Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pakistan Government VS Supreme Court

By Saeed Qureshi

A paradigm of stalemate is shaping up between the Supreme Court and the government of Pakistan on the question of trying former president Pervez Mushrraf for treason under caveat 6 of the constitution. The government seems to be sidetracking the follow-up action on Supreme Court’s historic verdict of July 31 2009 that declared the proclamation of the emergency and suspension of the constitution, on November 3, 2007 by Musharraf, as unconstitutional or for that matter a treasonable act.

Suspecting that the court would give a decision against his re-election as the army head, Musharraf, as Chief of the Army Staff, declared a state of emergency on November 3, 2007. Besides, he issued PCO (Provisional Constitutional Order) to replace the constitution. The impostion of emergency by Mushrraf in 2007 has been decsibed as the second martial which accentuates the seriousness of the charges against him.

The government seems to be reluctant to undertake the follow-up action in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision one of which is to try the former president for treason and for violation of the constitution of Pakistan patently done to stay in power. The latest intention of government’s feet dragging is evidenced in Prime Minister Gilani’s statement which pre-conditions the treason trial against Mushrraf to the total unanimity in the parliament on this issue. This gives inkling about the strategy of the government aimed at placing this issue in the cold storage indefinitely. At the same time it shows government’s tacit resolve to protect the former president for the reasons best known to the big bosses in the government.

It’s highly improbable that the government would like to muster such a unanimous parliamentary support and therefore despite court’s ruling the issue would remain as dead as ever. The unanimity or complete consensus in the parliament is an uphill and unachievable order because the Muslim League (Q) and the MQM would not agree to the trial of Mushrraf for treason or for any other reason. Mushrraf has been the mentor and chief patron of these two parties. Prime Minister Gilani’s statement is primarily to assure these two pro- Mushrraf parties who are also government’s coalition partners that there was no chance of any foreseeable action against Mushrraf.

The Pakistan People’s Party generally and President Zardari specially are beholden to Mushrraf for giving them an unusual pardon under NRO( National Reconciliation Ordinance) to come out of oblivion and long exile and jump into the bandwagon of power. President Zardari who succeeded his late wife as party’s chief, later turned his back on Musharraf. He cleverly manipulated and exploited the combined clout of his own party, the PML(N), some other political parties as well as the earth shaking movement of the civil society components most notably the lawyers, managed to elbow Mushrraf out of presidency. All of sudden and in a matter of a few months, he became the president of Pakistan himself.

It should be remembered that once in power, the PPP, despite earlier solemn pledges refused to reinstated the judges deposed by Pervez Mushrraf. It was after much upheaval resulting from the lawyers’ movement and civil society that it finally succumbed and reinstated the deposed judges through an executive order on March 16 2009. Even at that time the government offered many excuses one of which was to reinstate the judges through the parliament. It is adopting the same tactics even now. In all probability it would suffer the same humiliation and backtracking as it faced in case of the judges’ reinstatement. The government has lost surfeit of its credibility already. It would shed more trust of the people if it doesn’t move fast on the trial of Pervez Mushrraf.

After obtaining Musharraf’s resignation, as a quid pro quo for NRO, the PPP would not proceed further against him. Hence the unconscionable dithering by the ruling party on the most pressing question of trial of Mushrraf! The fear of the government is that If it goes ahead with Musharraf’s trial without consensus of the parliament, the pro Mushrraf parties may leave the government exposing it to an imminent fall. Once the government is dismantled, there is no chance that it can regain power even in the distant future. So their strategy aims at stalling the trial of former president as long as they can manage it.

But the statement of PML (N) leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif is ominous and loaded with a kind of threat or ultimatum in that he has categorically rejected the unanimity proposal. It’s a replay of the same situation when Mushrraf chose to have a head on collision with the former chief justice and sacked him and three scores of other senior judges whipping a storm that ultimately cast him away. Hence strange turn of fortunes: the exiled Zardari is the president and the powerful president is now in exile. Power game is certainly very ruthless.

There is a lesson for the incumbent PPP government to learn from the happenings since the fateful day of sacking of senior judges. If a collision with Supreme Court of Pakistan could not help Mushrraf who was also a military general, how could it stand in good stead for Zardari with a tainted past and under the burden of serious criminal cases swept under the carpet of NRO. Zardari as the president enjoys immunity under the constitution not to be prosecuted. But can he stop the public uproar in case his party dilly dallies on bringing the former president to explain his side of story before the court.

The Supreme Court’s decision of July 31 is being nationally hailed as landmark and a spectacular breakthrough against the authoritarianism in all forms. It is being hailed also because for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the judiciary as a civil society organ has triumphed over the military dictatorship. Also the ascendency of democratic forces over the autocracy has been upheld.

But it appears that the present government is missing the inherent dangers in the policy of neutralising the Supreme Court’s ruling and milestone decision. It should seriously weigh that is it profitable for it to support Mushrraf and its coalition partners in the government for a short gain or earn the plaudits of the people of Pakistan for taking a principled stand by respecting the superior judiciary’s verdict with absolute sincerity and honesty. Deception and delay is going to be counter-productive. The consequent loss of power as a result of public outcry, with the PML taking the lead, would be irredeemably disastrous. It’s time to demonstrate statesmanship and not chicanery and acrobatic feats.

No comments:

Post a Comment