November '07: Pakistan Deserves Better
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Pakistan Deserves Better
Pakistan is going through a turmoil. Amidst this
chaos, when the country is hotage to the whims of a
few individuals , citizens have been reduced to mere
puppets.For the November individu spotlight, we
wanted to focus on the message Pakistan deserves
better. Its people deserves better. This thought is
best expressed in this article which , through
special permission , is being reproduced as the
November spotlight. It first appeared in the Dawn.
As always, feedback will be most welcome.
On Nov 3 the fifth martial law was clamped on
Pakistan by General Musharraf. It was for the first
time in history that a military ruler had imposed
martial law against his own rule.
The arguments he presented to justify his
extra-constitutional action turned out to be a
charge-sheet against his own person. If Pakistan was
really on the brink of destabilisation then who is
to be blamed? It was Musharraf who was at the helm
affairs for the last eight years. He had sweeping
When he launched his coup against the elected
government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Oct 12,
1999, after he was dismissed from the post of army
chief in the wake of the Kargil crisis, he promised
a panacea for all the problems faced by the nation
in the form of a seven-point agenda. He promised the
Supreme Court to implement this agenda within three
years. After 9/11 he re-packaged himself as a
warrior against extremism and terrorism and promised
to purge all forms of extremism from the country.
After eight years, General Musharraf is now telling
us that the relations between organs of state had
become unmanageable and the wave of extremism had
assumed alarming proportions. Instead of accepting
his failure to deliver the much promised seven-point
agenda and eradicate extremism, General Musharraf
usurped the fundamental rights of 160 million
citizens, the independence of the judiciary and
freedom of media. He has put Pakistan on the title
pages of major international papers and magazines
not for any innovation, breakthrough, or miracle but
for a crackdown on civil liberties.
His actions are serving those lobbies well which are
all out to project Pakistan as a dangerous country.
General Musharraf is telling the world that even
after sixty years Pakistan cannot be governed by a
constitution. The irony is that to justify his
extra-constitutional step he quoted Abraham Lincoln,
whose entire life was dedicated towards making rule
of law the bedrock of the US federation. After this
do we need external enemies?
Pakistan was created out of a historic democratic
struggle by Muslims of South Asia under the dynamic
leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, an
eminent constitutionalist, whose vision was to
establish a modern Muslim state based on rule of
law, social justice, and equal citizenship
regardless of religion, caste, or creed. He
categorically declared that the role of the military
was restricted to defending geographic boundaries of
But unfortunately after Mr. Jinnah’s demise and Mr.
Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination, an ambitious
general, Ayub Khan, began intriguing to realise his
ambitions. He abrogated the constitution by staging
a coup in 1958 and showed the way to his successors,
Yahya and Zia. On Oct 12, 1999 General Musharraf
imposed the fourth martial law after he was
dismissed as army chief. Initially he was under
pressure from the international community but after
9/11 he jumped on to the bandwagon of the war
against terror acquiring the role of a frontline
state in the US war.
On Mar 9, he dismissed the Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court in a pre-emptive strike to safeguard
his next term in office, a move which backfired
resulting in an unprecedented struggle of lawyers,
civil society, and political activists to get the
justice restored. This gave the judiciary for the
first time an aura of independence that raised
public hopes that finally the
‘General-Judge-Jagirdar’ troika was about to break.
This had held the state hostage since 1958. It was
the finest moment of our history with the people’s
confidence in the judiciary being restored.
What Musharraf called paralysis of the executive was
actually a sense of accountability that overtook the
top echelons of the administration for the first
time. But this dream proved to be short lived as the
judiciary and the media became the principal targets
of his fifth martial law to show that the barrel of
the gun was still heavier than the rule of law in
There are three clear motives behind the Nov 3
action. First, fear of a judgment against General
Musharraf’s eligibility in uniform for the office of
president. Secondly, apprehensions about securing
desired results in the next election through rigging
in the presence of an independent judiciary and
media. Thirdly, the Supreme Court’s contempt
proceedings in Nawaz Sharif’s
deportation case in which clear evidence against the
prime minister had come on record and the Supreme
Court had directed the government to submit a
written assurance before Nov 8 regarding the
implementation of its judgment to allow Nawaz Sharif
entry into Pakistan.
The questions which arise are: is General Musharraf
above the law and the constitution? Can’t the
Supreme Court give a decision against the head of
state? Is the court only for the common man and the
powerful and the mighty are outside its scope?
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) described the secret of the
rise and fall of nations as being the application of
their laws. Those who had separate laws for the
common man and another set for the mighty could
Is it not strange that here we have a system in
which the president’s apprehension of a court ruling
allows him to roll over the courts and constitution.
Who has given one man the authority to be the final
arbiter of national interest? Nations can endure
poverty, malnutrition and hunger but no nation can
survive without the supremacy of rule of law.
General Musharraf may be a necessity for President
Bush but the Pakistani nation’s agenda is to achieve
the supremacy of the constitution, an independent
judiciary, free media and transparent democracy. The
president has become incompatible with Pakistan’s
agenda. These are defining moments for every
Pakistani, who must decide whether he/she is on the
side of the rule of law or dictatorship. If General
Musharraf succeeds in thrusting a rigged election
upon the nation then we will be pushed back to 1958
and all the sacrifices made for the independence of
the judiciary will go in vain.
This battle is not about who will stay in power or
who will come into power. It is about what legacy
are we going to leave for our children. Will
Pakistanis be entitled to self governance or will
they remain colonised by the ambitions of one man?
It is a testing
moment for all those who have been blessed by this
country with big offices, businesses, houses and
titles. The poor are already struggling, with
thousands of them facing the regime’s brutality on
streets and in jails. Fifty judges of the Supreme
Court and the High Courts have shown the way by
refusing to take the oath under Musharraf’s PCO.
They should be brought back. Our future will depend
on whether the privileged heed the call of their
motherland or are guided by vested interests.
The writer Mr Ahsan Iqbal is Secretary Information,
PML-N, and a former Deputy Chairman, Planning
Commission of Pakistan.