Judiciary Being Misused to Let Musharraf Stay in Uniform
Wajid Shamsul Hasan
South Asia Tribune-April 18-24, 2004
LONDON: There are sound indications that President General Pervez Musharraf would most probably slip out of his commitment to shed the uniform of the Chief of the Army Staff by December 31, 2004 – a deadline arrived at through a constitutional deal for incorporating his illegal encroachments into the Constitution of 1973 as rolled by him into the LFO package.
Ten months to go between now and fateful December, moves of far-reaching consequences have been set into motion especially in the light of the fact that tug of war between pro and anti Musharraf forces is getting charged up.
In the coming months, sources in Islamabad insist, things would not remain the same. Already a debate is on as to what would happen after Musharraf as if his departure is a foregone certainty. It is being apprehended that there would be more chaos, more violence, more terrorism and a situation would be so created that would provide the
President an excuse to keep wearing his military uniform in the “supreme national interest.”
The pre-emptive orchestration by puppets on his chain that “shedding of uniform by him will darken the future of democracy in Pakistan” and those who advocate it “are not sincere to the country” is just fine tuning of the band on the Titanic. In other words it indicates that come what may, General Musharraf won’t give up his uniform.
This view has been further strengthened by a constitutional petition filed by one Maulvi Iqbal Haider, head of the Awami Himayat Tehrik-known for embarrassing the judiciary to please the rulers — challenging the 17th Amendment and requesting the court to suspend the operation of the article that requires the President to shed his military uniform on or before Dec 31, 2004.
The petitioner has claimed that under Article 184(3) the court should declare that Article 41(7)(2) as ultra vires to the Constitution since Article 43, read with Article 47 of the Constitution provides the method for the removal of the President. The petitioner has also requested the court to declare that operation of Article 41(7)(2) with regard to Article 63(1)(d) cannot be applied to the President.
What is seen in the media in support of the President to keep his army uniform on is nothing but part of a well-planned propaganda blitzkrieg to convince the masses that a Musharraf denuded of his khaki could be disastrous for the country.
It is his desire to keep it on that he wants others to say he should keep it on for the sake of the nation. One can understand his motive — if he gives up his uniform — he becomes a lame duck President that nobody within or outside — would like to do business with. He has before him two examples. General Ziaul Haq did not give up his position as Chief of Staff to his last day and remained an effective ruler until he was removed by divine intervention. General Aslam Beg-though ruling from behind the curtain lost his pelf, power, glitter and glory the moment President Ghulam Ishaq Khan announced the name of General Asif Nawaz as his successor.
Beg’s “most loyal” subordinates who used to beeline to him until a day before the announcement of the new chief seemingly forgot the driving directions to the Army House a day after.
Those from amongst his Patriot parliamentarians who want him to continue khaki dressed, owe it all to him. The moment his magic apparel is not there, whatever he has on becomes a fig leaf, power base would shift and the whole lot of sunshine patriots would become virtually political orphans. Even their prosecution for high corruption in NAB cases would be at the mercy of the new chief of staff.
It has now become clear his “patriots” were just waiting for the National Security Council to become part of the Constitution. Its passage by the National Assembly was a signal from the right quarter to start their media campaign urging upon President Musharraf not to denude himself of his uniform.
The Patriot legislators and his handpicked PML-Q members rushed to cast the first stone, others are following them and a whole assortment of voices are being raised on an issue that had been long settled by President Musharraf when he agreed to quit his army post by December 31, 2004 as part of the deal with MMA for its support on the LFO.
Obviously the sinister attempt by Patriots to wean Musharraf away from his national commitment on a settled issue has shrouded it under a thick cloud of doubt especially when the President himself has become a party to it. He came on record in a BBC TV interview that whether he would continue wearing the uniform or take it off, would be decided by him at an appropriate time keeping in consideration the objective conditions in and outside the country although “every one is advising me not to give it up”. Besides, Musharraf also feels that MMA has not kept part of its deal meaning thereby that he would be justified to flout his own commitment on uniform.
The national debate to allow him to continue wearing his khaki or not, has plunged Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and his government in a Catch-22 situation. There was a time when he and some other PML-Q stalwarts used to boast that they had forced the President to agree to quit the COAS post by December 31, 2004.
His ministers belonging to the Patriot group, who are more loyal to the President, have been the first one to call upon Musharraf not to give up his uniform for “the sake of democracy”. Now Jamali and many in his PML-Q do not know what to do. How confused they are can be imagined by the fact that his Minister of State for Law, Justice and Human Rights Raza Hayat Haraj came on record that President Musharraf would keep his promise and quit his uniform by December 31, 2004. Within hours he had to retract his statement saying that media had incorrectly attributed to him on the uniform issue and that he was quoted out of context.
Not only that, Prime Minister Jamali too had to do a quick somersault. He had to as well reiterate that the President would stick to his promise but had to eat his words by adding that the decision on the “settled issue”, however, would rest with the President and that he would decide whatever is good in the national interest. Information Minister has added more confusion to it. Posing to speak on behalf of Musharraf he said that the matter is settled and the President will abide by the 17th Amendment and will only hold one office.
The overall consensus conclusion among the analysts is –say whatsoever one may–Musharraf would stick to his khaki. It is imperative for his survival and the system that he has so painstakingly engineered in the name of democracy.
