By I.A. Rehman
Thursday, 12 Mar, 2009 (Dawn)
Much can be said in favour of all the three gladiators in the arena — the lawyers, the government and the PML-N-but much weightier are the arguments against them.
The lawyers were on a high moral ground till they decided to bet on the PML-N’s capacity to bring the government to its knees. The government has been creating problems for itself by crossing the line between political finesse and deviousness. The PML-N had a legitimate political grievance to start with but it has chosen to trivialise revolution.
All of the so-called mainstream parties are mortally afraid of a genuine revolution because it might transform the Sharifs’ estate into a trade union office and the Zardari houses into shelters for women in distress. Obviously what Nawaz Sharif promised the nation was not a revolution in the real sense but merely a regime-change to his liking.
Not long before he raised the standard of baghawat (his own words) Nawaz Sharif was prepared to sew his lips for five years if the judges sacked by Gen Musharraf were restored. The judges’ case or public plight did not justify a call for revolution and it was only the loss of ministry in Punjab that awakened the revolutionary in the mercurial Mian Sahib. Thereafter he had to add ‘public interest’ to the two non-negotiable issues (restoration of judges and revival of the PML-N government in Punjab).
At the same time, the lawyers’ camp started saying that after the judges had been restored they would not rest until the people’s interest had been secured. Does this sudden fit of allegiance to public interest betray a feeling in the PML-N and lawyers’ forces that without promising the citizens a share in the spoils they cannot be sure of victory? Surely they are aware that in the present circumstances the possibilities of satisfying the aspirations of the people are extremely limited. This is hardly the time to seduce the people with dreams that are not going to be realised.
If the PML-N and the lawyers want their commitment to public interest to be taken seriously they must spell out their plans. Statements of goals achievable within a short span of time, particularly in the form of security of life and liberty, guarantees of employment, a fair wage and social security, access to education, healthcare and justice will help the hard-pressed have-nots to pitch their expectations at reasonable levels.
The lawyers sought the cover of PML-N and the religious groups out of despair but now they cannot escape the consequences of allowing themselves to be eclipsed by political elements whose hunger for power may be stronger than their principles. Besides, now they will not be masters of their show. However, both PML-N and the lawyers can depend on the government to make things easier for them — as it has been doing all along.
A dangerous game
Tanvir Qaiser Shahid
Nawaz Sharif is playing a dangerous game using Punjabi ethnicity for his political gains in Pakistan. Lawyers have becomre irrelevant in the Long March now. This is a movement lead by Nawaz Sharif for his own political agenda.
Nawaz Sharif encircled by his Punjabi politicians
Banaspati Revolution or Military Referendum?
Tahir Sarwar Mir
The day-dreaming of revolution
An advice to Zardari and Rehman Malik:
Prick the balloon
The essence of strategy is to do the unexpected. Restore Iftikhar Chaudhry (no need to argue that he is deeply politicised; that’s a reality but public perception is different); appeal the cases against the Sharif brothers; and reconstitute the bench. Deprive them of their cause(s)
Yesterday saw a “little” incident, I say little because it doesn’t seem like any lesson might have been learnt from it. Here goes.
A certain police official decided on his own to stop Athar Minallah, one of the main leaders of the lawyers’ movement. Wow! The media smelled the story, Mr Minallah got into the spotlight, cameras rolled, tickers began running on all channels: “Athar Minallah has been stopped outside Balochistan House; refuses to give arrest.”
The balloon began inflating, as it always does when someone gets his five minutes of glory and that provides the spur to prick the sides of media’s intent. Yet this balloon didn’t last for a simple reason. Rehman Malik, the prime minister’s advisor on interior, came and punctured it.
He told off the police and informed Mr Minallah that he was free to go and do whatever he wanted to. Message: you, Mr Minallah, are no threat to the government. Malik’s action, which gets my full support, deprived Mr Minallah of his limelight and forced the channels, making a story out of it, to look like flat beer.
Lesson 1: don’t allow people preventable glory! Lesson 2: in a democracy, even one as battered and messy as ours, citizens have the right to peaceful protest. Lesson 3: treat every protest as peaceful unless the protestors prove you wrong.
It’s lesson 3 that takes me to the passion shown by Mian Nawaz Sharif in Jhelum on Monday, asking people to rise and “get ready to make sacrifices for a revolution” and “come out on the streets to change your destiny”.
