No serious consultation is possible with a dictator once he is insecure about his impending presidential election and his future to stay in power, the power he seized illegally years ago and the power that guarantees his security as long as he holds on to it. If that is jeopardised, then the time for consultation is long gone — it is time to take some action. And that is exactly what he did.
In 2007 General Musharraf was the supreme leader of Pakistan, the only one who represented the unity in command: apart from being the mighty president of the state with article 58(2)(b) of the constitution in his pocket, he was also the chief of the army staff for the nine years. While recognised as a trustworthy US ally in the war against terror, he was renowned and well respected in the western media for his moderate policies. Besides that, he was the mentor of the ruling political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, and the supervisor of his handpicked prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, all in one.
Consultation with meek politicians and career officers could not be taken seriously, given all his powers. It was an eyewash from the beginning and everyone knew it, like a father getting a financial opinion from his 10-year-old son on the purchase of a million dollar house. The child may get excited about the size of the backyard, his room or even be impressed with the neighborhood but, jokes aside, there can be no consultation with him about the parent’s ability to pay for that house.
Imagine what would have happened to the future of an officer who had been promoted by the same chief twice in the last six years if that officer had disagreed with the belligerent yet powerful general. I am sure his career would have ended that day. A case against him on misconduct and corruption like that of the chief justice would emerge out of nowhere and that was it. Now think of a compromised politician who had negotiated the election results with a serving general way before the elections; what would happen to him if he dared to disappoint an army chief? The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the institution known to keep the ‘rebellion’ of a politician in line, would have ‘taken care’ of him easily and comprehensively. Then consider an imported prime minister who has no political base, no party, no constituency and may actually not even have Pakistani nationality; how hard is it to persuade him to write a letter against the Supreme Court judges? Easy — how could it not be?
I am sure that each one of them remembered the fate of Mian Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan with a two-third majority in parliament, who was first jailed, then tried in a special court for hijacking a plane and then exiled to Saudi Arabia for years. They must also have thought about Javed Hashmi’s sentence on inciting mutiny in the army, the imprisonment of Yousaf Raza Gillani in a corruption case and the death of Akbar Bugti. All these ‘learning’ events must have convinced them to agree with the general to implement martial law, a decision that he had already made even if each one of them disagreed.
Furthermore, since March 2007, every Pakistani had witnessed the vulnerability of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhary who was manhandled on the streets. They knew how he was unconstitutionally suspended after a reference had been filed against him. They remembered how he had to travel for days from one city to another for the rule of law, and how the streets of Karachi were turned into a slaughterhouse on May 12 to stop him from visiting it. Under these circumstances, disagreement with such a powerful person was suicidal, and no one could have taken that risk.
Now let us look at Article six of the constitution, especially its Clause two, which has been called into question quite a lot: “6. High treason (1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason. (2) Any person aiding or abetting [or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.”
Since the wording in the constitution says “any person” and does not limit the nationality of that person, General Musharraf’s team can make an argument that Musharraf also consulted with world leaders, foreign diplomats and many international legal advisors before his action. Considering the security situation in Pakistan, all of them were in full agreement with him, and therefore should be included in the list of abettors and investigated before his trial. His defence would be understandable as they continued their support in the war against terror and worked with him on the issues of education, health, poverty and bilateral interests. I am not sure if this argument bears legal validity but his team is not trying to win the battle legally in the first place. Nonetheless, it can be considered another attempt to cast the net as wide as possible, include thousands of people from the foot soldier to the highest ranking officer, involve all the politicians and name every person who even shook hands with the general after the proclamation of martial law and create a smokescreen of massive confusion where, on the one hand, everyone is found to be guilty as abettors and, on the other, Musharraf is a free man to ‘serve’ the country once again.
I do not know if these techniques will work because, legally speaking, the case against him is very strong and after the indictment conviction will not take a long time.
Islamabad is now infested by ideologically driven young men and women, none of whom are just ...