Clean and quick justice

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 17.12.04

It is said that speculations are a part of politics. However, the situation turns interesting
when politics is used to create and manipulate speculations to one’s interests. The latter is
true for the contemporary political affairs of Pakistan.

The first spate of speculations commenced when the President General Musharraf made a
phone call to Sharif brothers to condole on the sad demise of their father, Mr. Sharif. The
second wave of speculations began when Nawaz Sharif made a phone call to Benazir
Bhutto to congratulate on the release of her husband, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari. In each case, a
certain pretext was used to speak to one’s opponent.  

Interestingly, for the former case speculation of Musharraf-Nawaz reconciliation, while for
the latter case speculation of Nawaz-Benazir rapprochement was aired. Moreover, after the
release of Zardari on bail, speculation of Musharraf-Benazir compromise was floated. On
completion of this grand triangle, Asaf Ali Zardari circulated the idea of next general
elections in the year 2005.

There are two main reasons of these speculations. First, MMA has been making a
countrywide protest on the question of the dual-office issue. Secondly, Mr. Mushahid
Hussain emphasized to let loose the political prisoners. To mix the both, it is speculated that
the government is opening arms to embrace the opponents like PML-N and PPP, while has
been trying to edge out MMA of the national political arena.

If the situation is analyzed objectively, a different picture emerges. The Sharif brothers did
not even request the Pakistani government to let them come back to burry dead body of
their father in Lahore. It is also in the background that Shahbaz Sharif was forcefully
deported from Pakistan in the recent past causing him and PML-N political humiliation.
These are few indicators of lingering Musharraf-Nawaz animosity rather than reconciliation.

Similarly, no signal has been given to Benazir for exoneration from the cases she has to
face, otherwise, in the courts of Pakistan on her arrival. Moreover, Zardari has been
released on bail only and has not been allowed to fly out of the country as was expected.
For the military regime, a free Benazir with Zardari out of the country are more dangerous
than free Nawaz and Shahbaz outside of Pakistan. Anyhow, these cannot be called
symptoms of Musharraf-Benazir rapprochement at least.  

For Benazir, joining hands with the Sharif brothers will be a difficult proposition, despite all
rhetoric of signing of a code of conduct. Benazir is a shrewd politician than Nawaz/Shahbaz
Sharif.  At the moment, she has two objectives. First, another tenure for her premiership of
Pakistan and the second is retrieval of her husband. It is in contrast to Sharif brothers’ one
objective agenda: ascendancy of Shahbaz Sharif to the throne. However, that will again be
difficult because of presence of Chaudhary brothers. Had Nawaz Sharif accepted
Chaudhary Pervaiz Illahi as a Chief Minister of Punjab instead of Shahbaz Sharif, during his
own tenure as a Prime Minister, General Musharraf would have been in a difficult position
on October 12, 1999.

Both of the political parties (PPP and PML-N) are forgetting one point. That is, the military in
Pakistan wants a permanent role in the national political affairs, preferably under the
auspices of the constitution. The former Chief of Army, General (rtd) Jahangir Karamat was
the first victim of that voice. The National Security Council (NSC) of today is a major
manifestation of the same commitment. It was made to forestall any martial law in future.
Hence, unless a permanent status of the NSC, on the military terms, is ensured, General
Musharraf will not accommodate PPP or PML-N.

Looking at the relationship between Musharraf and MMA, there was an era of Musharraf-
MMA rapprochement. MMA was considered ‘B team’ of the military regime — such was an
extent of nearness. There was a hope that MMA would help amend the constitution of 1973
(18th amendment) to provide a permanent status to the NSC. Had it happened, General
Musharraf would have shed off his uniform to date. However, MMA not only withdrew
support on the next constitutional amendment but also boycotted the NCS proceedings in
the pretext that it should be headed by the Prime Minister, and not by the President.

That is why; it is expected that Musharraf will have to stay further in power keeping both the
caps on his head unless another political situation is ripe to amend the constitution
accordingly. Moreover, it seems that the wrath of Musharraf and his military regime,
somehow, will fall on MMA who deceived them or could not come up to their expectations.

It is quite clear to the military regime that prevailing may be the last opportunity to
materialize its demand of attainment of such a permanent status, otherwise, in the given
international politico-economic scenario, there are already efforts going on to introduce
western style democracy in the Middle East. Moreover, until the ‘war on terror’ is continued
and assistance of military is required, there is a latent period to achieve such an objective.

For the joint opposition comprising ARD and MMA, despite their mutual differences on 17th
amendment — whether repeal or not — one point agenda is agreed upon: exclusion of
army from political affairs. The dissolution of the NSC requires just another act of the
Parliament at any time in future. That is why; General Musharraf is in a fix as December 31,
2004 is approaching.

Hitherto, in order to seduce MMA, politics of speculations is being played to frighten MMA
that the Musharraf-Nawaz-Benazir coalition means its exclusion and the resultant
deprivation from the provincial governments of NWFP and Balochistan and that the same
will erode its credibility as an opposition in the assembly.

Now, it depends upon MMA how prudent it is to analyze a given situation. Hence, it seems
that now onward, Pakistani politics will revolve around the issue of whether permanent role
of military in political affairs or not (which is basically in disguise of the uniform issue)?

Back to columns in 2004