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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 79

The long march in the face of PPP dithering

By Asif Haroon Raja

The PPP has so far followed a policy of ambiguity because of which the whole country is in a grip of confusion and uncertainty. Its leaders are burning all their energies to delay the disposal of judges’ issue for as long as possible. For the achievement of this objective, they are talking in circles. Procrastination, doublespeak, vagueness and making somersaults have become their hallmark. Under the garb of a constitutional package framed by Farooq Naek and Qayum Malik, the PPP wants to shift balance of power from President to PM as well as indemnify all wrongful acts of President, replace deposed judges with PCO judges, and protect NRO from getting quashed.

PPP leadership has managed to create so much of haze all around that the real issue of judges has been altogether obfuscated. Efforts are now in hand to create divisions within the legal fraternity. PPP lawyers were pressed hard to get detached from the long march and achieved success. Had PPP leadership been sincere towards the cause of judiciary, PM Gilani would have ordered release and reinstatement of judges on the same day instead of just releasing them.

If PPP was really honest to correct the anomalies in constitution through the constitutional package, it should have first got rid of chief hindrance Musharraf through impeachment since it enjoys two-third majority in two houses combined. Apart from the fact that the constitutional package is too heavy and studded with 80 points controversial items, passage of 18th amendment in constitution would require two-third majority in each house. Whereas PPP led coalition does not command desired majority in Senate, still the PPP has opted for a course of action which is not only time consuming but also bound to fail.

PPP wants restoration of deposed judges through constitutional amendment and not through simple resolution since the actual objective is to get rid of them and to retain PCO judges. Murree accord was inked by Zardari to put the lawyers intended long march on hold and provide sufficient time to the president to indulge in palace intrigues. He is very keen to gain an edge over PML-N in Punjab and does not mind working with Musharraf or to follow American policies as heretofore as long as PPP is assured five-year stint in power.

PPP is very keen to indemnify Musharraf’s wrongful acts and to co-exist with him provided he is divested of powers under Article 58-2(b). It has no intention of impeaching him; instead it is desirous of providing him a safe exit. It wants to put future military dictators and judges under Article 6 of Constitution but not the present violators. Call for impeachment of Musharraf will remain a pipedream as long as Zardari sits in the driving seat. It will be naïve to expect such a drastic step from NRO cleansed leadership.

Reasons cited for not proceeding against Musharraf are that USA wants him to stay and that impeachment would have an adverse impact on economy. If American wish is so pervasive, there are several other desires which it harbours and still remain unfulfilled. These include de-Islamisation and denuclearisation of Pakistan and making it a client state of India. It also wants Pakistan to distance itself from China and Iran and to assist USA whenever it decides to invade Iran. It also desires the Gwadar project being converted into a deep seaport to be abandoned and is keen that Pakistan should forget about Kashmir. It is very keen to form a dream team of PPP-PML(Q)-MQM with Musharraf continuing as president completely subservient to US wishes. As regard the lame excuse of economy, it implies that PPP leaders consider Musharraf a key to economic stability. It seems that like the PCO judges, the top leaders of PPP have also sold their souls to the devil.

Zardari has tied his hands on account of Musharraf’s NRO and US brokered deal which had facilitated BB’s return and ensured PPP victory in elections. These two constraints have taken away his liberty of action to think and act independently. He will heave a sigh of relief if Musharraf decides to depart voluntarily, but so far Musharraf is in no mood to call it a day. Notwithstanding mounting pressure on him to shun his dual faced policy and to act, Zardari is taking things lightly and does not feel threatened because of backing of JUI-F, ANP, MQM, President and USA. He has also won over Manzur Wattoo and Hamid Chattha and placed a strong governor in Lahore. As such he can afford to continue to keep PML-N on the hop but his cat and mouse game has been at a heavy cost of losing credibility. Slowly and gradually the barrage of gibes that were so far directed against Musharraf only has started to home onto Zardari.

PML-N want restoration of deposed judges at all cost through National Assembly resolution followed by an executive order and does not want it to be linked with constitutional package. Having suffered the most, it wants impeachment and trial of president. It is not favourably inclined to the name change of Frontier province to Pakhtunkhwa because of reservations of Hindko speaking people and particularly that of Hazara Division where the party has sizeable vote bank. It is averse to MQM and is likely to resist its entry into federal cabinet. Shahbaz Sharif’s election has further bolstered the fortunes of PML-N. Lt Gen Gulzar Kayani’s disclosures and AQ Khan’s acclamation of Nawaz has helped in upturning the popularity of the party.

ANP is very keen to change the name of NWFP to Pakhtunkhwa and has welcomed its inclusion in the constitutional package. If implemented, it could flare up ethnic rivalry and divide rather than unite the province. ANP has succeeded in restoring peace in Swat through a peace deal; however, because of Fazlullah’s connection with Baitullah and American aversion against peace deals, it is to be seen how long the area remains peaceful. ANP top leadership has no serious objection to MQM joining coalition in the centre. It will raise no objection to constitutional package because of the lollypops of Pakhtunkhwa and closure of Kalabagh Dam project offered to it by Zardari.

The ex-servicemen are vehemently demanding that Musharraf should immediately vacate the Army House. They are also seeking his trial for his crimes in Kargil, twice subverting the constitution, misusing army against own people, not holding a probe on 12 May 2007 bloodshed, and ghastly operation against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. Ex foreign secretaries also want Musharraf’s ouster and have also expressed their serious reservations over BB’s murder probe by UN. PML-Q as well MQM in the meanwhile are agonisingly waiting for the coalition to break up so that they could forge an alliance with PPP and once again rule the roost for another five years under the safe patronage of Mush and USA.

The lawyer community supported by APDM and civil society have commenced the long march on 10 June and have reiterated their demand to reinstate all the 60 sacked judges to 2 November position and to sack PCO judges so as to ensure independence of judiciary and rule of law. They have rejected all formulas or curtailment of service or powers of chief justice terming it as flawed and anti-Iftikhar led judges. More and more segments of society are joining the long march and call for Musharraf’s trial and not to give him safe exit is getting louder. Notwithstanding PPP having backed out, the long march is likely to create some ripples.

President is allergic to getting his wings clipped and has egotistically claimed that he is a legally elected president and that 18 February poll was not a mandate against him. He has no remorse for his failings and still feels convinced that all his steps were correct and that the nation still need him.. He has reprimanded Lt Gen Gulzar Kayani over his outbursts and has made it clear that he would not resign under any circumstances and is ready to face impeachment. His buoyancy has a lot to do with assurances given to him by Zardari and Bush that he will not be impeached. Bush still wants Musharraf to continue till his departure in January next year since he has served him most loyally.

He is still chasing rainbows that lady luck would again smile at him and bail him out. He pays no heed to loud calls of ‘go Musharraf go’ and turns a deaf ear to the scorn and abuses heaped upon him. His slogan of ‘Pakistan first’ is a big farce since in his eight years of inglorious rule he has only served his personal or American or Indian interests. Well knowing that except for his beneficiaries and near and dear ones, the rest detests him; he still wants to live in fool’s paradise that his staying in power is in the interest of the country. The more he digs his heels, greater are the calls for his trial and lesser the chances of his safe exit. If we really want the military not to intervene again our leaders will have to pick up courage to call a spade a spade. The onus is on PPP.

Asif Haroon Raja: is a defence and political analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

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