LAHORE (ASHRAF MUMTAZ) - The Pakistan Muslim League headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif will observe Friday as a black day and condemn the dismissal of the party government by Gen Pervez Musharraf on this day in 1999.
Mr Sharif, as prime minister, had sacked then army chief Gen Musharraf when he was coming back to Pakistan after attending a conference in Colombo. The military immediately retaliated, ignoring the appointment of Gen Ziauddin as the new army chief, adding a new chapter to the already unenviable political history of the country.
It is difficult to say whether after 13 years the political leadership is strong enough to take any legal action against the army chief without facing any adverse consequences.
Apparently, there is no change in the situation and the political system is vulnerable as ever. The only resistance that can be expected is from the Supreme Court which is resolved not to accord legitimacy to any unconstitutional step against democracy. The judiciary has made the resolve part of its code of conduct, after which no military chief will think of derailing the political system.
However, the credit for the change of mindset, if any, doesn’t go to the political leadership. The judiciary took the decision after facing hardships at the hands of military rulers.
Superfluous to point out that the Supreme Court had validated the takeover by Gen Musharraf and given him three years to bring the democratic system back. He was also allowed to amend the Constitution.
Everybody knows that the army was very angry when Mr Sharif had forced Gen Jehangir Karamat to resign as COAS. The general, in a speech in Lahore Naval War College, had proposed the formation of a National Security Council and making the accountability process balanced. The army wanted its chief to react but the general preferred to stay silent and become part of history.
After Gen Karamat, Gen Musharraf was appointed as new COAS, mainly because he seemed to have no support in the army and thus could pose no threat to the political government.
Mian Muhammad Sharif, the (late) father of Nawaz Sharif declared Gen Musharraf as his ‘fourth son’, apparently to keep the prime minister and the army chief closer to each other.
However, differences cropped up between the two sides and the gulf widened with the passage of time.
Gen Musharraf apprehended that he would be sacked because of his activities carried out without taking the prime minister on board. However, the PML-N leaders continued to give him assurance that his apprehensions were misplaced. To allay his fears the PML-N government also made him the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
However, the suspicions persisted. Then came the day when Gen Musharraf was asked to attend a conference in Colombo, which he was not interested in. However, he flew to the Sri Lankan capital after giving directions to his trusted colleagues what they should be doing in case of any action against him by the prime minister.
After attending the conference, Musharraf was returning home by a PIA flight. He was airborne when the prime minister sacked him as army chief. This brought the military machinery into action and what happened thereafter is history.
The news was taken to the PTV Centre by PML-N leader.
Once the writer asked the said leader if he was not aware of the likely consequences and if anybody had advised the prime minister not to go for such an extreme step. In response, he said, everybody knew what could happen. In fact, it was the question of who strikes first.
During the Musharraf era, the PML-N gave birth to a new faction – PML-Q. The leaders of the new faction helped Gen Musharraf stay in power. Similarly, about two dozen important PPP MNAs parted ways with the mother party and formed coalition with the PML-Q.
What is very disturbing is the fact that many ‘opportunists’ who had cooperated with the military leader have been accepted back in the PML-N. Some others have been okayed as election allies.
This leaves no justification for the PML-N leaders to curse Musharraf. If he is condemnable, so are the people who had been cooperating with him. The two should not be treated differently.