To stay out, one must come in!


Musharaf's Address to the nation will be remembered for the oxymoron which he presented to the nation, "to stop the army from coming in to power, it must be brought in..".  To rub salt into the wounds he followed it up by saying, "..and I mean every word of it". His solution to the repeated intrusion of the army in Pakistani politics is to give it a permanent role in a body which seems to be superior to the parliament. Not only has he made elected officials responsible to non elected ones, he has also given a body which consists of un elected members, the authority to keep an eye on the elected parliament and have a say on the dissolution of the parliament elected by the people. The final say in dissolving the parliament, for the ! next 5 years at least, will remain with an unelected president.

The basic idea of the National Security Council (NSC) is acceptable due to Pakistan's unique circumstances and history, but its role is supposed to ! be a limited one which does not interfere with the existing institutions. Within a democracy, parliament is the supreme body in terms of legislation, and the executive in terms of governance.  In addition to is! sues of national security, Musharaf in his address, has given the NSC the task of safe guarding democracy and inter provincial harmony.

Limiting the role of the NSC to that of national security is totally! sufficient in giving the army a more effective opportunity to deal with national security.  This will give the army a better and more effective say on issues which are very dear to its heart.  The lack of this facility in the past has lead to the army being forced to over throw governments.  An NSC with such a jurisdiction makes sense.  The added tasks assigned to it by Musharaf can be very dangerous for a democracy.

In a democracy the army has no role in politics, as the army is such an institution which must have the trust of the whole of the Pakistani population. It must remain independent which is not possible if it is involved in the political process.  Politicising the armed forces is very dangerous for the security and sovereignty of a country.  "Achieving sustainable democratic order and good governance", is supposed to be the job of the parliament, with intra-provincial harmony being better assured by giving the senate its due powers which have now been granted.

Vesting these powers into the NSC shows total disregard and ! lack of trust for the parliament and basically creates confusion of whether the parliament or the NSC has the right to address a certain issue.

Whilst we are on the subject of confusions, Musharaf has declared th! e Prime Minister to be all powerful with the slight minus point of him being able to be dismissed by the president.   In reality it will be the president who will be all power as the slightest dissent on part of the PM, will add another name on the list of PMs dismissed by unelected presidents.

The only aspect everyone is really interested in is that will these steps by Musharaf put an end to the ills which plague! d Pakistani politics over the last decade.  Firstly, in the 90's the army had its say every other year or so, now it will not have to wait at all.  Secondly, the corrupt, plundering, feudal, capitalist pol! iticians which Musharaf has held responsible for the woes in Pakistan, all of a sudden, are only 'bad' if they are not in the 'King's party', so that is another issue which Musharaf's government and these amendments! specifically have failed to address.  Most of the MNA's of the nineties are back to contest the October polls, with the government not encouraging new capable leadership to take over.

So are we any closer to 'true democracy' now than we were before October 1999?  The 'optimist' will say there have been many positive steps taken towards true democracy.  The 'skeptic' would say expecting democracy from a dictator is similar to expecting the USA to do justice in Palestine.  The 'realist' would say a true democracy does not have a self appointed all powerful president; an unelected watchdog body over parliament; power to dissolve parliament in the hands of one man; selective accountability. So, can anyone be 'out' at the same time as being 'in'.  The simple answer to that is 'No'.

Mr. Jawed Iqbal, is an independent writer and a political analyst. His articles appear in printed and electronic media of Pakistan.