Democracy’s worst revenge-Anjum Niaz

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“Pakistan’s disintegration, if that is what is now being witnessed, is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, a riveting spectacle, and a clear and present danger to international security. But who in the world can stop it?” asks Simon Tisdall of The Guardian. We ask the same question as the day of the dharna approaches. Today, the two-pronged assault on the superior judiciary by the government and the opposition is democracy’s worst revenge. While the former is stuffing the courts with jiyalas; the latter is vowing a vendetta on those judges who have ruled against the Sharifs. Caught in between the devil and the deep blue sea is the lawyers’ long march.

But who in the world can stop this March madness?

The Supreme Court, its chief justice, and his judges are debunked with derision most foul. And yet not a word is heard from their end. For our judges such abuse may be water off a duck’s back, but for the law-abiding 170 million Pakistanis it is contempt of court. At Lahore to a frenzied crowd Shahbaz Sharif named the three judges and said “we will grab them and throw them into the sea.” The madness-driven mob chanted “we’ll destroy them.” As for Justice Dogar, he’s been ridiculed; mocked; sneered; and humiliated in the media and jalsas so many times that he’s grown a second skin. The present court has damaged and hurt Pakistan’s image to a point of no return. And yet, President Zardari continues to appoint dozens more in the line of Dogar. The president cannot survive such chicanery; but after he has gone his great betrayal of an independent judiciary will long be remembered. The judges he would have left behind will be fit for the kangaroo courts, not the superior courts.

But who in the world can stop the president?

In our hall of shame already hang many faces of evil. Will Law Minister Farooq Naek and Attorney General Latif Khosa escape profiling? The question doesn’t require brain surgery. They hold the country hostage. They have failed to rise above party politics. They are working for the survival of the PPP and its co-chairman, instead of working for Pakistan. Never mind if their mischief is turning away foreign investment; never mind if the civilised world is rewarding and honouring Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry with laurels; never mind if the lawyers are striking every other day demanding the restoration of the Nov 2, 2007, judiciary; never mind if the whole of Pakistan wants Dogar to go; and never mind if the long march has a blind date with death.

But who in the world can stop the duo?

As long as the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) protects Zardari and his partners the MQM; as long as the missing persons question remains buried and protects American interests, let Pakistan crumble. Aided and abetted in this unholy agenda are two of Musharraf’s former accomplices – the notoriously unethical (it’s on record) Justice (r) Malik Qayyum and Man Friday Ahmad Raza Kasuri, who if you recall, got a black face when Supreme Court lawyers smeared him with paint a while ago. Kasuri is the man who is thought by many to be responsible for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s hanging. It was on his complaint that General Zia charged the former prime minister for the murder of Kasuri’s father, Nawab Ahmad Khan. Today, Bhutto’s son-in-law Asif Zardari has hired his services and reportedly called up to congratulate him on winning the disqualification case against the Sharifs.

Does anyone know the millions this government is allegedly spending on buying support in Punjab? Will any judge take suo motu notice or entertain a petition against horse-trading? This is a country where 40 percent of its citizens are living a sub-human existence. And yet no one cares. Others call it a “failed state,” a fact reinforced by Foreign Policy magazine that ranks Pakistan at number nine in the “Failed States Index.” Has Zardari’s predecessor Musharraf been hauled up for paying this same crew of Kasuri’s and Qayyums from state funds to fight a dirty tricks campaign against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry? These loudmouths failed to protect Musharraf. In the end, he walked off with his tail between his legs. Will his successor meet the same fate?

But who in the world can stop President Zardari’s exit when the time comes?

What is the army thinking? Everyone’s asking. “Don’t forget General Kayani was the ISI chief who brokered the NRO between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf,” a senior Q-Leaguer reminds me. “America was a party to this deal. General Musharraf named Kayani as his successor for services rendered.” Will Kayani’s corps commanders prevail upon him to act and prevent “a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions” waiting to happen?

Meanwhile, public disgust mounts at the mandi set up in Punjab. The money bazaar is hotting up. Many years ago, I heard a woman caller badmouth Asma Jehangir on a TV show. Calling such people “takay-takay kay log,” the sharp-tongued Asma chewed up her detractor with a shut-up call. Only she can coin such a pungent phrase. Today, we have Laila Muqaddas. With gold bangles coming up to her elbows, the Punjab legislator preambled her press talk with a sermon before ditching the N-League. She was put up to say what she said by her father-in-law and father, who in return reportedly got rich dividends from the government. The mimic Qasim Zia, Salmaan Taseer’s major domo, sat on Laila’s right while dad or dad-in-law sat on her left. Zia kept whispering in the woman’s ear; she kept ignoring the smug-face.

Ironically, a quarter-page notice in this newspaper last week warned everyone to lay off Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan. The stodgy write-up by his solicitors said that Waqar, a buddy of Zardari’s, had been “persecuted and defamed in various print and electronic media” alleging that he is “involved in promoting horse-trading in Punjab and ‘purchasing’ loyalties of members.” The notice continued: “Question of horse-trading or any other subterfuge is totally denied.” The last sentence threatened “strict legal action” against all who “raise or publish falsehoods against our client, his family and his party.” I don’t need to interpret this notice; it has interpreted itself and let the cat out of the bag. Besides, it’s presumptuous for one individual to gag 170 million Pakistanis from criticising his political party? Let him instead gag the world’s most influential newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal whose columns and editorials have launched a frontal attack on the president and the PPP. Let the brave Senator Waqar sue these newspapers instead of threatening the Pakistani media.

Apart from stories where money is changing hands, the PPP’s bungling has become a joke. PM Gilani and his cabinet cravenly approved the Mobile Courts Ordinance on Zardari’s orders. The next day, after his meeting with General Kayani, the PM took a U-turn. Gilani gloatingly told the Parliament that upon his “advice” President Zardari “withdrew” the mobile courts. Turning the law into a whore became the joke of that day. The same night PPP senior leader Syed Khurshid Shah announced on TV that the mobile courts will return once the National Assembly session ends. Obviously this gem he must have picked up from the Presidency.

The cause of Pakistan being dubbed a “failed state” can squarely be put on the shoulders of our leaders – past and present. Included in this list of error are politicians of every affiliation, defence bigwigs, bureaucrats and businessmen. It’s not rocket science to nail these men and women. The task is easy, but who will name the rogues is the question that perhaps will never get answered.

Will no one rid us of these takay-takay kay log?

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting


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