Return of the dragon

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Is there any change in the military’s mindset?

Former military dictator and tormentor of this hapless nation is back with his usual demeanour of haughtiness, conceit and remorselessness for what he did to this country during his nine years of despotic and corrupt rule. He is also aspiring to contest elections with the make-belief that he can steer this country out of the present quagmire in his capacity as a political leader. Leaving aside what he contemplates to do or whether he will be able to participate in the elections or not, what is surprising for most of the people is that how can a person involved in sedition, murder, other cases of severe nature and facing death threats from Taliban, has the courage to return at this critical juncture without the assurances of the internal and external actors who have always controlled the flow of events in this land of the wretched?

There are already reports in the media suggesting that the return of the dragon is a sequel to another NRO negotiated and guaranteed by the praetorian powers for his safety and ultimate clearance from the charges that he is facing. Our checkered history supports this view vehemently. Had it not been so the military dictators and corrupt politicians would not have gone scot-free for their crimes against the people of Pakistan that include insulting their mandate by the khakis and betrayal of trust by the politicians besides looting the wealth of the nation.

Majority of the people of Pakistan, except those who benefited from his magnanimity and favours designed to prolong his stint in power, believe that Musharraf is guilty of sedition under article 6 of the constitution for having deposed a legitimately elected representative government through a conspiracy that was hatched much before the actual coup in the backdrop of the rift between former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf over latter’s daredevil act to start the Kargil War with a view to sabotage the process of dialogue and reconciliation between Pakistan and India. He is also held responsible for the Lal Masjid episode, murders of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti, decimating the constitution, humiliating the judiciary and taking unconstitutional steps to scuttle and suppress the freedom of media in the wake of lawyers’ movement which was supported by it. Petitions have also been filed by lawyers in the SC urging it to try the former dictator for his act of sedition.

The permeating view is that Musharraf will not come to any harm and across the board justice will remain an elusive dream. In this regard, I cannot agree more with the remarks of Babar Sattar, an Islamabad based lawyer in his article published in an English national daily some times back which read, “The civil-military imbalance continues to hurt democracy, rule of law, across the board accountability and citizen security. The gravity and relevance of this problem that has bedeviled us since this country’s inception cannot be ignored or downplayed in present day Pakistan.”

One needs to read the text of the Charter of Democracy signed by the two former prime ministers to understand the meaning of these words or look at the assertive position taken by the military commanders on Kerry-Lugar Bill and publicly expressing dissent over the contents of the package to embarrass the elected government, ostensibly to let the government and US know who was calling the shots in Pakistan. General Kayani and his commanders may have resisted the temptation to derail democracy but the fact remains that the mindset of coercing and arm-twisting the representative governments has remained intact. That indeed is a worrying factor. The civilian-military imbalance will have to be rectified if this country is to move ahead towards its cherished destination.

Similarly, the judiciary will also have to safeguard its new found independence by curbing its inclinations to act as a popular court, strictly abiding by the internationally recognised principles of jurisprudence, remaining within its powers given in the constitution and avoiding transgressing into the territories of the other state institutions. That is what the rule of law means. Regrettably, the decision in the NRO case was a classic example of SC acting as a popular court rather than the court of law.

The fact that the court gave the decision asking the government to write to Swiss authorities for reopening the case against the president, notwithstanding the immunity conferred on him by article 248 of the constitution, is a ranting testimony of the court playing to the gallery. The contention of the government not to write to the Swiss authorities has ultimately proved right. The Swiss authorities respecting the immunity enjoyed a sitting president have refused to re-open the case. An elected prime minister became a casualty of this unfortunate decision; which invoked harsh criticism by constitutional experts and judges of international repute. There is also a very strong feeling among the intellectual circles that SC has been excessively interfering in the domain of the executive.

The petitions filed for trial of Musharraf will undoubtedly be a litmus test for the much hyped independence and impartiality of the judiciary headed by CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and a rare opportunity for it to dispel the impression that it was engaged in the witch-hunt of the politicians only. Those who hold this view refer to the inability of the SC – who has shown an irresistible propensity to make excessive use of its suo motu jurisdiction in regards to the actions of the executive – to exhibit a similar disposition towards US attack in Abbottabad, attacks on GHQ, PNS Mehran, Kamra, the Asghar Khan case, NLC and Royal Palm case.

The outcome of the case against Musharraf will also determine once and for all whether this country will remain mired in a culture of selective justice or a new dawn of equality before law will nurture our growth into a respectable, judicious and vibrant nation enjoying due recognition as such in the comity of nations. His conviction will act as a great deterrent for the would-be power usurpers and his acquittal would mean continuation of the status quo which will be yet another tragedy for the country. The leadership challenge for generals and other state institutions does not lie in fiercely defending their perceived turfs but in demonstrating remorse over the past wrongs, showing the aplomb, determination and courage in revisiting their perceived notions about their role, striving for a real change in their behaviour, extending unqualified support to democracy and strengthening representative institutions.

The writer is an academic.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The apex court has to tread with caution. It is the aggrieved party in the case and has been forced by circumstances to sit on judgment in its own cause. Musharraf, a political nobody is totally isolated and comprehensively humiliated. The so-called forces of “rule of law” are out to get him. But in this charged atmosphere of revenge, the court has to take stock of the circumstances. Was Musharraf a lone-ranger or was supported by the entire government machinery in imposing emergency rule? Was this emergency rule resulting in sacking of judges a far graver crime than sacking of an elected government which was condoned by the judiciary? Article 6 has put the court in a difficult situation. These are indeed testing times for the honorable judges of the apex court. Read more at: http://passivevoices.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/art

  2. Lawyers and courts are blocking a retired general to go to polls . They are blocking the democratic way and forcing them to adopt old ways

  3. Mr Writer have you read the latest survey

    34% want sharia
    32% want army (hhhh and what is the symbol of military govt)
    29% want Jamwhoriot

    I think chulo wich dob mar

  4. Pakistan media do not know how to use their powers there for the freedom that Musharraf had gave them they strongly abused and misused. Media can make or break people and they sure have done a bad job cause Pakistan is broken.

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