Translation: we, the PMLN and the PPP, are back to the vertical divide of the nineties and because the PPP has been perfidious in getting me disqualified, and because I cannot wait until the next elections to trounce the PPP, you, the people, should help me do it.
If anyone thinks Mr Sharif’s idea of “revolution” goes beyond this, he/she should get the Nobel Prize for Misplaced Optimism.
The PPP is equally to blame, allowing this situation to come to pass. Lesson 1 holds here: why allow Mr Sharif preventable glory?
Three steps the PPP should not have taken.
If the PPP didn’t want to accept the PMLN demand to restore the judges in the manner in which Mr Sharif wanted them back, it should not have agreed to do so from day one.
(Note: It’s quite another thing that the party should have restored the judges. It is also another debate whether restoration of judges in and if itself means strengthening of the judiciary.)
The PPP’s meanderings on the judges have deprived the party of the moral position with a corresponding incline in the PMLN’s. Mr Sharif is not staking a claim on strengthening the judiciary on any moral grounds, but that point cannot be made in the face of popular perception against the PPP’s position.
Asif Zardari should not have elevated himself as president. The president should remain neutral and a symbol of the federation. Mr Zardari has become controversial and politicised. This has harmed the PPP.
The PPP should have realised, from the first day, that the PMLN would opt for the cut and thrust of politics on all issues confronting the government. It first went into a coalition with the PMLN, made promises and then reneged on them. It thus allowed Mr Sharif to come out smelling like a rose. Mr Sharif was smart enough to exploit the situation by becoming intransigent, forcing the PPP, now, to decide to make the kill in the Punjab and lose even more of the political capital.
The Sharifs couldn’t have asked for more.
Now, they are out spoiling for a fight and rabble-rousing — and the public in the Punjab, for the most part, is with them.
At this stage, because the entire trajectory is about politics, no one is going to look into the merits of the cases against the Sharifs. (See the incisive analysis of this issue by Dr Ijaz Hussain on page A7)
Two factors are important in this chain of events: the Sharifs can slip out of the dragnet of merits argument by pointing out that the current Court is a kangaroo court which they do not recognise. This resonates with the general perception of the existing judicial arrangement despite the returning to the fold of many judges who were sacked by General Pervez Musharraf (retd).
Two, given the political backdrop of the decision and the trajectory of events, it shows mala fide on the part of the PPP. The imposition of Governor’s Rule immediately on the heels of the disqualification of Sharif brothers only lends credence to that perception.
This allows Mr Sharif, before the merits of the cases can be adjudged, to give a verdict in his own favour. I have been disqualified for political reasons — meaning, I am not guilty. Even if the current court had or has disqualified Mr Sharif on merit, it does not have the moral standing in the eyes of the public and therefore its decision will always be faulted as being based on motives other than strictly legal.
This works entirely to Mr Sharif’s advantage. In fact, life is so topsy-turvy at this stage that Mr Sharif can actually speak about threats facing Pakistan while doing everything possible to add to them.
So, what options does the PPP have at this stage to put Humpty together again? One is upfront and available. Writing in this newspaper, Abbas Rashid was spot-on when he argued:
“Perhaps, [on the judiciary issue] it is time to reconsider and think the unthinkable: restore the chief justice and the few remaining judges. The CJ would obviously be expected to absent himself from cases where his own impartiality may be an issue. Even if all this is a risk, at this stage it may be one worth taking.” (Daily Times; “Pakistan: dangerous descent”; March 7)
Take the wind out of Mr Sharif’s sails. He is not expecting that the PPP government would do this. The essence of strategy is to do the unexpected.
Restore Iftikhar Chaudhry (no need to argue that he is deeply politicised; that’s a reality but public perception is different); appeal the cases against the Sharif brothers; and reconstitute the bench. Deprive the Sharifs of their cause(s).
That is the lesson of the little incident I mentioned above. Prick the balloon.
This is important because the real threat lies elsewhere. (Daily Times)
Ejaz Haider is Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times and Consulting Editor of The Friday Times. He can be reached at email@example.com
اس کے علاوہ پشتونخواہ ملی عوامی پارٹی کے کارکن اگرچہ لانگ مارچ میں شرکت کے لیے اسلام آباد تو نہیں جا رہے لیکن وکلاء اور دیگر سیاسی کارکنوں کو رخصت کرنے کے لیے ریلی نکالیں گے ۔
NS is once again trying to revive Pujabi chauvinism in Pakistan. Jaag Punjabi Jaag Teri Pag Noon Lag Gaya Daagh.
