Aitezaz Ahsan: Lawyer or Politician? Ajmal Niazi
Long march or short march? How many participants?
“I am a victim of my own creation” Agha Msood Hussain meets Musharraf
Geo TV ki haqeeqat… Nasar Malik
پاکستان کے اندر اور بیرون پاکستان “ جیو ٹیلیویژن “ کی نشریات پاکستانیوں میں خوب دیکھی جاتی ہیں لیکن “ جیو ٹی وی “ کی ان نشریات میں پیش کِیا کیا جاتا ہے اور اس کے پیچھے کیا محرکات ہوتے ہیں یہ اندازہ شاید ہی کسی نے لگایا ہو ۔ اندرون پاکستان ‘ جیو ٹی وی کی نشریات پر حساس ناظرین اپنے خدشات کا اظہار تو کرتے ہی رہتے ہیں اب بیرون ملک بھی “ جیو ٹی وی “ کی نشریات پر “ پاکستانی ناظرین “ کے تحفظات میں اضافہ ہوتا جا رہا ہے ۔ لیکن کیوں؟
آئیے دیکھتے ہیں کہ جیو ٹی وی کی ابتدا کیسے ہوئی اور اس کی وہ نشریات جنہیں یہ ادارہ “ قومی مفادات اور شعور ملی کی بیداری کے لیے پیش کرنے “ کا دعویٰ کرتا ہے ‘ اِن نشریات کا دوسرے ٹی وی اداروں کی نشریات سے موازنہ کیا جائے کہ جیو ٹی وی ‘ کہاں تک “ ملی مفادات اور قومی شعور کی بیداری کے لیے متحرک ہے ۔“
یہ بات تو بالکل ڈھکی چھپی نہیں کہ جیو ٹی وی‘ امریکی امداد سے شروع کیا گیا تھا اور اس کا بنیادی مقصد مایوسیوں ‘ ناکامیوں اور محرومیوں کو یوں سامنے لانا تھا کہ عوام بحیثت پاکستانی قوم خود کو اور اپنے ملک کو “ ناکامیوں ‘ مایوسیوں اور محرومیوں کے گرداب سے کبھی باہر ہی نہ نکال پائیں ۔ پاکستان کی پچاس فیصد ان پڑھ آبادی جیو ٹی وی کی ان نشریات کو “ انکشافات “ سمجھتے ہوئے اپنی بے خبری کی وجہ سے انہیں حقیقت مان لیتی ہے ۔
اب سوال یہ پیدا ہوتا ہے کہ امریکی عہدیدار یہاں تک کہ امریکی ٹی وی نشریاتی ادارے پاکستان کے بارے میں صرف ‘ جیو ٹی وی ہی کا حوالہ دیتے ہیں دوسرے آزاد ٹی وی اداروں کا ذکر کیوں نہیں کیا جاتا ؟
جیو ٹی وی کی نشریات ہی میں لوگوں کے سر کٹے دھڑ ‘ بموں میں مرتے ہوتے ہوئے ملبوں میں دبے ہوئے لوگوں کو دکھایا جاتا ہے ۔ کیا دنیا کا کوئی اور ٹی وی ‘ ایسے مناظر اتنے تسلسل سے دکھاتا ہے ؟
ذرا سوچیئے بھارت میں کم و بیش دو ہزار مسلمانوں کو گجرات میں تین ماہ کے اندر قتل کردیا گیا ان کی املاک تباہ اور نذر آتش کردی گئیں لیکن وہاں کے ٹیلیویژن اداروں نے ان وارداتوں کی دستاویزی نشریات کہاں دکھائیں ۔ کیا مسلمانوں کے اس قتل عام کے بارے میں ذی ٹی وی ‘ سونی ٹی وی اور دیگر انڈین ٹی وی چینلز نے کوئی نشریات پیش کیں ؟
بھارت میں اس وقت آسام و بہار سے لے کر پنجاب اور کشمیر تک کم سے کم اٹھانوے علیحدگی پسند تحریک متحرک ہیں کیا کبھی ذی ٹی وی ‘ سونی ٹی وی نے ان کی لڑائیوں اور مارے جانے والے بھارتی فوجیوں اور سیکورٹی والوں کی کوریج کی ہے ؟ کیا کبھی بھارتی چینلوں نے بھارت کے ڈھائی سو ملین لوگوں کو گلیوں میں فٹ پاتھوں پر ریلوے کی لائینوں کے اردگرد سوتے دکھایا ہے ؟
اسلام آباد میں لال مسجد کاواقعہ جیو ٹی وی کے نشریاتی پروگراموں میں اب تک سر فہرست ‘ بینر کے طور پر دکھایا جاتا ہے۔ کتنے بھارتی ٹی وی ہر روز ‘ گولڈن ٹمپل پر حملے ‘ اندرا گاندھی کے قتل ‘ بابری مسجد کے انہدام ‘ گجرات و بہار کے مسلمانوں کے قتل عام ‘ راجیو گاند ھی کے قتل اور اسی طرح کے دوسرے واقعات کی کلپ فملیں اپنےآغاز پروگرام میں دکھاتے ہیں ؟
