Yearnings for renaissance

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 25.05.08

To burn dacoits alive in Karachi and a replica of the same incident in Lahore are the
symptoms of desperation that visit the path of renaissance (Here the concept renaissance
is meant for the regeneration of the political will and reincarnation of the constitutional
spirit). The whole society is awake and out to effect a change. Perhaps, first time in the
history of Pakistan, the forces of status quo are shrinking to their size, though fighting
bitterly a rear-guard battle to fend off the offensive thrust of the agents of change. Pakistan
of 2008 is a real battleground where the agents of change are yearning for the politico-
constitutional renaissance – if not the revolution by its name.

If people’s longing for renaissance can be couched in words, Asif Ali Zardari has done that
a few days ago in his interview to the Press Trust of India: the President General Musharraf
is a relic of the past, unacceptable to the people in general, and has been standing
between the people and democracy. In other words, Zardari declared Musharraf an
impediment sabotaging the democratic will of the people. This statement of Zardari is in
contrast to the statements of Musharraf that, despite wearing the military uniform, he had
bestowed true democracy on the country.

By airing such an anti-establishment message vociferously, Zardari has brought himself
back into the folds of the people’s will which was translated on February 18, 2008, into an
exemplary defeat of the pro-Musharraf political parties like the PML-Q. In other words,
before Zardari could become an integral part of the forces of status quo, he swung to the
camp of the agents of change. By so doing, Zardari avoided making the PPP the B-team of
the Musharraf camp. The fate of the PML-Q was a model in this regard. Nevertheless, it can
be said that in order to seek indemnity through the NRO, Zardari sided with the forces of
status quo; the moment he achieved his objective, he retracted himself to his original.
Ingenuity, indeed!

Zardari’s neo-stance has offered a new lease of life to the coalition of the PPP and the PML-
N, besides the lawyer’s movement. From both the PML-N and the lawyer’s movement,
Zardari would now be desirous of extension of their unflinching support to the PCO judges
for their retention – at least, for the NRO purposes – with or with the forthcoming
Constitutional Amendment. Nawaz softened his stance on the PCO judges – by offering to
retain them as ad hoc judges – during the recently held Dubai and London talks with
Zardari. The stance of the lawyer’s movement is still obdurate in this regard: the PCO
judges are a product of an illegal act, hence unlawful. The forthcoming Amendment may
offer a solution to that effect.

The services rendered to Zardari by the NRO have made the Musharraf camp obsolete;
Musharraf is bound to be quarantined now onward. Before that, the departure of the
Attorney General, Malik Qayyum, from the official post can be foreseen happening in a
couple of days; Qayyum has also outlived his utility. The consequent panic ravaging the
Musharraf camp is quite natural and understandable.

The frustrations of Nawaz Sharif over the delaying tactics of Zardari, in the wake of
Bhurban, Dubai, and London talks, are decipherable. Retrospectively, Zardari might not
have revealed his true intentions to Nawaz that one day he would seek divorce from the
Musharraf camp. Nonetheless, the latent period between commitment of Zardari and his
action offered the Musharraf camp an unexpected leeway to launch an offensive to reclaim
the lost political ground by employing the political make-and-break tactics. All efforts were
done to make the PML-Q acceptable to the PPP by showing willingness of the former to hog
the place of the PML-N both in Punjab and the centre. Hamid Nasir Chatta fell short of
becoming a pawn in that great game when he failed to replace Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain
from the position of the President of the PML-Q. In other words, when Musharraf could not
actuate a change within the ranks of the party propped up by him in his heyday, his seems
a sheer fallacy to outmanoeuvre the PML-N in the political arena. Nevertheless, all
expectations of Musharraf hinged on Zardari to ditch Nawaz sooner rather than later. Now,
these strings of hopes have also been dashed to the ground when Zardari has declared
Musharraf a liability on the system – instead of an asset (as was being claimed by the
Musharraf camp in the past). Further, Zardari has also questioned the legal status of
Musharraf as a President. Zardari has already declared the Nov-3 acts of Musharraf

In fact, now Musharraf has been left to adopt either of the two honourable, nay desperate,
choices: slap 58-2b on National Assembly or disappear in the dark after leaving a
resignation at the desk. Instead, if Musharraf intends to stay, his would be a humiliating
tenure, as his powers are about to be slashed to make him a true figure head. Above all,
Musharraf’s earnest desire to be considered a legal and constitutional President of
Pakistan is at stake.

Some analysts can argue that the emerging situation now portends a political crisis due to
the likelihood of application of 58-2b – the time-tested weapon to debase the democratic
will of the people. In case the article in invoked, there may be a large gathering of the
people of all hues on the roads to give vent to their pent up feelings. People are now
poised to respond to the frustration that is jeopardizing their capacity to pull themselves out
of the mire they are caught in for the past sixty years.

Now, what Pakistanis are looking for is a studious attention to the basic principles of
democracy that revolves around observance of the rule of law and respect for the
Constitution. Both Zardari and Nawaz are positioned to materialize that craving, the earlier
the better.

Back to columns in 2008