Genesis of the long march

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 01.07.08

“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be
thoroughly finished yields the true glory” – Francis Drake (1540-1596).

The true glory of the great matter – restoration of the pre-November 3, 2007, judiciary – is
yet to come. Nevertheless, the lawyers’ movement – the movement for restoration of the
judiciary – has touched the major milestones. While the general awareness to the cause
was one of the initial goalposts, the recently concluded long march is the latest in the series
of achievements. Never before has Pakistan witnessed such a movement in which the
middle class of the country committed itself to a cause. It is like re-birth of Pakistan.

On 12 October 1999, General Pervaiz Musharraf was greeted by the middle class of
Pakistan considering him one of its members and the one who revolted against the ruling
upper class representing both feudal and industrial components. The NAB played almost
the same role Saif ur Rehman had been playing except that the NAB created a new team of
the turncoats to offer a political lease to Musharraf. At the accountability front, no doubt the
dimension of the NAB was broader than that of what performed by Saif. Later on, the
political role of the NAB overwhelmed its accountability role thereby losing respect and awe
in the sight of the people.

In a way, arrival of Musharraf was articulated in terms of the class struggle affecting
Pakistan. That is why; for initial several years, the middle class acted as a backbone to
Musharraf who also used to refer to it frequently as a silent majority supporting him. Indeed,
this was the case. On 13 March 2007, a reaction of the middle class against Musharraf
surfaced to the acts he committed on 9 March 2007 by making a frustrated attempt to force
the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, to resign on the charges of corruption and what not. In
its wake emerged a reaction of the middle class against Musharraf. It can be said that from
within the middle class supporting Musharraf, a section of the class revolted against him
and which now has been asking for his departure from the scene. The dissident section of
the middle class consisted mainly of lawyers but soon took in other sections of the class.
The recently concluded long march is the result. In a way, after October 1999 the middle
class passively accepted Musharraf but after March 2007 it actively rejected him. Secondly,
the lawyers’ movement has laid the foundation of trans-provincial unity at the middle class
level outshining the unity on the basis of religion or on the slogan of roti, kapra aur makan.
Thirdly, the educated section of the country was launching the movement understanding
fully its cause and effect.

The thrust of the front created by the movement is being borne by a person, Pervaiz
Musharraf, the President General, who raised the watchword of Pakistan First. Now, he is
the last man standing, nay surviving, out of the previous lot. February 18, 2008, inverted
the King’s fort. The MQM escaped because of its ethnic tinge. Even Maulana Fazal ur
Rehman of the JUI was rendered irrelevant. Pakistan is first but Constitution is sacred. No
one can claim Pakistan First by desecrating the constitution is the message of the lawyers’
movement.

Had the NRO not been the impediment, the judges would have been restored. The sit-in
propagated by Ali Ahmed Kurd could not be materialized perhaps because of the political
compulsions of the sitting government which is facing the threat of invocation of 58-2b by
Musharraf. Whether or not Musharraf is impeached for his wrongdoings – which are now
countable and mentionable by all and sundry – the names of his advisors, both political and
legal, will also be mentioned. In fact, they should also be held accountable, as they used to
give Musharraf a wrong piece of advice.

It was the demand for provision of the level playing field that gave birth to the NRO and
paved the way for the entry of the late Benazir Bhutto into the electoral arena. To balance
the equation, Musharraf had to concede to the arrival of Nawaz Sharif, after deporting him
once. It was one (uncalled for) statement of Benazir against the Jamia Hafsa that
overturned the situation and made her surrender life. In a way, she came in the line of fire –
the fire that was fanned by Musharraf.

The long march brought the sound bites of the slogans of the movement – go Musharraf go
– to bite at the door of the president house. What a tragedy! The house of the originator of
Pakistan First was protected by the paramilitary troops. That is called ‘in the protective
custody’ – the term misused for detaining the Chief Justice at his house for constraining him
from holding his office. The term also used to indicate detention of the elected prime
ministers of Pakistan by the famous triple-one brigade. The tables had been turned on
Musharraf who became a prisoner in his own house, the presidential camp office.

In November 2007, a forced detention of the Chief Justice was required for a forceful entry
of Musharraf to the presidency. The Chief Justice was detained so that Musharraf could
walk free. The constitution was just a collection of the printed papers and not a shackle to
any dictator was what the message delivered by Musharraf. Perhaps, General Zia ul Haq
could hear that in his grave: some one in the name of Musharraf assumed the status of his
progeny. Conceivably, first time since 1999, Musharraf forgot to say Pakistan First on
November 3, 2007 – one of the darkest days in the history of Pakistan when one military
dictator imposed second martial law during his tenure. This time, Pakistan was not first. The
constitution should be first is the genesis of the long march the ultimate goal, the
supremacy of the constitution, of which is yet to be achieved.

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