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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2675

Why should Pakistan be heading towards an Emergency?

By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

Talk of impeachment of Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf has been in the air for quite some time now causing uncertainty and contributing to the stability of the nation. Democracy talk is Ok, but it seems PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif depends too much on the lawyers to help him oust President Pervez Musharraf and he thinks if the currently available chance is missed, he might not get another opportunity to make his sweet dream come true: to remove Musharraf form Presidency and, if that comes to him, to assume the post himself. It seems Sharif is trying to use his political strength to coerce the PPP-led government in order to settle score with his arch enemy who now occupies presidency. PMLN has already withdrawn its ministers from the government protest against the delay in restoring the judges.

Brokered and helped by Saudi Arabia and USA, Sharif was allowed back from exile late last year to take part in the political process in the country as Musharraf's grip on power slightly slipped following a clash with the judiciary. However, Sharif was barred from contesting the election, but he will contest a by-election on June 26 for a National Assembly seat. His party came second in an election in February that resulted in defeat for pro-Musharraf parties, and brought to power a coalition government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Musharraf's problems erupted in March last year when he tried to dismiss the Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. In November, General Musharraf resorted to emergency rule to purge the judiciary, including Chaudhry, to stop the Supreme Court ruling on whether his re-election while still army chief the previous month was legal. Having secured the presidency, Musharraf quit as army chief and ended emergency rule in mid-December 2007, but his actions left him increasingly isolated and unpopular among politicians. Political parties backing the lawyers' movement hope that reinstating the judges will lead to Musharraf's ouster. Hence the tussle between parliament and presidency is on, even while the compromise efforts are also under way.

Sharif is against any compromise with Musharraf because, according to him, he is waging a war against double-standards in policy statements and actions of Musharraf who dethroned him almost a decade ago, sent him to jail and later into exile.

Long March

In a show of strength, about 20,000 protestors assembled recently on 14 June at a ground located a stone's throw from parliament and the Presidency to demand the reinstatement of the judges deposed during last year's emergency. Pakistan's former Prime Minister said: "We asked you to quit with honor after the election but you didn't," Sharif told the crowd, referring to U.S. ally Musharraf, who overthrew him in a 1999 coup. "Now people have given a new judgment for you ... they want you to be held accountable," The crowd chanted "hang Musharraf" as it listened to the two time former prime minister's fiery speech. "Is hanging only for politicians?" asked Sharif, referring to former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, hanged by a military dictator in 1979. "These blood-sucking dictators must be held accountable."

The "long march" of the lawyers' movement from different parts of the country to Islamabad and the rally represented a "new ray of hope for Pakistan” that would lead to the "restoration of the constitution, law and judges and the burial of dictators once and for all", Sharif said. Imran Khan, who was among the first leaders to address the rally at around, said there is no place in the superior judiciary for judges who had sworn allegiance to Musharraf. He opined the independence of the judiciary is not possible in the presence of these judges, he said.

Nawaz Sharif has added that President Musharraf must be held accountable for all his actions as thousands of protestors gathered near parliament here to demand the restoration of judges sacked by the embattled ex-military ruler. Sharif stepped up his attack on Musharraf on 14 June, suggesting he could be hanged while addressing thousands of protesters outside the presidency. Sharif has called for Musharraf to be tried for treason for tearing up the constitution during a brief spell of emergency rule late last year and for the coup nearly nine years ago.

Show of Strength

The demonstration marked the climax of an almost week-long rolling protest across the country led by lawyers, though by the end they were easily outnumbered by Sharif party activists. The protestors, who were carrying placards and banners denouncing Musharraf, dispersed this morning. Leaders of the lawyers' movement had earlier said they would stage a sit-in at the ground near parliament till the deposed judges are restored but later changed their plans.

Security was tight as the rally ended just as dawn broke on. An avenue in front of the parliament building was sealed off but there was no violence. Lawyers mingled with flag-waving supporters of Sharif's party, conservative religious activists, rights workers and students on a wide road overlooking the National Assembly.

