All in ‘supreme national interest’
By Asma Jahangir
The Dawn – 11 July 2001
The US ambassador to Islamabad and our general president are the only two people who would have us believe that Gen. Musharraf will revive democracy. The US ambassador, if he is quoted accurately, says that by assuming the presidency, the Chief Executive has not violated the mandate given by the Supreme Court.
Surely, we do not live in times when parliaments can make a law granting immunity for the murder of all blue-eyed babies and courts offer the crown wrapped up in legitimacy to anyone subverting the constitutional path. Common sense says otherwise. Courts protect the rights of the people and not acts facilitators of interventionists. The irony of it all is that all such brazen acts of illegality are being carried out in the name of “national interest”.
The general and his supporters have misused the Supreme Court judgment as a convenient tool to carve an institutional role for the army in political decision making. Elections may be held before October 2002 – not to bring in “true” democracy but as a window – dressing for military rule. The general’s promises to return to democracy will be fulfilled, in the same manner as the prophecies of the three witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”.
There is no indication of the military leaders submission to civilian rule. All civilian institutions are working under strain and stress. Ordinary people are helplessly trying to survive. Prices are soaring, unemployment is on the rise, lawlessness continues and the future appears bleak.
The October 12, 1999, speech of the Chief Executive assured the people that he was placed in a situation where the takeover of the govt. was unavoidable. He said that while in Sri Lanka on an official visit his plane was not allowed to land at Karachi but was ordered to be diverted anywhere outside Pakistan, despite acute shortage of fuel, “imperiling the lives of all the passengers”. This prompted the dismissal of the government but, along with the Sharifs, the Parliament and the Constitution too were made dysfunctional two days later. This did cast a doubt about the intention behind the takeover.
The same day the proclamation of October 14, 1999, declared that the courts would continue to function and exercise their respective powers and jurisdictions, except to call in question the order of the C.E. Within weeks the general went back on his word. On December 13, 1999, the Chief Executive passed an order requiring the judges of the superior courts to take afresh oath. Those refusing to do so were relieved form office. Most judges did not even see the text of the new oath until they swore by it in public. Some judges stayed away honorably, while others were not invited to take the oath.
The general then changed his tack. He promised economic prosperity. This gave rise to some hope. An IMF-driven economy does not have a human face. Right – sizing started from the bottom. There was despair but the action was justified in the name of “national interest”. The retirement age of government servants has been reduced. Over 2,500 employees of the federal government have been dismissed or retired or removed. In contrast to the right –sizing of the civilian agencies and institutions, the military is being given key posts. Retired and serving army generals are being sent out as ambassadors to non-European destinations. A retired general is chairman of Wapda, two serving generals are chairmen of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan Hockey Federation.
The chairman of the Pakistan Evacuee Property Trust is a retired general. Around a hundred army generals and senior officers hold important or lucrative civilian posts. Civilians are being eased out to make way for military officers. The trend is towards the militarization of the economy, which discourages civilian economic activity.
Gradually, the army has spread its wings at the local level. Army monitoring cells are seen everywhere. >From jails to schools, the monitoring cells are a menace to people’s freedom. They have arrogated to themselves the powers of the judiciary as well. Civil disputes are being resolved by them and people obey under duress. Some courageous victims sought protection from the superior courts. The Lahore High Court declared the orders of the monitoring cells illegal. This was not acceptable against the judgment of the single bench of the Lahore High Court. Our armed forces are under the misconception that they are masters of all trades.
It was with this confidence that the army general decided to clear the path to their ascent to greater power. The arch enemy, Nawaz Sharif, who was held responsible for the ‘reluctant’ coup, was sent into exile in.
People have short memories but not empty heads. The CE’s aspiration for the presidency was well publicized before eh received an invitation to visit India. It was the crucial step of the grand plan to give the military a permanent role in politics. The fangs are out.
The date of night. New political factions were seduced to support the army. All political activity was banned. Local elections were brazenly rigged and thoroughly mismanaged by the very institution which prides itself on being organized and above board. Periodically a few hotheaded journalists and press photographers are given a thrashing for trying to expose the shortcomings of our rulers. The preparations are in full swing and well planned. A deputy army chief was appointed to make it possible for the CE to seed self-promotion to the presidency. Again this was done in the name of “national interest”. Rumor mongers excused it as another evil necessity in order to add a halo of glory to the CE’s visit to India. People have short memories but not empty heads. The CE’s aspiration for the presidency was well publicized before he received an invitation to visit India. It was the crucial step of the grand plan to give the military a permanent role in politics. The fangs are out.
The spoils are being shard through the formation of a National Security Council which is dominated by the military. In the midst of India-Pakistan summit euphoria, the president grabbed the powers of the auditor-general of Pakistan as well.
All this to our western diplomats in Islamabad appears to be a confirmation that the president sincerely hopes to return the country to civilian rule. The logical non-Islamabadi would think otherwise. Pakistan is doomed to rule by the military supported by opportunist civilians. The restoration of democratic rule will not come simply because the judgment of the Supreme Court has to be respected but because sooner or later the will of the people will prevail. These are the benevolent lessons of history.