Wednesday night was all abuzz with the rumors of Emergency with all the major private TV channels quoting “reliable” sources and bringing on their best analysts to comment on the emerging situation. The declaration, expected to come somewhere around 2 or 3 am, Thursday morning has not come till now. It is widely reported that our all time “friend” and “well wisher” America called up and after a 20 minutes conversation, convinced General Musharraf to think otherwise.
The three main reasons that were being given for a supposed emergency declaration were US threats, on which account very conveniently, a much wanted but often side stepped parliamentary debate had already taken place with both the opposition and treasury benches asking for an overview of the foreign policy, Chinese kidnappings and the internal security situation of the country. Inspite of all these reasons apparently measuring up to the conditions stated in the constitution for the declaration of emergency, namely any internal or external threat to the federation, they warrant a debate on their actual nature in context of existing ground realities, to be able to ascertain the intentions of the Musharraf regime.
Citing US threats in particular, is indirectly conceding the failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy towards the United States after 9’11. It gives credence to all those voices that were being raised against bending over to America and validates the claim that the blooming Pakistan-US relations was just a farce created by the government to sell the American line to the general masses. Afterall, weren’t we being told that the u-turn in our policy vis a vis the Taliban, was going to secure our frontiers against any Iraq or Afghanistan kind misadventure? The nation was warned against being “bombed to the stone ages”, voicing the warnings emanating from the White House. What, in the end did Pakistan gain except for, besides the worsening internal security situation of the country caused by a segment of population directly affected by US policies in this region, threats to its national integrity? Seven years long commitment to a war which many say isn’t even our own, we are being told that there is a genuine threat of military intervention from the world’s superpower which was till now a staunch ally in this war. This is probably also one of the reasons why America was so concerned about this expected state of emergency, what with the already fragile standing of Musharraf in the local political scene, it could not afford to have the Pakistan government (its only supporter in Pakistan) standing abashed in front of its people, in lieu of its US policy. This is also a pointer to the Musharraf regime (if it was under any illusion so far) and all those Musharraf supporters who think he is the best face there is of Pakistan that can be presented to the West, that the main concern of the United States is Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror. Musharraf’s political future, which was in turmoil after the Supreme Court decision and in the wake of the cases being filed challenging his re election from the sitting assemblies, is important as long as it affects the Pakistan government’s commitment to the War on Terror. Also, Musharraf’s withdrawal from the Pak-Afghan jirga, because of the political situation back home had not been received well in the United States with the State department expecting General Musharraf to “…join in the jirga any time…”. This concern may have also caused Condi Rice to call up Musharraf and remind him of his “commitments” to the Afghan issue.
On the remaining two fronts, the government stands accountable for its misdirected policies which have brought the country to such a state. The Musharraf regime kept telling the masses that the country needed these “saviours” to bring stability by dealing with any threats to the state with an iron fist. That iron fist has only alienated the masses and polarized them to a point where ideologically distinct blocs of society are at dagger heads with each other. The Waziristan imbroglio, Lal Masjid fiasco, Balochistan insurgency have bred these suicide bombers, these “holy” warriors. Talibanisation was not as rampant in the tribal belt even when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan as much as it is today. There is no justification for their actions but situations create criminals. The unlawfully abducted Balochis, the missing persons, the indiscriminate bombing and the deployment of forces in the tribal belt, the brutal Lal Masjid operation that caused so many still-unaccounted for casualties of children and women, have ignited the fire that has left all of us parched. And these eight years have been wasted in rhetoric. If emergency was the only alternative left to Musharraf after eight years of unchecked, absolute rule then there are many questions that he needs to answer. This concession of failure should not be allowed to go unnoticed, unaccounted for.
The above discussion clearly implies that something more incumbent, more pressing must have been on Musharraf’s mind to think of declaring emergency with all the odds stacked against him if he had gone ahead with the above reasons to back his action. One of the most obvious irritant to the Musharraf regime at this point in time is the case filed in the Supreme Court by the Sharif brothers which uses clauses pertaining to the freedom of movement of a Pakistani citizen in Pakistan, one of the fundamental rights clauses in the constitution, as its basis. The suspension of fundamental rights which follows the declaration of emergency would have jeopardized this case whose hearing began on Thursday. The return of the Sharif brothers is justifiably feared by the ruling regime because it is estimated that about 70% of MPAs of the ruling PML-Q are waiting to move back to PML-N once any or both of the brothers return, with even more resignations waiting for a positive response from the stand-in chairman of PML-N, in Pakistan. The case filed by Qazi Hussain Ahmed is also a cause for concern. Musharraf may have been counting on the extension in the term of the sitting parliament, an option with the president in a state of emergency, to ensure his smooth re election from the present assemblies with or without uniform. It may be mentioned here that the APDM, the newly formed alliance of political parties opposed to General Musharraf’s role in politics are not willing to accept him as the president even without the uniform. Also, there is after all a limit to the government’s endurance for the new found spirit of the Supreme Court. As the Minister of Railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed pointed out in a TV program, “…you can’t expect the president to accept every decision of the Supreme Court in good stead…” .
For the proponents of democracy, despite being an outrightly outrageous proposition, the declaration of emergency would have itself sealed Musharraf’s fate. It would probably have been better if Emergency had been declared and Musharraf’s designs exposed through the Supreme Court, upon being challenged. His support in the general populace can be gauged by the kind of knee-jerk reactions that he has been reduced to, and the United States (the sole savior of Pakistan’s dictators) is fast losing patience with him. The next few months will be very crucial for the democratic forces in Pakistan and need to be assessed very wisely to ensure the, so to say GEO dream:
Year 2013-Pakistan, a thriving parliamentary democracy.
Fingers crossed, let’s move on to return the Pakistani people their voice.