12 MARCH 2009 10:24
Long (read Wrong) March poorly failed in Karachi.
Pakistan’s most popular party Nawaz League (kidding 🙂 ), Jamaat-e- (ghair) Islami, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Imran (PTI), (non)Labour Party Pakistan, Sunni Tehrik and Lawyers (liars) etc etc were not able to even brought more than 2000 people on roads !!!
Remember KARACHI has population of around 12 million and it is the very city where MQM and PPP can bring hudreds of thousands of people on road and that too on a very short notice !!!
12 MARCH 2009 13:09
Socrates, you are wrong. It was a massive rally in Karachi. Pooray 150 police wallay thay and 20 wakeel.
12 MARCH 2009 15:19
I agree with Chunna that the rally was massive, in spite of PPP-MQM government using legal (yet illegitimate) means to invoke Article 144 to intimidate people and weaken their morale.
Reading the above comments with great interest, I sincerely hope that self-claimed “critical supporters” of PPP would not just buy their party’s arguments but also dissent, like in this restoration of judiciary issue, in the interest of country and PPP in general.
12 MARCH 2009 16:38
“Pooray 150 police wallay thay and 20 wakeel.
” —- LOL !! wonderful coments !!!
@ ANON “I agree with Chunna that the rally was massive”— hmmm, I hope you know something about SARCASM !!!
“restoration of judiciary issue”— I don’t think Iftikhar Choudhry is judiciary !! he was a very partial and nepotic CJ of SC who misuse his powers for the appointment and promotion of his son, he also gave judgements in favour of terrorists. I hope people like you should understand that IMC was also a PCO judge. Therefore we should not mix-up issue of independent judiciary with the restoration of Ch. Iftikar !!
13 MARCH 2009 05:53
I don’t think you understand (or want to understand) the viewpoint of those who wish that CJ Iftikhar Chaudhury should be back in CJ’s chair. Let me try.
Those of us who want CJ Iftikhar Chaudhury to be restored don’t see him as “the judiciary”, rather we see him as the symbol of the movement for independent judiciary in Pakistan. And, mind you, when we state that CJ should be restored, we refer to restoration of ALL JUDGES as of 2 November 2007, not just the CJ. This measure is also important, so that illegal actions taken by General Musharraf on 3 November 2007 should not be given indemnity.
So, CJ’s restoration is paramount to having an independent judiciary in Pakistan.
It is our hope that with this restoration of ALL judges as of 2 November 2007 and with an independent judiciary, politicians or military dictators will not influence judicial matters, and leaders like Z.A.Bhutto will not be hanged or Sharif Brothers be unfairly targetted due to their political convictions.
13 MARCH 2009 07:56
@Anon — ” we see him as the symbol of the movement for independent judiciary in Pakistan. ” —- hmmmm it was IMC who first took oath under PCO and then his court give legal cover to Mushraff’s LFO. It was him who used his influence for the selection and then promotion of his son. It was IMC who gave several judgements in favour of terrorists from militant organizations. It was IMC who was famous for taking Suo Moto actions but he did not bother to hear Asghar Khan’s case regarding role of ISI in creation of IJI and distribution of public money amongst right-wing politicians. There is a very long list of charges against IMC. By the way I don’t think his act of “not resigning” was not a national matter rather it was his personal matter. In the last why the hell Supreme Court just gave a short verdict in favor of IMC on 22 July, 07 ??? Why SC did not issue detailed judgement ????
Now let’s talk about your Shariff (read badmaash brothers)
According to Charter of Democracy all PCO judges should have been removed, and as IMC was also a PCO judge then he should not be restored. There are two points one should keep in mind. One, it was IMC’s SC which allowed Nawaz Shariff to return to Pakistan and it was Khalil ur Rehman Ramday the right-hand of IMC who described Nawaz Shariff’s affidavit (which he signed to seek pardon and then go to Saudi Arabia for ten years) as just a piece of paper. Whereas Nawaz Shariff himself admitted before electronic media after his return to Pakistan that he signed deal for FIVE YEARS BUT NO FOR TEN YEARS !!! The question is, why IMC’s SC did not take Suo Motto action against Nawaz Shariff for misdeclaration ???
Two, IMC is basically from Punjab, whereas Sajjad Ali Shah and Abdul Hamid Dogar are Sindhis !!!! I don’t think I need to further elaborate my point !!
13 MARCH 2009 10:36