کیا آپ نے کبھی بھارتی سیاستدانوں کو ‘ اختلاف رکھنے کے باوجود اپنے صدر یا وزیر اعظم کے خلاف ‘ ٹی وی پینلز پر ‘ نازیبا زبان استعمال کرتے ‘ گالیاں دیتے اور کھلم کھلا اُن کے لیے موت ‘ پھانسی اور جلاوطنی جیسی سزائیں تجویز کرتے سنا ہے ؟ جیو ٹی وی پاکستان میں پاکستانی سیاستدانوں کے ایسے بیانات سنا رہا ہے آخر کیوں ؟ صحافت کا اپنا ضابطہ اخلاق کس گنگا میں بہا دیا گیا ہے ؟
جیو ٹی وی ‘ بے نظیر بھٹو‘ آصف زرداری اور ان جیسے دوسروں کی اس دولت کے بارے میں دستاویزی پروگرام نشر کیوں نہیں کرتا بحث مباحثے کیوں نہیں کراتا‘ جو دولت انہوں نے اپنے دور میں قومی خزانے سے لوٹی ۔ بیرون ملک بنک بیلنس بنائے ‘ محل خریدے ؟ نواز شریف اور خود سابق چیف جسٹس کی کارستانیوں سے پردہ کیوں نہیں اٹھایا؟
اب کچھ جیو ٹی وی کی مزید “ قومی خدمات “ کے بارے میں ۔
جیو ٹی وی نے نام نہاد ایمرجنسی کی جعلی خبریں یوں نشر کیں کہ ملک بھر میں سٹاک مارکیٹ کا جنازہ نکل گیا کیونکہ جیو کے نام نہاد اقتصادی ماہرین کو ہدایات ہی یہی تھیں کہ کیا کہنا ہے اور ملک میں اقتصادی افراتفری کو ہوا کیسے دینی ہے۔
کامران خالد ‘ پچیس لاکھروپے ماہانہ جیو ٹی وی سے کس بات کے وصول کرتے تھے ۔
ڈاکٹر شاھد مسعود ‘ “ این ایس ایف “ کے باقاعدہ رکن تھے ۔ این ایس ایف پاکستان کی بنیادی نظریئے اور اس کی سالمیت کے ساتھ ساتھ جماعت اسلامی کی کٹر مخالف ہے ۔ یہ صاحب بائیس لاکھ روپیہ ماہانہ لیتے ‘ اور کراچی و دوبئی میں شاندار مکانات رکھتے ہیں ۔
حامد میر جیسے نام نہاد مبصر ‘ روزنامہ اوصاف کے مدیر کو بھی بھاری رقوم ادا کی گئیں اور نادیہ خان نے بھی پیسے بنائے ۔ مل ملا کر چھ لاکھ روپے ان آزاد صحافیوں کو دیئے گئے ۔ کیوں ؟
سوچا جا سکتا ہے کہ کرکٹ کا میچ نہ دکھا کر جیو ٹی وی نے خود بتایا کہ اسے ایک ملین روپے کا خسارہ ہوا ہے تو سوال یہ پیدا ہوتا ہے کہ اب چوبیس گھنٹے سابق جسٹس افتخار کی جو کوریج نشر کی جا رہی ہے اس کے اخراجات جیو والے کیسے اور کہاں سے پورے کر رہے ہیں ؟ ان اخراجات کا ذرا تخمینہ تو لگا کر دیکھئے ۔ یہ تو سی این این ‘ بی بی سی بھی برداشت نہیں کر سکتے ۔
پچاس فیصد بھارتی ڈرامے اور باقی کی ثقافتی نشریات میں پاکستانی و بھارتی فلموں کا مشترکہ طور پر نشریاتی وقت ـ کیا معنی رکھتا ہے اور کس دیس کی خدمت کر رہا ہے اور کیوں؟
القصہ مختصر “ جیو‘ جدید استعماری آقاؤں کے اشاروں پر “ اتنا جھوٹ بولو کہ سچ ہو جائے “ کی پالیسی پر عمل کرتے ہوئے “ اتنا جھوٹ بول چکا ہے اور بول رہا ہے کہ پاکستانی قوم اندرون وطن اور بیرون وطن ‘ جیو کی ہر خبر کو “ جھوٹ “ جانتے ہوئے بھی “ سچ “ ماننے پر مجبور ہو جاتی ہے ۔ کیا آپ اس سے متفق نہیں ہیں؟ اور متفق نہیں تو ‘ کیوں؟؟
( القمر آن لائن بلاگ
Will Nawaz Sharif change Musharraf’s policy on ‘war on terror’?
PML-N hijacks lawyers’ movement: Party using long march to mobilise workers for by-elections
By Amjad Warraich
LAHORE: The way the lawyers’ long march is proceeding shows that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif has succeeded in getting political mileage out of the movement, but the lawyers have lost.
