NRO: Musharraf's proxy war

This past week witnessed the most eloquent political assertion by the civil society of Pakistan about their notion of what constitutes the constitutional and civic foundations of the state. June 10 unearthed the highly visible and massive demonstration by the people of Pakistan to bring back the only notional semblance of self-esteem ever seen in the country. Never before had so few, indeed starting from merely one, stood out so boldly for the sake of a principle in a society where hypocrisy and sycophancy have been the accepted mantra of all those who are in a position of ostensible power. This is the historical debt that the nation owes initially to the Chief Justice Chaudhry and then the sixty plus judges of the superior judiciary who preferred to face ouster from service and detention rather than pay homage and courtesy to the blatant despotism of a general who has scorned the rule of law and constitutionalism. Despite this event which is really a phenomenon, neither the current government nor Musharraf who still occupies the presidency were visibly moved. Why? I am afraid the answer, despite one's reluctance to so admit, lies in the NRO enacted by Musharraf to woe over the political might of the PPP. I have already examined this matter in some depth in my columns before and it is thus necessary to see only the current political metamorphosis. It is entirely on account of the NRO that Musharraf has thus succeeded in staying in office despite losing heavily on all political fronts. It is more than established by various facts that this being accomplished by the proxy political war that is being conducted on his behalf by the many powerful beneficiaries of the NRO in the federal government. So the questions that the people of Pakistan have a right to ask are: (1) Who are the major beneficiaries of this ordinance? (2) How many of them are in the present government? What are the major amounts of funds that they have individually and collectively succeeded in getting from being prosecuted by the state? Recently Naheed Khan, the former confidant of Benazir Bhutto raised the following pertinent inquiries through the press for possible response from the authorities. Let me reiterate the ethos of these questions and then signify their importance in the present political milieu of Pakistan. (i) Where did the car accompanying the vehicle of Benazir Bhutto suddenly disappear a short while before the Liaqat Bagh bombing? (ii) Why is the PPP government not registering an FIR against the accused nominated by Mohtarma? (iii) Does the matter of validity of "will" of Benazir Bhutto await determination? (iv) The nature of major decisions of Asif Zardari and are they genuinely supported by the PPP? (v) What is the difference between the pattern of politics of Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto? (vi) What will be the future of the PPP in the wake of the current opposition to restore judges? The undeniable message of these inquiries is because of the decisions that Asif Ali Zardari is currently making and the innuendo that all this is currently the result of the Deal. This is abundantly clear by the raising of these further questions by the long-time political secretary of Benazir. (i) What was the deal reached between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf (ii) Who held negotiations from the two sides for a deal? (iii) Was any part of the deal violated by Musharraf? (iv)When did the Musharraf government get afraid of Benazir Bhutto? (v) What views did Benazir Bhutto have about the "constitutional package" now being proffered by Asif Zardari? (vi) After visiting the house of the detained chief justice in December, would Benazir Bhutto have reinstated the judges immediately when her PPP formed the federal government? Benazir's death did bring the PPP to power but to retain that position requires an approach that is not evident from the current appointments or policies of that Party. Musharraf continues to eye his own perpetuity somehow by manoeuvring from within and outside debacles of the PPP. Perhaps sensing this possibility Zardari, of late, tried to speak out of his own fears. While talking to the journalists on the 55th birth anniversary of late Benazir Bhutto that was held at the Naudero House, Larkana, on June 21 he said that the PPP has a consensus with the PML-N over the reinstatement of the deposed judges. He further said that if President Musharraf was not removed, both he and possibly the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif would be in Landhi Jail. He further added that the resolution for constituting an investigation commission to probe the assassination of Benazir Bhutto had been sent to the United Nations after getting passed from the National Assembly and he was looking into the matter personally. Zardari further importantly added that the PPP workers made Yousuf Raza Gilani the prime minister and ultimately the new president would be from among the party workers. This last sentiment signals perhaps a frontal attack on Musharraf? I tend to think so though many doubt this being the real policy of the current PPP government. A substantial number of the people who know the realties of our political culture know that this is perhaps only for possible drama purposes. I think only time will tell whether Zardari has understood the deeper concept of dictatorship psychology. He may be personally beholden to Musharraf for the benefits of NRO but he should remember that in the past the president has been ruthless even to those who had served him from time to time, if he concluded that he no longer required them As such the role that Nawaz Sharif has to play is pivotal for the success of democracy in Pakistan. In the few weeks in office Zardari and the PPP have not fared well with such notions that give sustenance to representative institutions and rule of law. Gagging of the media by the current government is the best example of such an attitude. A private TV channel was recetnly asked by the Dubai Government to stop its transmissions,  apparently under immense pressure from the current Pakistani authorities. The channel was blamed for supporting the restoration of the deposed judges of the Supreme Court. A similar request was evidently made by the Dubai administration about one month ago in which it was said that all programmes supporting the restoration of the deposed judges should be stopped by the channel. Since it is technically not possible to stop the dissemination of information nowadays since it is clear that the entire set-up of several private TV channels operating in Dubai can be moved either to the UK or Hong Kong. It is just a matter of money, if the channels can afford to do so The Dubai authorities disclosed that the president and his allies were continuously trying to pressurise the channels to stop all programmes on the issue of the restoration of the judiciary and containing an anti- Musharraf slant. The current demand to stop the popular talk shows was also came from the allies of the president after the proclamation of Emergency in November 2007. As such I feel that the time is rapidly approaching to bell the cat and see that serious effort for an impeachment indictment is made without which the country seemingly remains in a state of perpetual crisis, intrigue and turmoil. This will also decide if the recent outburst of Asif Zardari against Musharraf is for real or a part of the topi drama we have come to witness in this country. In ultimate terms until this happens, this proxy war against the rule of law, democracy and justice on behalf of Musharraf by Zardari will subsist. The writer is a senior advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan, and professor at Harvard University

The writer is barrister at law (US and UK), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and professor at Harvard University.

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