Musharraf: commandoing his visit to Europe

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 02.02.08

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all – William Shakespeare.

The West must not expect democracy of its version to be practised in Pakistan was what
the President General retired Pervaiz Musharraf reiterated during his recent visit to Europe
including the UK. The West is still flabbergasted at the statements and has been
deciphering the salient features of the neo-version of democracy being introduced by
making about 60 judges of the Higher and Superior Judiciary deposed and detained. Never
before in the history of Pakistan had such a state of affairs passed, perhaps never in the
world. During the visit, Musharraf remained focused on presenting his case, at state’s
expense, to quieten his own conscience, nay smothering his own guilt.

Hardly have the Pakistanis left with any relevance to offer legitimacy to the deeds of the
presidency. Gone are the days when referendums used to be held. The farcical practice of
such instruments of legitimacy has diminished the state-citizen relationship. Credibility gap
has crept in consequently rendering these practices and their results immaterial. A general
apathy has ensued. Any claim made by the government is sifted through to find truth. The
claim of economic management is one such example. Inflation is hitting society hard, yet the
chief economic manager has left the country, perhaps, for ever, on being accountable to
none. Consumerism is becoming bane of society. The energy sector is bearing the brunt.
Poverty line is spiralling up. Any upcoming government will reap the harvest of discontent of
the poor as the prices are bound to soar.

For the President, appeasement of the West is of prime importance. For the Pakistani
populace the state machinery is enough to keep them engaged and compliant: their opinion
does not matter further. Voices of agitation echoing from the protests of lawyers are falling
on the deaf ears of the powers that be. Had there been no visit to Europe, the
transmissions of Geo TV would not have got a chance to beam in the air of Pakistan. One
thing is conditional on the other.

With commemoration of ‘Iftikhar’s day’ on January 31, three months of detention of the
deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan has been completed. No written order exists to validate
detention. The Constitution provides only 90 days detention possibility to save the public
life and property (if any such threat exists) unless reviewed by a judicial board. To that
reference, the President can argue that the West should not expect constitutionalism from
him that is practised in their countries. For Pakistan, principles are unique perhaps
Pakistan specific. The Chief of Army who held the reins of power on October 12, 1999, to
hold the corrupt politician accountable and bring order to the public life has been trying to
explain his position in the year 2008 to the West as to how he is right and others are wrong.
He even went on saying that there was no harm in giving thrashing to the journalist who
asked tricky questions – the President was weary of embarrassment in public. The
President was of the view that the journalists should refrain from asking the questions the
answers of which had potential to unravel truth. Of course, truth is the ultimate casualty in
Pakistan.

Truth is that the deposed Chief Justice had taken a firm line on misdemeanours of the
government with people. He used to hold the executive accountable for its wrongdoings
ranging from illegal confinement, torture, and abuse. Now, the Chief Justice has been called
‘corrupt and inept’ by the President at formal gatherings in Europe. A small booklet is said
to have been issued by the presidency maligning the Chief Justice and slandering his
reputation.

Before the Supreme Court could rule on the validity of the presidency of the then General
Musharraf, the whole court was dismissed. The disguise to that ouster was that the judiciary
was working cross-purposes to the executive hindering the efforts of the government on
war on terror. For how long the phrase ‘war on terror’ will be abused to serve one’s own
purposes is still a question unanswered. Nevertheless, the figure of 60 defiant judges is a
significant one to do away with. The whole civil society is standing by them. The name of
Aitzaz Ahsan has come out of the confines of one particular political party. His has become
another brand name for resistance to an undemocratic system. Aitzaz is symbolizing the
rule of law and constitutionalism. People are still waiting for his judicial bus to run on the
roads of Pakistan.

The debate ‘did he fall or was he pushed’ has come out of drawing rooms to public. An
association of the retired military men is vocal on the anti-military sentiment sweeping the
society. The incumbent Chief of Army is bent on taking the army out of the political domain
but with grace. That pavement can only be offered by the retired military men by
denouncing acts of Musharraf and reviving pro-army spirit in the society. They are active to
play a role of moderator between the army and the society – excluding Musharraf from the
equation. An agreed conclusion is being drawn: henceforth, the military should not fall into
the abyss of politics even if it is pushed. Indeed, it is easier to fall but it is difficult to come
out. Politics is a job of politicians has been concluded by the ex-service men.

Generally speaking, it seems that the society is arriving at a conclusion as to how Pakistan
should run its affairs and who should do what: Democracy should be the system to continue
uninterrupted under the watchdog roles of an independent judiciary and a free media while
the military should stay in barracks and do vigil of the borders. If only the President
Musharraf could know this conclusion! It will save his time and energies being squandered
to defend his position by commandoing his visits abroad by putting all the Pakistanis living
there in embarrassing position.  

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