many of his political allies and partners by claiming that the establishment, which mediated and guaranteed many deals leading to the current dispensation in the country, had expressed serious reservations about the restoration of the judges, especially Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry and that such players, foreign and domestic had pressurised him in doing various things he appears to be doing presently!
The fundamental concern in the security establishment and the patriotic elements is not why the PPP co-chairman is doing it but what is he doing and will do after taking oath as the President of Pakistan. Evidently the army has pulled out of all political matters, to a great degree if not altogether, in the hope that politicians would collectively put their heads and wisdom together, reach consensus on critical security, economic and political issues quickly, frame policies accordingly and provide clear guidelines to the army to implement these policies. The COAS General Ashfaq Kayani has made it clear on a number of accusations that the army was ready to take orders from the politicians provided they own the policies and share the credit or discredit of success or failure.
However, it seems that the co-chairman of the largest political party has suddenly put too many things on his plate and it is possible that he may find it difficult to handle them alone by himself. This is demonstrably a one man show since he remains the party head, de facto PM, party strategist and now president; his other attributes and responsibility would include, wheeling and dealing, main power manager of the realm while of course remaining the political mastermind. Whether this all-in-one approach was detrimental to the country is for the people to evaluate. Moreover, the ex-servicemen’s association, for instance, have already put on record its apprehensions that instead of stability there is a move towards the creation of regime of instability in the country.
This happened when serious questions had been raised about the mindset of this PPP led leadership together with the huge amounts of money that were released by courts in Geneva and London in Zardari’s favour. The Geneva prosecutor said earlier that he had dropped money laundering charges against PPP co-chairman since the Pakistan government had asked him to do so.
The corresponding reactions and awareness of this and other matters seemed to be non-existent in the main opposition now represented by the PML-N. Thus it seems that whereas, substantively, the Zardari-led federal government is doing exactly what Musharraf would have done, the PML-N in the Punjab is actually without realising become the Zardari B team in the country. This is all very troubling and it is certain that the months ahead are bound to produce results that are far from comforting to the nationalistic elements. The only civilian hopes of any substance that remain are connected with Imran Khan.
The feeble and non-focused efforts by PML-N are essentially responsible for this tragedy as being a national level party it was its duty to attend in timely fashion to the dire necessities of time and opportunity. The Lawyers’ Movement seems to be losing ground by the Machiavellian approach adopted by the present government. It has already dented the onslaught of this movement by re-appointing many judges in the Punjab, Sindh and Peshawar High Courts. In this political milieu president’s election was on September 6 (yesterday) and Zardari has been elected as the President of Pakistan. Once Zardari is president it remains to be seen whether he will give indemnity to Musharraf since he cannot be charged for anything as long as he is the president.
His own ascendancy into the halls of Aiwan-e-Sadr may have been designed by the Neo-cons in New York who like the Manchurian Candidate have now a better plan to get hold of the fate of Pakistan, its nuclear resources and its pivotal geographical position vis-à-vis the Islamic world.
The writer is a barrister-at-law (UK), attorney-at-law (US), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and professor Harvard University
Source: The Nation, 6/9/2008