The false positive political calm

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 13.09.08

To neutralize the pro-Zalmay Khalilzad effect, Hamid Karzai was invited to attend the oath-
taking ceremony of the President, Asif Ali Zardari. That is how; the Zardari camp is vigilant
to undo the negatives of the Zardari’s statements and actions. A clear message has been
conveyed that the newly elected President of Pakistan endorses Hamid Karzai working as
the President of Afghanistan and does not second aspirations, if any, of Zalmay Khalilzad,
an ambassador of the US to the UN, to become the president of Afghanistan.  

In the past, Zardari said to an Indian newspaper that the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
was also responsible for occurrence of the Kargil debacle, but later on the Zardari camp
contended that Zardari had been misquoted. Similarly, Zardari said to a British daily that the
aid to Pakistan in the name of war on terror had been siphoned off by the then Chief of
Army, General Pervaiz Musharraf. Later on, the Zardari camp declared the statement a
misconstrued version of what Zardari actually had uttered.

Mistakes do happen not to make the situation worse but to learn how not to commit them
again. Nevertheless, one such mistake – in its effect – has still been lurking around, despite
the fact that Zardari has personally apologized to Nawaz on that. The written pledge
between Zardari and Nawaz was the post-impeachment unconditional restoration of the
dysfunctional judges to their position as they were on November 2, 2007. That is yet to take
place.

The matter is not just restoration of the judges but an attendant issue: whether the
November 3 (2007) act of the then Chief of Army, General Musharraf, was constitutional? In
this regard, it seems that the incumbent National Assembly stand divided. Though implicit at
the moment, the locus standii of the political parties on either side of the divide vividly
reflects the contours of the future politics in Pakistan. Nevertheless, a question springs up:
will the PPP be able to redesign the edges of the contours in its favour?

The PML-N has decided to sit in the opposition benches. The PML-N has also conveyed
the PPP, the leading party in the ruling coalition, that it would offer only a conditional
support to the matters propping up for debate. The implied message is clear: sitting in the
opposition benches, the PML-N will not lend an unconditional support to the proposed
amendments in the Constitution being envisaged by the PPP. In other words, the acts done
by General Musharraf on November 3, 2007, will not be indemnified through a constitutional
amendment. Now, when Zardari has said in the press conference held in the post-oath
taking ceremony that the question of indemnification of General Musharraf would be dealt
in the Parliament, the exact meaning of the statement is yet to be known.

It seems that the PML-N is under the impression that the PPP is surreptitiously supporting
Musharraf and his past – unconstitutional – deeds. In this regard, the real test of the PPP is
going to be how to disengage itself from the impression of being Musharraf’s saviour. But
the accompanying things are convoluted. Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar took oath in the post-
November 2 (2007) scenario to become the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan and
has now administered oath to the President, Asif Ali Zardari, who has been elected through
the due constitutional process. A few more judges have also taken oath afresh. Taking oath
anew means these judges have acknowledged their re-employment and in other words
termination of their services on November 3, 2007. That is why; Farooq Naek, the Federal
Minister of Law, is saying that the deposed (and not dysfunctional) judge of the Supreme
Court, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has to become a judge first: Justice Iftikhar has
to take oath afresh to get re-employed. The issue of his seniority to become chief justice
will come later. But the oath has to be administered by Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar to Justice
Iftikhar Chaudhry. The moment it happens the issue of seniority is settled: the latter is junior
to the former. But then the question would be: was the act of November 3 (2007) a
constitutional one? The more time passes, the more tortuous the issue becomes.

The lawyers’ movement is experiencing indolence. The pro-judiciary APDM is almost inert.
The NAB seems to have been activated to engage the Sharif brothers by reopening the
pending corruption cases. In a way, the forces supportive of the cause of the dysfunctional
judiciary are being marginalized. Further, in order to silence the PML-N, APDM and the
lawyers’ movement, another prong of the PPP strategy may be to convince Justice Iftikhar
Chaudhry to either forget the unconditional restoration or translate the ensuing
despondency into tendering formal resignation. It seems that the PPP is hopeful of
occurrence of the resignation episode in the ‘broader national interests’ sooner rather than
later. Sometimes, it seems that reluctance of the PPP to restore Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is
because of the underhand deal – call it the backdoor diplomacy – that might have taken
place with the pro-Musharraf forces to prevaricate impeachment: if Musharraf was to go,
Justice Iftikhar would also go. It was necessarily a minus-two formula the half part of which is
yet to take effect.

The last fastness of the pro-judiciary stance is Punjab. A respite has been taken by making
Salman Taseer observe the verbal lull. Nevertheless, the furtive efforts are underway to
embrace the PML-Q into the folds of the PPP in Punjab by offering the PML-Q the seat of
the Chief Minister in reward. The NAB has fixed next date of hearing of the Sharif’s cases in
October. It means that Salman has one month to inveigle the PML-Q before disqualification
of the Sharif brothers is announced. In the meantime, Farooq Naek has to secure
resignation of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Any one job out of these two holds potential to
solve the problems being faced by the PPP.

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