Boycott, that’s what

Published December 18, 2007

WEDNESDAY, Nov 7, 2007: “I only want that the arrested judiciary should decide the cases,” (when asked if she would accept a decision by PCO judges on important cases like then General Musharraf’s eligibility and the NRO); “When we talk about revival of [the] Constitution, we talk about restoration of [sacked] judges.” — Benazir Bhutto; at Naheed Khan’s farmhouse, Islamabad.

Sunday, Nov 11, 2007: “Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and all other judges who refused to take oath under the PCO should be reinstated and orders for their house arrest lifted.” — Benazir Bhutto; outside the Judges Enclave, Islamabad.

Friday, Nov 16, 2007: The frightening John Negroponte, who made quite a name for himself when he was US ambassador to Honduras and the Nicaraguan Contra insurgents were training guerrillas on Honduran soil, arrives in Islamabad the Beautiful. Instead of calling on Benazir personally as scheduled — she even came hotfoot to Islamabad the Beautiful for the occasion — he merely calls her on the telephone on the 17th.

Thursday, Dec 13, 2007: “Judges come and go just like Justices Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and Nasir Aslam Zahid who refused to take oath under the PCO. If any judge wants to do politics he should set up a political party.” — Benazir Bhutto; Bilawal House, Karachi.

What in God’s name did Negroponte say to Benazir Bhutto to make this woman, known far and wide for her raw courage, this daughter of a fearless father, take that rather abrupt U-turn? What did Negroponte say that has struck the fear of God in her?

Or is it further fine-tuning of the Mother of All Deals (MAD) that has been husbanded by the American administration, between her and Dubya’s ‘tight’ buddy Gen (retd) Musharraf? Is this why Benazir’s latest statement is to the effect that she can work with Musharraf if he holds free elections?

Of course, the stand of the PPP thus far has been that the elections will be rigged and that it is taking part in them only to expose that rigging! One’s heart goes out to the spokespersons of the party when they appear on television and in the print media, trying to explain away this quite inexplicable stand and falling flat on their faces every single time.

When, by the way, did Their Lordships ever show the slightest inclination that they wanted to set up a political party? Have we become so niggardly that we will not even appreciate Their Lordships for standing up to an Army dictator? And for their fight for judicial independence?

If your head is spinning by now, reader, not to worry — I have got me a migraine wading through the web of right turns and left turns and U-turns, and statements and more statements, and, suddenly, another U-turn!

So then, the emergency has been lifted; the old judges have been pensioned off; the brand-new ones are in place; the major political parties are dancing to the tune composed by the Great Powers and played quite tunelessly by the junta; and according to some newspapers it is ready, steady go towards ‘elections’. Everything hunky-dory, what?

There is more hunky-dory to come. PILDAT is circulating a statement by The Citizens Group on Electoral Process, which is headed by the eminent Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui and boasts several respected people as members, recommending that lawyers and members of civil society who have boycotted the election should closely monitor the elections despite the fact that The Citizens Group itself recognises that free and fair elections are not possible under the present set-up.

Why? Why should they observe the elections which have largely been rigged already? Where is the big secret in all of this? Who doesn’t know what is going on? Readers will have seen photographs in the press of a policeman in Lahore carrying an election placard and a police mobile full of more placards waiting to be put up. They will have seen reports regarding the free display of placards and posters of the Chaudhries on The Mall in Lahore.

They will also have seen reports of members of the cabinet using government vehicles and funds for their election campaigns, and have noted that the superior judiciary is now so free that it has validated the emergency which even Gen (retd) Musharraf says was illegal and unconstitutional.

How, then, is anything right with this exercise orchestrated by the Americans and supported to the hilt by the British? As an aside, while President Sarkozy of France is Dubya’s new poodle (after Tony Blair’s retirement from that august station) according to my favourite cartoonist, Steve Bell of The Guardian, it is heartening to see that French diplomats are not making faux pas upon faux pas like the Yanks and the Brits re. this ‘election’. The Quai d’Orsay’s high reputation is not for nothing.

But back to business and first to the Citizens Group recommendation. What good will it do to look for rigging on the so-called ‘election day’? (I use the word ‘so-called’ because I do not recognise these ‘elections’ as anything of the sort.) Suppose three of us see massive rigging in, say, a polling station in Sheikh Rashid Tulli’s constituency? What do we do? Register a complaint before the Returning Officer who works under an Election Commission that is already compromised? We do remember its shenanigans at the time of Gen (retd) Musharraf’s election-in-uniform, don’t we?

And if the EC doesn’t give us the time of day, what do we do then? Go to the judiciary that was born under the PCO, despite the fact that the same PCO kicked out fully 60 per cent of its own brother judges?

If they couldn’t care a jot for their own because of their own sinecures, will they rule against a close associate of Gen (retd) Musharraf and risk losing their jobs?

No sirs, no. Members of civil society and lawyers who stand against the so-called election should stand against it all the way. And if it is rigged further on the so-called election day, serve the political parties right for lending support to a discredited dictator and his henchmen.

Bushism of the Week: “The decisions we make in Washington have a direct impact on the people in our country, obviously” — President George W. Bush; New Albany, Indiana, Nov 13, 2007.

PS: Ms Bhutto sounds just like Dubya when she says that Aitzaz Ahsan must decide if he is with the PPP or with the CJ when it comes to the boycott. In the first place, what does the CJ have to do with the boycott? Secondly, can there be no plurality in the party, especially where an eminent member like Aitzaz is concerned?

Is there no distinction between horses and donkeys?



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