Saturday, August 22, 2009

Musharraf Pardoned by Prime Minister Gilani

By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that he has pardoned former president Pervez Mushrraf. It is, however, not clear if he has pardoned Musharraf charged with treason on his own behalf or on behalf of the nation that the former president had ruled for almost a decade. It is also debatable if the prime minister was eligible to give such a pardon to a person who violated the constitution of Pakistan twice and daringly admitted that his November 3, 2007 declaration of emergency was an unconstitutional act. But Prime minister’s magnanimous gesture which itself negates the spirit of the constitution and makes a mockery of the law is some kind of a quid pro quo, in that Pervez Musharraf pardoned a group of outlaws via NRO including the incumbent president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari.

The Prime Minister is obviously returning that ignominious compliment. But aren’t such pardoning extravaganzas loathsome as they exhibit complete disregard for the direly needed system of justice and accountability in Pakistan. Such daredevil and shameful ventures override the express need for establishing the rule of law and upholding the supremacy of the sacred document titled constitution.

How dare an elected prime minister and representative of the people of Pakistan debase the whole nation by unabashedly issuing personal amnesties to the felons and perpetrators of odious crimes against their own people? The people of Pakistan, by electing these leaders through a democratic process, expected of them to conduct the State affairs according to the constitution and in a transparent, fair and constitutional manner. Any one, no matter how exalted, who traumatized this nation either by impostion of dictatorial rule or by corruption and swindling of national wealth via misuse of power, vested in them by the masses, should be held accountable for his misdeeds and misconduct.

The weird logic of pardoning gets more freakish, when in the same breath the prime minister makes such an action against Musharraf conditional to a unanimously passed resolution by the parliament. This demand is as ridiculous as it is unachievable. The PPP that represents the people of Pakistan and is championing the cause of democracy shields a person whose conduct as the president of pakistan was condemnable and who was resigned per force, as a result of the countrywide wave of public outcry against him.

Now even if the political forces are divided on the issue of bringing the former dictator to justice, the preferable option should be to accept the demand of those political parties and civil society groups that call for trial of Pervez Mushrraf. That choice would serve the imperatives of justice. To tag the trial demand with the unanimous resolution of the parliament is a tall order and is unattainable because of Musharraf’s supporters in both the houses of the parliament. That proverbially is, an attempt to put this most pressing issue on the back burner. The MQM and Quaid-e- Azam Muslim league have openly and categorically opposed any legal proceedings against the former president for obvious reasons.

The Legal experts opine that the act or resolution of the parliament was not at all necessary for legal action against Pervez Musharraf. This situation is reminiscent of the deadlock created by the present government in that they preconditioned the restoration of the sacked judges through the approval of the parliament. But later under the burgeoning pressure and surging agitation that seemed to threaten the power citadels in Islamabad, the deposed judiciary was reinstated by a simple executive order. The government’s lame duck and hypocritical attitude on Musharraf’s trial would be another blow to its fast plummeting popularity graph. The government should not demonstrate its brazen propensity for protecting the violators of the law.

The MQM’s argument that if Musharraf is tried then all those who committed similar elephantine crimes and abused their powerful positions should also be tried, deserves attention and credit. There must be no ifs and buts in this regard. If the government honors this demand then it would earn the abiding gratitude of a hapless nation deceived and betrayed by the leaders since its birth. This gigantic yet the most wanted initiative would close the loop holes through which the dictators have been sneaking into the power corridors and amending or abrogating the constitution to keep their draconian hold on power.

Let us now take up the second issue of Benazir Bhutto’s murder. It should have been in fact the top priority undertaking for the PPP government because BB was not only the chairperson of the party, but an acclaimed political figure and the inheritor of the Bhutto legacy. Her untimely death at the hands of suicide assassins had in fact swerved the public opinion in favor of the PPP during the general elections held in February 2008. It was due to her backdoor deft political parleys that the exiled PPP leaders were able to return to the country. The PPP is so ungrateful to its chairperson that it doesn’t accord any reverence to her blood that was shed for the sublime cause of democracy and people’s rule.

The recipe of cover up that the PPP leaders are parroting is that since democracy has ushered in Pakistan as per wish of the late PPP leader, there was no need to hunt down and punish her assassins. This is the second bizarre attempt and unworthy attitude that the PPP is putting up to shield the assassins of a distinguished daughter of the nation and the illustrious leader of the ruling party. The question is if the democratic order had not returned to Pakistan, would the PPP still not press for catching her murderers? With the party at the helm it is more incumbent upon it to unmask her killers.

But democracy or no democracy, a Pakistani citizen if not a popular leader, has been brutally killed in broad day light. If democracy is so much precious for them that they are ready to forego the murder of their leader, then why they shy away from trying a dictator who disfigured one of the central pillars of the democracy which is the constitution by injecting into it such draconian and self perpetuating clauses as 17th amendment with a sub clause of 58-2/B. The PPP government’s stand on both these crucial issues is hardly credible. It is patently flimsy and frivolous. On one hand they shield the basher of democracy and on the hand glorify democracy to such an extent that the assassination of Benazir is swept under the carpet of democracy. The intriguing question is: who are they trying to protect and why are they adamantly pleading this abominable cover up of all times? Is the blood of Benazir so cheap?

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