Musharraf under fire at seminar in LHCBA hall
* Speakers slam Pervaiz Elahi for supporting Musharraf’s uniform
* Saad suggests ARD more closer to MMA
* Khosa says MMA untrustworthy
By Abid Butt
LAHORE: Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) leaders, lawyers and Lahore High Court Bar Association officials, at a seminar on Tuesday, unanimously carried six resolutions demanding treason cases against people making statements in favour of President General Pervez Musharraf’s uniform.
The resolutions condemned Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi for insisting President Musharraf continue ruling the country in military uniform for another five years. The resolutions also condemned military operations in Balochistan and the “rigged” Tharparkar and Attock by-elections. They also demanded the release of Asif Ali Zardari and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and the disqualification of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
The seminar titled ‘Constitution, democracy, parliament and fundamental rights under the shadow of uniform’ condemned President Musharraf.
The speakers said that “puppet” prime ministers and chief ministers believed that their survival depended on a strong General Musharraf, so they were asking him to remain the chief of army staff. The speakers said that the Constitution and democracy could not survive and prosper under the shadow of the president’s uniform.
They said that army generals who claimed themselves to be custodians of the geographical boundaries of Pakistan had put its solidarity at risk. “Army generals devastated Pakistan.”
The speakers called the present and previous two prime ministers “public relation officers” of General Musharraf. The National Assembly speaker was his “batman”. The seminar was organised on the recommendation of Senator Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, the head of the Human Rights Committee of the Pakistan People’s Party. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Khwaja Saad Rafique urged ARD component parties to create space and develop tolerance to accommodate the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in order to broaden the opposition to the president. He said that a strong opposition was now necessary because the government was supporting President Musharraf on the uniform issue.
Mr Rafique referred to the MMA support for ARD candidate Javed Hashmi against Mr Aziz in the prime minister’s election. He said the ARD would have to take the MMA along to fortify their ranks against the uniform, which, he said, needed to be “pulled off” after Musharraf’s insistence on keeping it. Mr Khosa disagreed with Mr Rafique’s idea that the ARD should accommodate the MMA. He said the MMA had always placed its own interest first. He said that differences existed between the MMA and the ARD in one-year-long government-opposition talks on the Legal Framework Order.
He said that the MMA continued to have a soft spot for the government and gave time to General Musharraf time to keep his uniform. He said that when the LFO bill was presented before the house, he informed the MMA leaders that the government had duped them because an amendment bill was being presented after the LFO was part of the Constitution, which the MMA opposed.
He said that the MMA leaders first expressed their anger but accepted every thing from the government after two days. Mr Khosa then pointed out the appointment of the leader of the opposition. “The PPP has a very big heart, but it can’t trust people (MMA) who have already failed the test of integrity,” he said. Former foreign minister Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali, LHCBA President Ahmad Awais, former Supreme Court Bar Association president Hamid Khan and human rights activist Asma Jahangir lambasted Punjab Chief Minster Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi for his statement that General Musharraf stay in uniform for another five years.
“This statement will go down as a black mark in the political history of the country,” Mr Ali said. He said the chief minister had been asked to give the undemocratic statement because Punjab had already been blamed by others for helping military rulers. He said the chief minister’s statement in support of a dictator was also an attack on the federation.
Mr Rafique said General Musharraf’s uniform had made the Constitution, democracy, parliament and the army controversial. He asked why General Musharraf was afraid of shedding his uniform if he had the support of 96 percent pf Pakistanis.
He turned down Mr Aziz’s election, saying the ARD had not accepted the “selected” prime minister. “This is why we didn’t take part in his election,” he said.
Mr Khosa suggested that the office of the commander-in-chief be dispensed with and command be to corps commanders, which would make the army more professional and less prove to interfere in politics. Mr Awais underlined the need for joint efforts against the dictatorship. He said the dictator had brought the country to the verge of a disaster.
Ms Asma Jahangir stressed the need to frame a strategy against the repeated military coups in the country, which had “eaten Pakistan like cancer”. She criticised the army action against Okara farmers. She said it was quite contradictory of General Musharraf to claim massive public support but still be afraid of stepping down as army chief.