No doubt Musharraf’s external supporters — namely the United States and the United Kingdom — would not like to see a change in the present status quo in Pakistan since for them Musharraf is the devil they know and they can work with. He has stuck his neck out for them, gone many extra miles to please them and to serve their global objectives. He has yet to nab Osama Bin Laden and his associates and hand them over to Washington.
This is the reason they have even turned a blind eye to his acts of omission and commission in the proliferation of nuclear technology and some of their officials have been defending Musharraf as being totally in the dark about the nuclear supermarket that was allegedly doing roaring business under his very nose. Besides, to inject some strength to his condition of moral imbecility, the American President has certified that he was satisfied with the pace of democracy in Pakistan and has declared US democracy-related law is no more applicable to Islamabad.
However, the European Parliament does not support this view. The recent adoption of National Security Council as supra-sovereign institution over-riding the elected Parliament and the debate started by his ministers asking him to stay glued to his uniform has been taken as “developments impairing credibility of democracy in Pakistan”.
Although the European Parliament’s influential foreign affairs committee on April 14 approved a new European Union agreement with Pakistan after what parliamentary sources described as a heated and often acrimonious debate on Pakistan’s deplorable human rights record and political situation. The agreement was approved after 15 members of the committee voted in favor of parliamentary endorsement of the EU-Pakistan accord while 14 members voted against.
A plenary session of the European Parliament would now vote on the agreement next week. EUP insiders have warned that the assembly – which is clearly divided on the agreement with Pakistan – could overrule the foreign affairs committee’s recommendation in view of the closely fought vote that had resulted in the resignation of Euro MP John Cushnahan who as parliamentary rapporteur for Pakistan, had strongly urged the committee to vote against approval of the pact.
He has warned members to focus on Pakistan’s shabby human rights record rather than geopolitical imperatives and the country’s participation in the battle against terrorism. Cushnahan insists that justifying evil on ground of expediency would set a wrong precedence. A separate resolution to be submitted to the Parliament’s plenary session voices regret the continuing strong influence of the military in Pakistani politics and alleges “serious” human rights violations in the country. These EU developments are also expected to derail Pakistan’s efforts to crash land back into Commonwealth.
On the internal front, situation has been worsening. The removal of Lt. General Ali Jan Orakzai from the post of Peshawar corps followed by his reported retirement, have confirmed long circulating rumors of rift within the rank and file of the military over the Waziristan operation. Besides Pashtun Orakzai, one colonel, some majors and junior officers were also reported to have declined to participate in the operation.
The fact that General Orakzai and his Pashtun troops had to be replaced by a Punjabi general, Lt. General Safdar Hussain, with troops from Punjab—to carry out a ruthless operation in which an unknown number of men, women and children were killed or injured, hundreds of their houses razed to the ground and thousands got dislocated and uprooted from their ancestral homes, are events that clearly spell out the gravity of the situation.
The unrest in the military ranks since the defiling of the country’s most respected icon,Dr AQ Khan, and the criminalization of its nuclear scientists have been accentuated by what is being widely described by the media as war against its patriotic people in Waziristan to please Washington.
Besides that, Pakistani military’s moral predicament has been further deepened when it heard the news that a battalion of the newly recruited Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah to support US marines battling with the Muslim insurgents for the control of the city. The proud 620-Iraqi-man of the 2nd Battalion recruited by the Americans returned from halfway to Fallujah saying they had not signed up to fight their Iraqi brothers.
Junior officers and jawans in Pakistan army are now battling with the question as to why are they being subjected to the humiliation of fighting their own brothers in Waziristan. There is also growing reservations over the moves to send some Pakistani troops to Iraq to become fodders for the American guns.
Quetta’s recent sectarian mayhem, several successful and attempted bombing cases, massacre of five cops, brutal killing of two teenagers followed by broad-day light murder of People’s Party MPA Abdullah Murad Baloch in Karachi and the fact that crimes have gone up manifold during Musharraf’s tenure besides massive unemployment, all put together make the emerging scenario very grim, gory and explosive threatening the country with an imminent implosion.
Eminent correspondents like Ahmed Rashid believe that General Pervez Musharraf is much too scared a person after the two December attempts on his life. Though he claims to have cat’s nine lives, those Islamists who want him to meet the fate of Anwar Sadat believe that their suicide-bombers have to be lucky just once and it will be all over.
The inevitable prognosis of the situation, therefore, demands immediate measures from within the military as an institution to resolve the uniform issue and rationalize it in such a manner that a chief of staff does not fall in a position to extend his tenure. This is a must for maintaining its professionalism.
Besides, it must act fast to widen the base of political support if its wants the country to be steered out of the stormy ocean. It should not sit tight over the conviction by a handpicked magistrate of Opposition leader Javed Hashmi for just stating the unpalatable facts – an act that has even brought severe criticism from the US State Department. It should also not gloat over for having kept Asif Zardari in prison for over eight years running without proving any charge against him.
The court decision to allow PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to return to Pakistan must not be resisted. Rather, such conducive conditions be created that PPP leader Benazir Bhutto also returns home and plays her due political role so that a climate of national consensus and national reconciliation is generated to galvanize the people of all shades and views to join hands and heads to face the lethal challenges, combat both internal and external enemies and save the country from sliding further down the eddy to doom and disaster.
The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK.