EMERGENCY, martial law, election in uniform, election from these assemblies, no return of Nawaz Sharif, a deal with Benazir on Gen Musharraf’s terms, general elections to suit the general’s convenience: this is the nonsense that Pakistan faces. And all because of one man and his paranoid desire to cling to power, no matter what the consequences. A fine gift to the country on its 60th birthday.
On a sinking ship any captain with a semblance of honour and sense of duty is first concerned about the safety of his passengers and crew. He is the last man to leave the ship. In our case this concept of honour has been turned on its head. A helmsman for eight years, not satisfied that he has been around for so long, is concerned only about himself. His ship is sinking but he wants everyone to go down with him.
This has nothing to do with the Constitution, or the 17th Amendment or any other legal document. This is megalomania pure and simple (my dictionary defining megalomania thus: obsession with the exercise of power…delusion about one’s own power or importance, typically as a symptom of manic or paranoid disorder).
It is also akin to Hitler’s mental condition in his bunker as the Red Army closed in, determined to take the German nation down with him. That is why he ordered a ‘scorched earth’ policy, the destruction of everything, including basic infrastructure, the last embers of his anger not so much against his enemies as against his own people who he felt had not been strong or Aryan enough to prevail against the odds. (A good thing for Germany his orders weren’t carried out.)
Wounded, stricken, paralysed…we are running out of words and metaphors to describe this dispensation in its last throes. No one has cornered or paralysed Pakistan’s imitation Cromwell. He has brought all this on himself – the author of his own misfortunes, his powers of imagination circumscribed by his fears.
He feels he is riding a tiger and will be devoured if he gets down. This is wrong imagery. We are a forgiving nation. We did nothing to Yayha Khan, who presided over Pakistan’s biggest disgrace. Nothing ever happened to that other military hero, Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan ‘Tiger’ Niazi, who surrendered to Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dhaka’s Race Course Ground. The tiger and his riding are only in Musharraf’s imagination.
Provided he can bring himself to trust the Constitution, provided even at this late stage he can think of something beyond his survival, he can still play a role in the transition from this wretched halfway house, betwixt military authoritarianism and democracy, to something more closely resembling democracy. But how do you treat a victim of his own fears? About ‘wehm’ or nameless suspicions it is said even the great Hakim Luqman had no cure.
Musharraf wants everything tailor-made to his fears. He wants to remain army chief. He wants to become president for another five years while still retaining his army position. He wants to be elected by these assemblies when their own tenures are about to finish. He wants general elections in which his allies are assured of victory. He wants to keep Nawaz Sharif out of the political arena. He wants to cut a deal with Benazir on his terms.
A thousand desires, each more pressing than the other. Alas, the time for them is past. For seven and a half years Pakistan lay at Musharraf’s feet. I do not exaggerate: he did as he pleased. The holy fathers danced to his tune and gave him the 17th Amendment, parliament was a rubber stamp and political parties were supine. Things have changed.
March 9 happened when Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry stood up to military diktat. Then May 12 when the MQM, trying to be more loyal than the king, overplayed its hand in Karachi, leading to the killing of move than 40 people. Then July 20, when the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ramday wrote judicial history by declaring invalid all the steps taken against the Chief Justice. This was the first such reverse suffered by a military ruler in Pakistan’s history.
The republic we await is yet far away. But something has happened. The Pakistani nation was so demoralised it had even stopped dreaming. That gift if nothing else now stands restored.
In this new mood the people of Pakistan won’t put up with such things as the imposition of emergency. As for martial law, the last option of tinpot patriarchs in the terminal stages of distress, its first casualty will be Musharraf, and its second the army when it shoulders the onus of a move bound to be reviled across the political and social spectrum.
This has not been a good period for the army’s standing with the Pakistani public. We don’t need this gulf to widen. And Pakistan can do without sinking to the level of Myanmar.
Lord in heaven, after 60 years of existence still stuck at the beginning, still trying to figure out our first steps. Don’t we deserve better than this? Was this the land of hope and freedom envisaged by Iqbal and Jinnah – a playground to some of the most incompetent straw-packed heroes it has been the lot of any Third World country to endure?
Top brass stacked with favourites, the criterion for promotion these past eight years loyalty rather than competence in the field. Look at the Vice Chief: a veritable replica of Genghis Khan. A good thing any test of arms is the last thing on the general staff’s mind, otherwise the kind of steeped-in-politics command we have right now would be hard put to maintain its own in the field.
Of what use our eastern cantonments? Time to dismantle them and turn them into defence housing colonies. Will F-16s and a new GHQ make us look better and more respected in the comity of nations? As for our nuke capability, for all the good it is doing us, the time may have come to hawk it as high-grade scrap on the international market.
The stupid games we play and have been playing for the last 60 years. The imposition of emergency for what? To save Pakistan or save someone’s skin? Pakistan will be saved and preserved by its people, not for the next ten years but a thousand years.
The space for freedom acquired over the last six months is a gift from no one. It has been won by the spirit and doughtiness of the Pakistani people: Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, the judges’ bench headed by Justice Ramday, the judges who resigned and those who showed solidarity with the judicial movement, the lawyers of Pakistan in the forefront of this movement, the leadership of the bar led by Munir Malik, the lawyers who defended the Chief Justice, especially Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Kurd who set the movement alight with his oratory, activists of political parties, ordinary people of this country who in their thousands greeted the Chief Justice.
Let me not forget Javed Hashmi who manfully endured prison and on his release by the Supreme Court has received a hero’s welcome. He speaks now in a language marked by conviction and seriousness.
Did the people of Pakistan do all this so as to endure another round of dictatorship? The future beckons. The Supreme Court is hearing the petition of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif regarding their return to the country. The government is already afraid – afraid of the tumult sure to arise when the Sharifs finally return. The lawyers are gearing up to challenge any move to get Musharraf ‘reelected’ by these assemblies. The Q League is frightened and its leadership does not know what to do.
The country is reaching out to the future, bracing for change. There could be no greater sign of weakness or failure than the imposition of emergency. The generalissimo on more than one occasion has pooh-poohed this idea. Is this another solemn pledge about to be broken?
Over the last eight years we have had our ears filled with talk of commando courage. Isn’t it time to honour the code of the commando for once? There is no need to be afraid of the Constitution. There is a right way of doing things and if this road is followed, many of the things that seem threatening may not be that frightening after all. Every military ruler in our history has had to be pushed out. Why not do things differently this time?