GOVT. OF MUSHARRAF, BY MUSHARRF, FOR MUSHARRAF
As expected,President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan announced on December 15,2007, the lifting of the State of Emergency imposed by him on November 3,2007, and the restoration of the Constitution, which had remained suspended since then.
2. A proclamation issued by him says that the Constitution of 1973 stands restored. This has been welcomed by his Western well-wishers, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK being the first to welcome it.
3. A careful perusal of the Constitution, which was restored on December 15,2007, would show that it is not the Constitution as conceived by the founding fathers of Pakistan. Nor is it the Constitution of 1973 as amended from time to time by the National Assembly. In fact, it is virtually a new Constitution unrecognisable from that of 1973. It has only one founding father---Musharraf--- and incorporates all the executuive orders issued by him since he proclaimed the Emergency on November 3,2007. The purpose of these orders was to protect his right to continue in power for as long as he considered it necessary----in the "supreme national interest" to quote an oft-repeated phrase of his.
4. Another purpose was to ensure that his unconstitutional and unlawful actions cannot be questioned either by the judiciary or the National Assembly and he cannot be impeached by the Assembly for any of his unlawful acts.
5. The history of Pakistan since Musharraf seized power after overthrowing Mr.Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, on October 12,2007, will go down as the history of the manoeuvres of one man to keep himself in power by hook or by crook and to protect himself from any accountability for his wrong-doings. The Constitution of 2007, euphemistically called the Constitution of 1973, has not ushered in a Government of the people, by the people, for the people, but a Government of Musharraf, byMusharraf, for Musharraf.
6. Unwritten Constitutional conventions in the UK hold that "the King can do wrong". One cannot hold the King or the Queen accountable before the Parliament or the courts for any wrongs done by him or her. In net effect, the various provisions incorporated in the Constitution by Musharraf enshrine the principle that "Musharraf can do no wrong."
7. Pakistan's past military dictators too--- self-proclaimed Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Gen.Yahya Khan and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq--- had sought to give themselves immunity from impeachment or judicial proceedings for their wrongful acts, but they did so through an Act of Indemnity passed by a rubber-stamp National Assembly. Musharraf is not very sure whether the National Assembly to be elected on January 8,2008, will agree to pass an Act of Indemnity to give him the required immunity. He has, therefore, sought to give the immunity to himself. Musharraf protects Musharraf----that is the meaning of the restored Constitution.
8. These provisions giving immunity to Musharraf can be removed from the Constitution only if his opponents manage to win two-thirds of the seats in the new National Assembly. His efforts hereafter will be to ensure that his opponents will not be in a position to remove these provisions from the Constitution.
9. There was speculation in Pakistan till December 14,2007, that before restoring a drastically altered Constitution, Musharraf would remove an earlier amendment got introduced by him before the elections of 2002 that no one can hold office as the Prime Minister for more than two terms. He has not yet done so. He apparently wants to await the results of the elections before deciding to remove this bar. If Mrs.Benazir Bhutto emerges from the elections as the leader with the largest support in the National Assembly, he might do so. On the other hand, if Mr.Nawaz Sharif so emerges, he would not.
10. The two main political formations of Pakistan---the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of Benazir and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) of Nawaz--have decided to contest the elections. The keenness of Benazir to contest the elections----- which reflected not only her keenness, but also the US desire that she should not damage the credibility of Musharraf's electoral exercise by boycotting the polls--- left Nawaz with no other option but to contest lest his party finds itself marginalised. The marginalisation of the PML (N), which is not comfortable with the US agenda for Pakistan, is what both Musharraf and the US want. The PML (N) would be committing a strategic mistake if it allowed their plans to succeed.
11. Among other parties, which are contesting the elections are the Musharraf-engineered PML (Qaide Azzam) headed by Chaudhury Shujjat Hussain, which is a party of Zia and Musharraf loyalists, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr. Altaf Hussain, still living in political exile in the UK, and the small Awami National Party (ANP) of the North-west Frontier Province (NWFP).
