It is ironic that the rulers, whether they are in Pakistan or United States, have been playing a power game, as the innocent and law-abiding citizens have beome victims of the after-effects of their game. In Pakistan the rulers are still busy in this power struggle, but the terrorists have been gaining strength. The rulers have still been discussing the issue as who will be the next rulers, but the terrorists have moved all the closer to the corridor of power.
There are stills report of deals among the politicians. According to a newspaper comment: General Pervez Musharraf has made seven amendments to the Constitution as a prelude to a possible lifting of the Emergency under pressure from the United States. The amendments lock the system set up under Emergency in place in such a way that he doesn’t need the Emergency any more. In other words, he has used the powers of the Emergency to amend the laws before lifting the Emergency. He is also said to be ready to take off his COAS uniform and be sworn in as a civilian president on Saturday or Sunday after the new post-PCO Supreme Court rejects the petition challenging his re-election. Meanwhile, in Washington, President Bush has gone back to his refrain that “Musharraf is a man of his word and truly believes in democracy” after the Negroponte visit during which some “arrangement” must have been agreed. The PPP, meanwhile, continues to resist the opposition proposal to jointly boycott the January elections.
Out of the seven amendments, the following are important as they put the system on “auto-pilot” after his leaving the helm of affairs, compelling the army to defend it in the name of defending the Constitution. An Amendment to Article 186(a) empowers the Supreme Court to withdraw and “dispose of” any case, appeal or other proceedings pending before a High Court. Previously, the apex court could only transfer any case, appeal or other proceedings pending before any high court to any other high court.
A new article (270AAA) is added to the Constitution to validate the proclamation of Emergency, promulgation of the PCO and all acts done on, or after, November 3. An Amendment to Article 270(b) validates the general elections to be held in 2008. An Amendment to Article 270(c) qualifies the superior court judges who have taken oath under the Oath of Office (Judges) Order of 2007 to have been appointed under the Constitution, and declares those who have not taken oath under the order to have ceased to hold the office of a judge. Significantly, the amendments do the job that Emergency was supposed to do, namely, fix the Supreme Court. Now that the Supreme Court can take care of all cases not filed at it, but which it feels impinge on the new order of things, the lawyers can no longer shake the edifice of Musharraf’s power. It is also expected that he will make his peace with the ousted TV channels in the coming days.
After securing the system against any kind of “democratic” assault, he will hardly need the Emergency to which the world is so allergic. He has given himself the power to lift the Emergency as a civilian president. He has also asked the Commonwealth summit at Kampala to “hold on” for a few days and not blackball Pakistan. Why has he done that? He wants to clear the bill of demands sent in by the Commonwealth: removal of Emergency, civilianisation of the presidency after resigning as the COAS, holding of elections on the due date, and restoration of the freedom of the media and human rights. This is also the roster of demands from the rest of the world. And this may be about to be fulfilled in letter if not in spirit.
The United States and countries of the Commonwealth have to think up new “conditionalities” to nail General Musharraf. They could consult with the opposition parties in Pakistan and demand that he leave the scene and hand over the country to a “national government” after restoring the pre-PCO Supreme Court. But from the way President Bush has made his latest “assessment” of the character of General Musharraf, and the way the Commonwealth looks at the situation in Pakistan, this may not happen. Meanwhile, Washington may pursue its agenda of putting together a liberal “deal” between Musharraf and the PPP with renewed vigour after the Emergency is lifted. Is the PPP waiting for the deal while it delays its decision on the election boycott?
The PPP began with demands that Musharraf could have met easily, but what ensued after Ms Bhutto’s arrival was a quickly deteriorating verbal jousting. She had asked him to take off the uniform at first; later the list of demands swelled and began to look the demand made by the opposition parties. It is quite possible that the general may relent also on the question of local governments, and if he also suspends them, the PPP will start looking unfair in its preconditions of participation in the elections. One must understand that “power-sharing” was never clearly defined — was it before the polls or after? — and the real sticking-point was the PPP’s participation in the elections. If the party still wants to take part in the election it can do so under protest at the “unwise” choice of the caretaker government by the general. Once that decision is made, the rest of the opposition — which is filing its papers at the Election Commission anyway — is bound to follow suit. Interestingly, all of them have given statements both in favour of a boycott and in preparation for the elections.