Musharraf on his own

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 11.08.08

It was in Karachi on July 4, 2008, at a gathering of businessmen, when the President
General (retired) Pervaiz Musharraf, who was the chief guest, came out of his four months
self-imposed silence – which he called a well thought-out strategy somehow – and launched
a frontal attack on the incumbent government for the prevalent economic crisis and political
uncertainty. His argument was that during his governance Pakistan was strong politically
and economically but the ‘derailment’ of his rule through February 18 elections catapulted
the country towards the politico-economic crises. Musharraf also tried to convey his source
of strength by saying that he had spent 45 years in army and that the army would not
abandon him.

In the wake of the speech, several ‘relics of the past’ including Mushahid Hussain, Pervaiz
Illahi, Shujaat Hussain, and Sheikh Rashid resurfaced on the political horizon to criticize the
nascent government for its performance in the first hundred days. The relics also criticised
the Prime Minister Yosuf Raza Gillani on his speeches in the US and the notification of
subordinating the ISI to the Ministry of Interior. Collectively speaking, the vociferous attacks
were like a charge sheet in the making. The pretence was inflation and the reliance was on
the role of army to interfere at the behest of Musharraf.

Surely, the trend was bound to raise alarm bells in the government (and the coalition)
circles and it did appositely. Before General Musharraf could fully re-discover his lost glory
and before his coterie could completely rejuvenate their lost vigour, Nawaz Sharif
recognized the danger stalking the nascent government and reacted promptly by reminding
the presidency of its limits: Nawaz expressed publicly his firm resolve to forestall any move
of the presidency to oust the central government under any pretext.

Against that background, on August 5, 2008, when Nawaz entered into negotiations with
Asif Ali Zardari on the future of the judges’ issue, Asif might have expressed his
reservations over restoration of the judges first and removal of Musharraf later. Asif might
have been apprehensive of the role of 58-2b if the judges were restored first, as restoration
of the judges first could lead to a conflict between the de facto and the de jure benches of
the Supreme Court thereby providing a chance to Musharraf to dissolve the assemblies
and impose emergency, if not the Martial Law through the chief of army. Resultantly, the flip
side of the coin was agreed: removal of Musharraf first and restoration of the judges later.
Retrospectively, though a few months ago, Zardari had spoken of impeachment of
Musharraf, it can be said that it was Musharraf who invited the coalition to discard hesitation
and deal with him first: Musharraf showed the red rug to the bull of the coalition.

But before Musharraf, it was the US Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Boucher, a
frequent visitor to Pakistan, who abandoned the usual diplomatic propriety by advising the
incumbent government to focus on the economy and terrorism rather than Musharraf. In
this statement, America was with Musharraf and the latter had just to keep Army on his side
(and the message should have been aired) as attempted by Musharraf in Karachi. During
the question-answer session of the press conference at the occasion of making a joint
declaration on August 7, 2008, both Nawaz and Zardari ruled out any possibility of seeking
a piece of advice from either America or Army. Zardari said that democracy did not ask, it
asserted; Nawaz said it would be a joke to seek permission from either America or Army for
impeachment of Musharraf. In this way, the connection Musharraf had been trying to
establish to brace himself was severed when impeachment declaration – as a resolve of the
coalition – was made public.

Hitherto, the situation clears two points: first, America had been supporting a military
dictator at the cost of democracy in Pakistan and secondly, the military dictator, General
Musharraf had still been relying on his parent institution for perpetuation of his rule. The
extension of these points is that in such a situation a battalion of sycophant politicians
gather under the umbrella of the military dictator to fortify his position in the name of
pseudo-democracy and fetch benefits of the situation to become the frontline politicians.
The past eight years of Musharraf depict this picture aptly. With the help of America and
the toady politicians, Musharraf had been prevailing over all his mistakes and blunders.
Finally, it was March 9, 2007, which inverted the state of affairs by exposing weaknesses of
Musharraf and by putting Musharraf’s strength to the backburner. Musharraf tried his best,
though through his follies, to make a come back but all went in vain.

It seems that the ‘impeachment first’ strategy of the coalition partners took the Musharraf
camp by surprise. Musharraf was hiding behind the de facto bench of the Supreme Court.
Now, Musharraf has to rely on the same bench to avert his humiliating departure. There is
no constitutional provision enjoining upon the Supreme Court to interfere in the
proceedings or with the result of the impeachment but it is a safe guess that Musharraf will
opt for knocking at the doors of the Court to interpret the charge sheet filed against him in
Parliament. Further, it seems that 58-2b is no more an option available for Musharraf, as
the army is in no mood to face wrath of the populace by becoming a party to dissolution of
Parliament and hold another round of general elections. The contemporary situation
indicates that Musharraf was poor in reading it and gathered for himself the problems the
solutions of which cannot come from America or Army. Musharraf has been left on his own.

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