Budding political dynamics

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 25.06.08

“They also serve who only stand and wait” – John Milton (1608 – 1674)

After passage of the Finance Bill by National Assembly, it is now crystal clear that the
superior judiciary emerged after 3 November 2007 is destined to stay, at least because of
the NRO compulsions. The connotation that the increased number of judges to 29 may
mean inclusion of the judges other than the PCO judges is secondary.

The touted strategy of the PPP is to retain the PCO judges but expel the proponent of the
PCO, the President General Pervaiz Musharraf. On the other hand, Musharraf is claiming
that he can be removed only by impeachment through Parliament thereby means that
Musharraf knows he is on the verge of exclusion but wants to legalize his tenure in the
presidency: of course, only a legitimate president can be impeached.

What about the oft-repeated statements of Asif Ali Zardari calling Musharraf publicly an
unconstitutional president? Nevertheless, hope for Musharraf is that, at the end of any such
statement, Zardari calls Musharraf a ‘reality’ bequeathed on the present by the past. How
Zardari will do away with the reality is the question Nawaz Sharif has been desperately
looking for.

Reneging on the Bhurban declaration is bound to produce the same effects for Zardari
what Musharraf faced in the post-December 31, 2004, era by dishonouring his words
uttered publicly on doffing his uniform. The PPP is still passing through the post-election-
win euphoria. The moment the phase is over, Zardari may face problems of credibility of his
words and commitments. Nonetheless, it seems that the problem of credibility has started
appearing which has potential to create an intra-party wedge.

Looking from another angle, the NRO is a problem of Zardari and not of the other
politicians of the PPP. In the wake of retracting from the Bhurban declaration, the way the
popularity graph of Zardari is taking a plunge, many leaders of the PPP may think of
distancing themselves from Zardari and his policies regarding restoration of the pre-
November 3, 2007, judiciary. That distancing may initially be called an intra-party rift
leading to a divide.

In a way, on the one hand, the NRO is making Zardari, the co-chairperson, to drag the PPP
along with him to legalize the PCO judges; on the other hand, the NRO is dissuading
several of the PPP politicians from openly supporting Zardari on the PCO judges. For
Zardari, the compulsion is his indemnity; for several PPP politicians, however, the constraint
is the plummeting reputation grid. That is why; it seems that the decisive point is fast
approaching not only for the intra-PPP relations but also for the inter-party relationship
between the PPP and the PML-N.

For restoration of the deposed judges, Zardari favours the course of the constitutional
amendment which is not seconded by Nawaz. The latter follows the stance of the lawyers
that the restoration through the amendment will legalize November-3 martial law of
Musharraf. So, the point is not only just restoration of the judges but also of the
constitutional status of Musharraf. It seems that by calling Musharraf a reality – and even a
relic of the past – Zardari intends to offer a constitutional cover to Musharraf’s Nov-3 acts to
suggest him a safe passage to quit the post if the situation demands so.

As obvious, Zardari is buying time to bring the deposed judges under pressure to
compromise on certain terms. Minus-one formula may be one of them. On the other hand,
Zardari has kept Nawaz engaged by keeping the option open for the PML-N ministers to join
the ministries they abandoned on May 12, 2008, in protest to violation of the Bhurban
declaration. In a way, Zardari is waiting for the time when the relationship between the PML-
N and the lawyers’ movement come under strain. In due course of time, Nawaz has to face
international pressure to back off from his stance. Further, the delay is to let the lawyers
commit some mistake to be exploited as an excuse to demean their movement.

The lawyers’ movement is also being supported by All Parties Democratic Alliance (APDM).
To the support offered by the APDM, the lawyers echo their apprehension, as Justice
(retired) Wajeehud din says: we will not let the lawyer’s movement be hijacked by any
political party. The situation shows that there is also a split between the lawyers’ movement
and the politicians supporting the cause of the restoration of the judges. Further, it is
because of the same lack of confidence in the APDM owing to which politicians like
Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Imran Khan, and Qazi Hussain Ahmed have been sidelined, as
on the occasion of the recently concluded long march.

The situation raises a question whether or not the lawyers’ movement has potential to
continue on its own without an active support from the politicians who also share the
objectives of the movement? One can argue that the reason for disunity between the
lawyers and the like-minded politicians is to keep the movement depoliticized. Another one
can argue that the reason for disunity is to earn the credit of success at the end.
Nevertheless, it is yet to be gauged to what extent the sacrifice of the leaders of the APDM
on not contesting the general elections will yield fruit.

The policy of Nawaz seems to be to side with Zardari to keep Parliament strengthened but
at the same time support the lawyers’ movement to restore the deposed judges. Zardari
has already warned Nawaz of the possibility of invocation of 58-2b by Musharraf in case
Nawaz practically helped the lawyers oust the sitting bench of the superior judiciary or lay
siege to the presidency to eject Musharraf, as the existence of Musharraf and the PCO
judges is interdependent and intertwined. Nevertheless, it seems that time is fast
approaching when Nawaz has to choose between either of the options: support Zardari or
the lawyers’ movement.

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