The last crust of power

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 13.04.08

“Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody
rather than for somebody” – Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960).

To vote against the President General (retired) Pervaiz Musharraf by defeating his political
allies remained the spirit on the election day of February 18, 2008. People cast votes
against the PML-Q to route out Musharraf: the votes were not necessarily in favour of the
PPP and the PML-N. In a way, the PML-Q came in the line of fire and suffered the loss.

‘The enemies of my enemies are my friends’ is the leaning attained by the PML-N to join
hands with the PPP to edge out the pro-Musharraf political camp. The apparent formula is
to have unity in diversity which is less a product of democracy and more an anti-Musharraf
feat.

As apparent, the PPP is struggling hard to balance its relationship with both the PML-N and
the MQM. The May-12 incident in 2007 is the bad blood between the PML-N and the MQM.
Perhaps, there are dissenting voices reverberating in the ranks of the PPP on its
reconciliation bid with the MQM. The litmus test of the PPP would be if the governors of all
the provinces were changed – including Ishrat ul Ibad, the Governor of Sind. The MQM will
require its own man there.

Accountability was the main slogan on which the structure of the Musharraf-led government
was erected. Gradually, the process of accountability degenerated to irrelevance when it
was transpired that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was playing a political role by
surreptitiously mustering up support for Musharraf. The PML-Q and allies was the product.
Moreover, in the pro-Musharraf era, Unity of Command (UoC) model took precedence to
the concept of peoples’ power: the Prime Minister. Centralization of power and that without
any accountability became victim to the judicial backlash on March 9, 2007. Thereafter, all
tentacles of power disappeared shrinking the UoC back to its folds. In its place, a true
democracy sprung up ordering release of the detained judges on the very first day of its
birth and later repealing the PEMRA Ordinance 2007 through the first constitutional
resolution.

Over eight years of autocratic rule – condoned by a rubberstamp parliament – has left
behind a legacy of price hike, hoarding, suicide bombing, and what not. The PPP and the
PML-N are bound to face multidimensional challenges once the issue of the restoration of
the judges is resolved. Signs are there that the PPP has been contemplating the ‘minus-
one’ formula. On the other side, the PML-N is not budging an inch from its stance and is
ready to risk its parliamentary position even to defy any formula that excludes the deposed
Chief Judge before or after his restoration. Whenever any such resolution is passed, the
response of the sitting judiciary (which took oath under the November-3 PCO) will be vital.
In a way, the PCO bi-furcated the judiciary, though into two unequal halves, thereby
actuating the judicial crisis. The crisis was bound to erupt because continual condemnation
of the submissive role of the judges to any military dictator was bound to provoke the bar
and the bench and hence was the response. By that measure, it is not actually the PML-N
which is in favour of the deposed judiciary, it is the thrust of the lawyers’ movement –
spanning one year – advocating for the final settlement of the role of the higher judiciary
vis-à-vis the military. For the lawyers, it is an opportunity to halt the process of judicial
decadence caused by the coercion imposed by the military dictators in the past. It is ‘now or
never’ time. The lawyers seem in no mood to squander the chance away.

Never before had the Pakistanis witnessed detention of the judges and the lawyers along
with their families at their homes. Depriving them from any outside contact, Musharraf put
on display the powers he had garnered under the UoC. Musharraf remained accountable to
none until his power base eroded: the pillars of the PML-Q fell in the elections. Only the
luckiest one escaped the Armageddon launched by the people of Pakistan through their
electoral onslaught. Humiliation of both Arbab Rahim and Dr Sher Afgan publicly is
condemnable but noteworthy is the statement of Musharraf which he uttered before leaving
for China that the Karachi incident on April 9, 2008 (when the five lawyers were burnt alive
in their chambers by the assailants) was the reaction to what happened to Rahim and
Afgan. No body knew this relationship except the presidency.

Wanting legitimacy remained the hallmark of the pro-Musharraf era spanning almost eight
years and was concluded finally on February 18, 2008. In the way, neither did any
institution nor could any human right slogan stand. The other day, the visit of the Chief of
Army, General Ashfaq Kiyani, to the Prime Minster House to brief both elected and
unelected politicians was not necessitated out of benevolence but of need. On that day, the
National Security Council (NSC) stood defunct. By wearing black bands on the arms by the
Ministers from the PML-N, during the oath taking ceremony at the presidency, reflected how
the battle of nerves had entered and been fought inside the presidency. Musharraf had to
submit to the agitation of those who remained imprisoned or got punished in the past eight
years. Musharraf was found helpless on the eve of the ceremony. He could not dictate his
terms in the presidency. That was how; democracy took its revenge; that was what the first
sign of helplessness of Musharraf publicly. By implications, the country is heading for a
change – a fundamental change, perhaps without the last man who is still standing.

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