A dignified exit

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 09.06.08

“You cannot argue with someone who denies the first principles” (Auctoritates Aristotelis).

The first principles a democratic state should let thrive are, inter alia, the rule of law and
freedom of expression. A person cannot be argued with who considers himself entitled to
violate law and confiscate freedom of others under one pretext or another. Members
belonging to this exclusive, indemnified club are found nowhere but in Pakistan.

Pakistan has been mired in a situation where on 3 November 2007 the then Chief of Army,
General Pervez Musharraf, replaced the then bench of the Supreme Court to seek
approval of his presidential candidature – which was against the relevant provisions of
Constitution of 1973. It happened after the then National Assembly was made elect him and
the then Supreme Court was coerced to endorse the election. The candidature writ petition
of Justice (retd) Wajeeh ud deen put a spoke in the wheel of Musharraf’s candidature.
Before the Court could decide the obvious, it was deposed forcefully and its members who
refused to take oath under the newly proclaimed PCO were detained at their houses. Not
just that but new provisions were incorporated into the Constitution to make Musharraf’s
candidature eligible followed by approval of the same by the post-Nov 3 Supreme Court.
Only this is enough to decipher that Musharraf did not qualify for the Presidential position
and that the then Assembly performed an unlawful act: an abetment in the felony against
the Constitution. One player of the crime, the politicians, were rejected by the voters on 18
February 2008; however, the second player, Musharraf, is still hanging on to power as the
President of Pakistan and has been talking to the media as on 7 June 2008.

On that fateful day, Musharraf invited a group of selected journalists and conveyed them
that he wanted reconciliation, as the NRO was also rooted in ‘give and take’ formula, and
that he was ready to work with the Prime Minister (PM) – only. By so saying, Musharraf
extended a hand of friendship towards the PPP in exchange for the privileges the leaders of
the PPP have availed themselves of the NRO. Nay, Musharraf tried to make the PPP realize
his blessing, the NRO, and asked for the reciprocity.

By implications, on June 7, Musharraf impelled the PPP and its workers to control – and
quell – the long march of the lawyers, which would be set off on 10 June 2008, otherwise
they should be ready for the consequences: dissolution of assemblies through invocation of
58-2b. The excuse Musharraf has clearly spelled out is the economic crisis spanning the
past three months.

At the meeting, Musharraf asserted one point categorically: he was the constitutional
President. Having declared that, Musharraf went on saying that he could be removed by
Parliament through the constitutional means; that is, through the 2/3rd majority voting.
Musharraf also avowed that he did not expel the judges of the then Supreme Court but they
were excluded for not taking oath under the November 2007 PCO. In a way, Musharraf has
affirmed that neither he nor the incumbent Supreme Court may be removed through any
means other than the 2/3rd majority voting. Secondly, Musharraf has linked his existence
with the survival of the incumbent Supreme Court. Thirdly, Musharraf has delivered an
implied message that in case of removal of the existing judges of the Supreme Court
through the lawyer’s movement – the potential of which Musharraf understands now fully –
he will deem that act unconstitutional and will be left with no choice but to suspend the
assemblies.

Just a few days ago, Musharraf’s invitation to the PM to see him at the presidency was not
duly regarded, as Asif Ali Zardari had constrained the PM from meeting Musharraf. This
may be cited as a reason on the part of Musharraf for calling the June 7 gathering of the
journalists and conveying to Zardari in a decent language what he wanted to communicate
through the PM. Response of Zardari to Musharraf’s objection on the expected clipping of
his wings through a constitutional amendment was both abrupt and bitter: how can
Parliament be considered supreme if it has to ask the President what powers he would like
to retain? That is why; it seems that Musharraf has been experiencing an undeclared
boycott by the PPP as well and that the PPP has left Musharraf on his own. Moreover, it
also seems that the lawyers have been given a ‘go-ahead signal’ by the ruling political
parties to try their muscles if these could bring a change, as it has become obvious that the
consequences of a resolution or an executive order to restore the pre-Nov 3 judiciary will
be invocation of 58-2b by Musharraf, despite the fact that he has declared himself a stable
person publicly.

The situation indicates that the days after 10 June 2008 are going to be crucial. Even if the
lawyers’ movement does not lay siege to the Supreme Court, the importunate presence of
the lawyers in and around Islamabad will put pressure on Musharraf to respond – if not quit.
Secondly, the state of affairs will be highlighted in the international media which will portray
it as a revolution. The foreign countries who have championed the cause of promoting
democracy in the Islamic countries may not find it convenient to come openly for Musharraf.
The only rescue offered to Musharraf will be from the military. Nevertheless, the military
may not react on Musharraf’s behalf: Musharrf is on his own.

Musharraf has learnt economics, as obvious on June 7; he should have also learnt law. The
point is simple: an illegal order is simply void in the eyes of law and does not need to be
reversed through any law making. Musharraf denied the first principles of democracy
leaving thereby no chance of following the last principles of democracy, one of which is
nothing but a dignified exit. Now onward, Musharraf is on his own.

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