Unlike the beatings and tear-gas that protesting lawyers got from police under a pro-Musharraf government last year, the new government ordered police to assist this week's protest. PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari said in a statement: "This unprecedented gathering in Islamabad shows the flourishing of democracy under the government of Pakistan People's Party."

Restoration of Democracy and Judges

The coalition government led by PPP has committed to restore full democracy, while Musharraf has stressed the importance of national interest and offered full support to the government. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that PPP would restore judges at any rate and PPP had not slighted the promise it made with the people of Pakistan.

PPP chief Asif Zardari, Bhutto's widower and political successor, has said that his party never accepted Pervez Musharraf as the constitutional president of Pakistan, nor endorsed his Nov 3 actions whereby he subverted the country's constitution and sacked judges. He seems to be is trying to take away Musharraf's powers through changes to the constitution that will take months to pass, and the PPP is worried that Sharif is making more political capital by seeking Musharraf's humiliation. About judiciary, he said that independent judiciary did not mean an individual but an institution. He said he stood committed to his promise for restoration of judges, and added that the federal government would form an advisory board for reforms of judicial system.

About differences with the PML-N, he said it was a routine matter in the democratic process, and added that the two parties had some difference of opinion earlier, but now they had overcome them. Treading a careful line, Zardari congratulated the lawyers on their "long march," a cross-country convoy of cars that set off days ago for the capital.

External Arrogance

Meanwhile, the United States and other Western allies fear prolonged political instability in the turbulent nuclear-armed Muslim nation will play into the hands of Islamist “militants” and undermine the U.S.-led campaign against “terrorism”. By making use of the current political war in Pakistan, US forces have killed many Pakistanis while Afghani President Karzai has warned of military intervention in Pakistan. Domestic crisis, it seems, has allowed a free for all situation in Pakistan.

Pakistan's protests notwithstanding, Indian Army is planning a civilian mountaineering and trekking expedition to the otherwise forbidden Siachen Glacier for the second year in a row in October-November this year. Even before the planned Siachen trekking kicks off, the Army will take out its own expedition to the glacial heights of Khatling on the Indo-Tibetan border in Uttarakhand later this month. Both the expeditions are meant to show to the international audience that Indian troops hold both the Siachen and Khatling glacial heights and neither Pakistan nor China were anywhere near the two glaciers.

The security forces have again made rape attempts in Kashmir. So far, as per the reports available, at least 6,400 Kashmiri women have been raped. According to a report by Human Rights Watch 2001 Rape is being used by the Indian “security” forces to attack Kashmiri women under the garb of inspecting and terrorizing them suspected of sympathizing with Freedom Fighters. India it employs all curbs and other tactics on the rights groups to pressurize them to desist from publishing it.

One Word

One thing is pretty clear: though he does not allow Sharif to hijack popularity of Benazir Bhutto with his anti-Musharraf agenda, Zardari has also not denounced the Sharif’s move to oust Musharraf. Though he is talking all the time about restoration of democracy and judges, Sharif has not come out with any pro-people socio-economic agenda to help the voters ease their sufferings. Sharif not only a mass leader, but also former Prime Minister and he should also take responsibility for the well being of the masses.

Undeterred by continuous warnings and threats from the new ruling dispensation, Musharraf has warned about his timely reaction if present government tries to play with his position and if his reconciliation efforts yield no fruits. If restoration of judges leads to trouble for his own seat, it looks certain, Musharraf will have his own alternatives to defend himself. He is sure about support from the West, for their own “terrorism” reasons, and from his own military establishment.

This leads one to wonder if Pakistan is now heading towards another emergency or something even worse than that! Obviously, such an impending scenario is not good for people of Pakistan already under severe strains and pressures. For the sake of poor Pakistanis who already undergone severity for a long time, the politicians should make some compromise and the let the government function for a couple of years peacefully, improving the life of commoners. Domestic chaos cannot go on like this in an Islamic nation committed to uplift the people’s well-being in all spheres.

- Asian Tribune -

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