Friday, August 8, 2008



This is not a structured article. Am travelling. Hence, only some quick thoughts.

Faced with the threat of impeachment proceedings by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif), the following options are available for President Pervez Musharraf:

(a). Pre-empt the impeachment proceedings through a petition before the Supreme Court. The present bench in the Supreme Court is sympathetic to him. It could oblige him, but if the Army does not want to get involved in a controversy between the popularly elected Executive and the judiciary, he may have difficulty in getting the order of the judiciary enforced.

(b). Dismiss the Government and suspend the National Assembly on the ground that the Government failed to protect the honour of the Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence and joined in a conspiracy to weaken the ISI at a time when the people in the Kashmir Valley were facing a threat to their existence due to the agitation in the Jammu area. Under the amendment to the constitution introduced by him, such a step can be taken by him only on the recommendation of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by him. If the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of provinces refuse to attend the NSC meeting called for this purpose, it will lack the quorum. He can still go ahead if the chiefs of the Armed Forces and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are NSC members, attend. Gen.Pervez Ashfaq Kiyani, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Chairman, Joints Chiefs of Staff, might attend. If the Air Force and Navy chiefs refuse, Musharraf will make himself liable for impeachment on grounds of creating disunityin the Armed Forces at a time when terrorism is on the increase and Kashmir is on the boil.

(c). Quit gracefully. This is not in his blood.

2. The political opposition will have the following options:

(a).Start impeachment proceedings. It does not have the required two-thirds majority in the two Houses of the Parliament. The judiciary may not support it.

(b).Create a street agitation on the ground that Musharraf's conspiracies against the elected Government are weakening national security at a time when terrorism is on the increase and Kashmir is on the boil

(c).Come to terms with the reality that it does not have the required two-thirds majority and make a lot of threatening noises in the parliament without going ahead with the impeachment.

Whichever scenario materialises, both the partices might exploit the situation in Kashmir as a stick against their opponents. It is necessary for the Indian Army to redouble its preparedness for any eventuality.

In the meanwhile, who is in charge of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal? Who has the finger on the bolt of the arsenal? A chilling question.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For topical Studies, Chennai.