The Nawaz factor

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 30.05.08

The weak have one weapon: the errors of those who think they are strong – Georges
Bidault (1899-1983).

In politics, even small errors are identified and exploited by one’s opponents. If, however,
one commits blunders, an adversary needs to be deaf and dumb to overlook that and leave
them unexploited. Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan, was not
ignorant of the mistakes after mistakes being done by the President General Pervaiz
Musharraf. The more errors Musharraf did the more political space Nawaz reclaimed.
Today, Nawaz is dictating his terms and Musharraf is being pushed to the exit door: what
kind of door, rear or front, should be used to quit is to be decided by Musharraf; the rear
door personifies humiliation while the front door epitomizes honour.

Quintessentially, it was the Kargil misadventure that brought the then Chief of Army
General Musharraf in and threw the PM Nawaz out. In principle and perhaps in law too, it
was the duty of Musharraf to obtain a written approval of Nawaz to launch the Kargil
offensive. Musharraf did not do that. On October 12, 1999, Musharraf ousted Nawaz. The
heavy mandate of Nawaz was marginalized and the light mandate of accountability, along
with other points of the seven-point agenda of Musharraf, was introduced as a justification
for the coup.

Major General (retd) Ehtisham Zameer, who was then the head of the internal wing of the
ISI, has at least confessed on February 26, 2008, that his organization performed the pre-
poll rigging, besides the post-poll arrangements, and that these steps were
unconstitutional. By extension, formation of the combination of the PML-Q and the PPP-
Patriot was the replica of the former Islami Jamhori Ittehad (IJT) formed in 1988. The IJT
was an electoral alliance of the Pakistan Muslim League and the Jamat-i-Islami to counter
the political power of the Pakistan Peoples Party, as the IJT later on did in 1990 elections.
Lt. General Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief, took credit for creation of the IJT.

In the post-1999 era, a new system was introduced in Pakistan. That is, under a de facto
martial law, a Parliament was formed, through rigged elections. The amalgam of the PML-Q
and the PPP-Patriot was brought forward coupled with the MMA and the MQM to thrive
under the umbrella of a serving military general, who also got hold of the seat of the
president. This happened because of the success of the IJT experience in the past. Only
this aspect is enough to prove that the military thought that the era of blunt martial laws and
persistence of the same was over. In other words, Musharraf realized that he could not be
General Zia ul Haq to keep the elections pending on his own will, as the international
environment was pro-democratic. Nevertheless, Musharraf could not afford Parliament that
could edge him out. Further, he required the post of the president to visit foreign countries
to meet their heads of state.

In a way, Musharraf’s act of subversion of the Constitution was indemnified through the
17th Constitutional Amendment which was the product of the rigged elections. Once it
happened swiftly and without much effort, Musharraf might have started thinking of the
replica of the same in the wake of the 2008 elections. Unfortunately, the Musharraf camp
met its waterloo on 18 February and degenerated into its actual position. The military had
to stand neutral because of the growing hatred against it in the society. The resolve of the
ex-service military men to join the lawyer’s movement is not a product of their democratic
urge but to appease the would-be suicide bombers who have made even the military
cantonments insecure.

Retrospectively, Musharraf’s act of not doffing his uniform on December 31, 2004, was a
faux pas. He exposed himself to the criticism internationally. The same act undermined his
moral standing at the national level. From 2005 to 2008, one can find several decisions
which Musharraf took arbitrarily ranging from killing of Akbar Bugti in 2006 to assault on
Jamia Hafsa in 2007. The office of the Prime Minister (PM), Shaukat Aziz, could not stand in
Musharraf’s way, as the PM was himself neither a politician nor a representative of the
people; he was also a product of the contrived elections. Musharraf even could not spare
himself and got associated with the events of May 12 (2007) happened in Karachi.

Following the habit of taking arbitrary decisions, when Musharraf tried to remove the Chief
Justice, Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, he met with severe resistance from the bench and the
bar. By sending the judicial reference against the Chief Judge, Shaukat wanted to equal the
score on account of humiliation he had faced in the Supreme Court on the privatization of
the Pakistan Steel Mill case, as Lt. General (retd) Abdul Qayyum has just spoken about
that. By 2007, the legal and moral authority of Musharraf had also come under question.
The events subsequent to 9 March 2007 dashed expectations of both Shaukat and
Musharraf and made them vulnerable to accountability more than ever before.

On 3 November 2007, by imposing another martial law, in the name of emergency,
Musharraf made a last ditch effort to get protected in the seat of the President. The post-
2008 elections time isolated him further. Now, tables have been turned on him. His slogan
of accountability is firing back. All mistakes of Musharraf are in the open. Nawaz is on the
counter-offensive; he is demanding impeachment of Musharraf. It is not the shrewdness of
Nawaz, or of Asif Ali Zardari for that matter, but the follies of Musharraf that are shackling
him as the time goes by.

The moral of the story is that not only the era of blunt martial laws (as of Zia’s) is over but
also the time of introducing a de facto martial law (as of Musharraf’s) has gone. Now, one
has to content with democracy in whatever forms it exists in Pakistan.

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