12. The political base of the JUI and the ANP are confined to the NWFP and the Pashtun-majority areas of Balochistan, where they are expected to win some seats. The political base of the MQM is confined to the urban areas of Sindh having a large number of Mohajirs (migrants from India). It should do well there---particularly in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.
13. In the rest of Pakistan, the electoral battle will mainly involve the Zia and Musharraf loyalists of the PML (QA), the Benazir loyalists of the PPP and the Nawaz loyalists of the PML (N). If the elections are free and fair, the PML (QA) will be marginalised and the PPP and the PML (N) will put up a strong showing--- the PPP in the rural areas of Sindh and in the Seraiki areas of southern Punjab and the PML (N) in the rest of Punjab and in some constituencies of Sindh, where there are a large number of Punjabi ex-servicemen settled by Zia. If this happens, Musharraf's political manoeuvrability will be considerably reduced. He will, therefore, see that the PML (QA) does not getr marginalised in Central and Northern Punjab. He will work towards a hung Assembly in which all contesting formations will have important strengths, but not an absolute majority, thereby making a coalition Government unavoidable.
14. There are as at present two openly-indicated---but not announced--- Prime Ministerial aspirants---- Benazir and Chaudhury Pervez Elahi of PML (QA). Pervez Elahi was earlier the Chief Minister of Punjab and is a strong Zia loyalist. He and Mr.Ejaz-ul-Haq, the son of Zia who was the Minister for Religious Affairs in the Government of Mr.Shaukat Aziz, have been strongly critical of Benazir. They project her father the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto as responsible for the loss of East Pakistan in 1971. They accuse the Al Zulfiquar, an anti-Army militant organisation formed by her brother, the late Murtaza Ali Bhutto, of being responsible for the assassination of some pro-Zia political leaders in the 1980s.
15.Nawaz has already stated that he would not serve in any capacity under Musharraf. That would leave Mr.Shabaz Sharif, his brother, as the party's choice for the post of Prime Minister. He is a good networker and has many well-wishers among the Punjabi Lt.Gens. If the US and Musharraf manoeuvre to make Benazir the Prime Minister, the PML (QA) could split, with the Zia loyalists joining hands with PML (N) to keep her out. The Zia loyalists have nothing against Nawaz, who was, in fact, the creation of Zia. Nawaz, while criticising Musharraf, takes care not to criticise Zia, his former mentor.
16.There are three possible post-election scenarios--- either a coalition of the Musharraf loyalists in the PML (QA), the Bhutto loyalists in the PPP, the MQM and the JUI headed by Benazir or a nominee of Musharraf; or a coalition of the PPP, the PML (N), the JUI and the ANP headed by Benazir or a coalition of the Zia loyalists and the PML (N) headed by either Pervez Elahi or a nominee of Nawaz acceptable to Musharraf. The likelihood of the emergence of a single party with an absolute majority does not appear very high at present. If a party with an absolute majority materialises, this could be only either the PPP or the PML (N).
17. Whichever scenario emerges, there will be continuing political instability with confrontation rather than consensus the order of the day. The ability of such a Government to deal effectively with jihadi terrorism threatening the rest of the world from Pakistani sanctuaries will be doubtful.
18. The continuance of Musharraf in power is a factor for instability and not stability in Pakistan. Unless and until the US realises it and works for scenarios not involving his continuance in power, Pakistan will keep haunting US policy-makers.
19. It is in the interest of India that it does not say or do anything in public that could discourage the pro-democracy and anti-Army forces in Pakistan, which have been agitating against Musharraf. While India has to do business with him so long as he is in power, it should resist from making any observations which could create a wrong impression that it is supporting the US agenda of working for his continuance in power, even if that be detrimental to democracy. In this context, one has valid reasons to be disturbed by the positive remarks of Musharraf's handling of the crisis in Pakistan by Shri M.K.Narayanan, India's National Security Adviser, in an interview to Shri Karan Thapar of CNN-IBN in his Devil's Advocate programme to be telecast on the night of December 16,2007. (15-12-07)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )