By Raza Rumi
The triumph of a popular movement on March 16 has marked a new beginning. The retreat of an intransigent government and the wise response by the PML-N and the lawyers averted a major crisis that could have been violent, and also a potential recipe for harming the parliamentary system in its infancy. There was a sigh of relief among the public for a long-standing issue appeared to have been resolved. This has been a monumental achievement by all standards.
However, the inherent imbalances within Pakistan’s power structure and the state of its polity are yet to be addressed and the contradictions of how our power is exercised stared us as the good news rolled out through the ubiquitous TV channels and their zealous presenters. The way quintessentially political issues and turf-wars between the PPP and PML-N were battled and resolved through a stage-managed process only concealed the bitter power-realities of Pakistan. Continue reading
Another excellent piece by our eminent guest contributor (ed. Raza Rumi)
By Abbas Zaidi
When General Musharraf deposed Ifitikhar Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, on 9 March 2007, he did not realize there would be such an endless and widespread chain of protests all over the country. It was for the first time in Pakistan’s history that a judge had defied a general’s orders by deciding a few cases on merit, i.e., against a dictator’s wish and in the common man’s interest. It was the unprecedented power of the popular protest that led to the restoration of Justice Chaudhry four months later in July 2007. But General Musharraf did not accept the return of the Chief Justice, and on 3 November 2007 he imposed martial law in Pakistan and deposed Justice Chaudhry. It was a unique martial law in the political history of the world because it was directed only against the person of Justice Chaudhry. All the other institutions of Pakistan-e.g., the cabinet and the parliament-remained untouched. . . .
Although General Musharraf has been consigned to the gutter where his predecessors-General Zia being the wickedest and most notorious of the pack-Justice Chaudhry still has not been restored to his rightful office. The present democratically government is reluctant to restore him because it claims that he has become controversial by aligning himself with politicians, and hence his impartiality is suspect. Like millions of Pakistanis, I believe that the restoration of Justice Chaudhry is an act of faith to me. He, I believe, stands for freedom in Pakistan-freedom in the widest sense of the word. If he is not restored, judiciary in Pakistan will continue to remain subservient to generals, bureaucrats, and politicians. So when the leaders of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association announced that Justice Chaudhry would deliver a speech at a lawyers’ meeting in Rawalpindi on 3 November to mark the first anniversary of his sacking, I could not wait to hear the man who has been a hero, a savior indeed, to the people of Pakistan.
I cancelled all my engagements in order to sit in front of TV and watch the man who is no less than a prophet in these times. He began his speech by telling people how his refusal to kowtow to General Musharraf led to his sacking. Around fifteen minutes into his speech, there was a little disturbance behind him. He stopped briefly and looked behind. The disturbance continued for a couple of minutes and then two faces emerged and I heard myself say: “O, shit!” At that very moment I found myself agreeing to the government’s claim that the movement for the restoration of Ifitikhar Chaudhry was actually a front for the agenda of some time-serving politicians. Why? Continue reading
First published by the DAWN
THE enthusiasts for the long march towards Islamabad are justifiably feeling let down by the grand posturing, thundering rhetoric and the subsequent retreat from agitation outside the dreary citadels of power in Islamabad’s dark heart.
A Bastille, which was not meant to be? Interpretations abound and explanations are flowing in from the motley groups who ventured to change the contours of state-society relations. The lawyers’ movement is profoundly significant. It constitutes the finest historical ‘moment’ in our troubled history. However, many observers have hinted at its limitations and the problematic phase that the movement has now entered. Continue reading
This was published in DAWN yesterday
By Raza Rumi
THAT you are principled, charismatic and right is beyond doubt. You have inspired the cynical, intelligentsia, revived a moribund civil society and awakened Pakistan’s traditionally de-politicised middle class.
This is something that history shall record gloriously – reminiscent of the way you re-invoked the essential attributes of ‘Indus man’ in your treatise on the pre-historic identity of Pakistan.
Today, all efforts to generate ‘positive’ results from Election 2008 have foundered; and there is a new parliament ready to be sworn in. The new National Assembly, reflecting the fractured polity, has one common thread – nearly two thirds of its members constitute or sympathise with what was known as the opposition before February 2008. This is a moment of reckoning and most concrete outcome of a decade long struggle initiated by your friend Mr Nawaz Sharif, your leader the late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and your supporters in the middle class and urban democrats. The movement that followed the suspension of the Chief Justice in March 2007 was a culmination of public discontent that started way before. That you provided a shape and led it, is, your stellar contribution.
This is a historic moment that cannot be squandered or lost to the politics of personalities and individuals. Most Pakistanis are in awe of the dismissed Chief Justice for his strength of character, they have tremendous respect for the members of the bench who refused to succumb to the executive diktat following the imposition of emergency in November 2007. And above all, they are also tired of General Musharraf whose good intentions have only led to the proverbial hell of energy and food crises, rampant inflation and roaming suicide bombers. But this struggle just cannot be about getting rid of the president and reinstating the Chief Justice. That would be a belittling corollary of this fabulous episode in our recent history.
The representatives of the PPP, PML-N, ANP and bulk of like-minded independents are touching the magic number of two thirds in the new Assembly. If they are asked to settle a score with an individual and honour another few, history will not record it in kind terms.
Your call for a march towards Islamabad and the restoration of judges before Mar 9 is bound to polarise the fragile parliament, the political parties that have been beaten, poached, hounded with leaders assassinated or disqualified. It is a delicate juncture of our history and any division in the moderate political class or resort to historical bickering and blame-games will rock the system only to benefit the martial corridors of Islamabad’s Byzantine palaces and their traditional occupants.
This is why many citizens are worried and skeptical that nothing changes in the murky waters of Pakistani politics. Continue reading