Political Battles Continue While Musharraf Gets ‘Home Run’ on Legal Front

The split judgment on the petitions challenging general Parvez Musharraf’s holding of two offices and also his candidacy for the October 6 presidential elections does give him a legal ‘go-ahead.’ However it does not give Musharraf and more importantly the process, through which he seeks re-election, political legitimacy. Some legitimacy the process has earned through the two additional presidential candidates who have filed their papers for re-election; Justice Wajeeh uddin and PPP leader Amin Fahim. Rest he hopes he will get in this very divisive polity, when PPP will decide to not resign from the Assemblies.

There are other issues overriding the presidential elections. Most importantly how is the Supreme Court judgment received.

It seems its always politics that is determining the response. The MQM and other coalition partners and the PPP, now in negotiations with the government, have all supported the judgment. The APDM parties are opposing it. And these parties opposing the verdict will now hope to exert pressure on Musharraf through political means. They will bank on assembly resignations and on massive street protests. Today, when protests by the lawyers and APDM have been organized outside the Election Commission, is the d-day when we will all get a taste of the politics to come.

Matters have come full circle. The issue is back to where it started from, i.e. politics. Frustrated by the government’s bull dozing ahead on many fronts, the Opposition took the political mess to the court and wanted the Court to clean it up. It wanted Musharraf to surrender his army position and to not seek re-election as the president. Their list of complaints against Musharraf was unending.

In yesterday’s judgment the majority in the Court essentially said to the Opposition look you created the mess, you passed the Seventeenth Amendment and don’t expect us to clean the mess. The dissenting judges thought otherwise. The ones rejecting the maintainability of the petitions must also factor in that after all the Courts had given two judgments relating to Justice Rafiq Tarrar’s election as president that created a precedent for the two year waiver to those holding government jobs. Also as some judges observed during the hearing that it is the politicians who took steps to give Musharraf the constitutional cover for holding two positions. That cover gives him cover until November 15. That deadline he intends to meet in becoming a civilian president.

Obviously conclusion of the majority on the bench was that the current political polarization and confrontation does not have a legal dimension. That it has a constitutional and political dimension and for that the parliament is the forum the contesting politician must go to.

Many of us would have liked the court to have ruled that general Musharraf remove his uniform before the legislators cast their votes for or against him. Unquestionably an army Chief getting votes as a president is a caricature of democracy. It’s a counter-reality to democracy. Yet fortunately this should alter within a few weeks. He will definitely shed that uniform. And also go for a vote of confidence by the newly elected assemblies in January 2008. That is the road that our power scene, now much closer to an accountable scene than ever before, will allow for now. Clearly it’s not a radical revolutionary political path we are on. It’s also not one that will yield villains or heroes. We are on a gradualist and evolutionary democratic path. Fortunately the changing dynamics of power within Pakistan puts us on an irreversible democratic path.

But in the political fray there is impatience, frustration, rage, search for instant results and deployment of multiple tools to battle the opponents. Hence most of the Opposition, minus the PPP, since the post-verdict period, are completely junking the Supreme Court of Pakistan. By contrast earlier they were far more appreciative of the country’s apex court. Today they are gunning for it. The blatant attacks on the judges and on the process are disturbing. Simply put its about being negative about situations, developments and decisions that do not support their positions.

Similarly, the lawyers and their presidential candidate are taking the rejectionist and attacking position vis a vis the Supreme Court. This speaks volumes for the maturity and the discipline of the lawyers. They are abandoning the hallmark of their profession; discipline, uprightness and respect for law and for the country’s apex Court.

If they disagree with the verdict they should simply say we will take legal recourse to challenge it and also we will, with the political parties take other political measures to stop Musharraf the army chief from contesting the presidential elections.

In the run up to the Presidential elections, Pakistan promises to be a hotbed of confrontational political activities; both within and outside of the parliament. The onus will now be on those opposing general Musharraf to make winning moves in the political battle-field. Unless any wholly unexpected developments take place, there is little likelihood that they will manage any winning and decisive moves.