Although the PML-N was very much on the centre stage of sacked chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s reception at Lahore Airport on Wednesday, it put in more energy on Thursday to make a public meeting near Minar-e-Pakistan a success. It was perhaps because of this that the attendance in Wednesday’s reception from the airport to the high court premises remained below 3,000, but increased remarkably at the Circular Road public meeting where Nawaz was scheduled to address the audience.
The PML-N leadership has achieved two objectives – it has established that it is the real force behind the lawyers’ movement, and it successfully used the lawyers’ long march and the judges’ reinstatement issue to mobilise its workers for the coming by-elections in Lahore.
This is also evident from the selection of the venue for PML-N reception for long march participants on Thursday evening. The venue falls in the National Assembly (NA) constituencies NA-119 and NA-123 where Nawaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz are contesting the elections.
Nawaz Sharif reminded the audience in his speech that he was a candidate in the by-elections from a Lahore constituency. He told the participants to campaign for him since he was busy handling more important issues such as the one for which the long march was organised. Some analysts therefore believe the PML-N is using the sacked chief justice for its election campaign.
It is interesting to note that Chaudhry was earlier invited to Faisalabad where his cousin and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah is contesting for a provincial assembly seat.
By-elections are also being held for two provincial constituencies in Lahore besides two NA seats, one NA seat in Muridke Sheikhupura, one provincial assembly seat in Gujranwala, two in Sialkot, one in Mandi Bahauddin, and one provincial assembly and two NA seats in Rawalpindi. All these constituencies fall in or near the route of the long march.
As for the long march route from Multan to Lahore, by-elections are being conducted for one provincial seat in Khanewal and Pakpattan districts each, and one NA seat in Okara.
All constituencies except three have been allocated to PML-N in its seat adjustment with the Pakistan People’s Party.
Not only the PML-N, but the Punjab government machinery is also fully contributing in the long march under instructions by PML-N President and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The Punjab government is using all local administration machinery to facilitate the long march.
For example, the district government machinery set up all stages on the long march route in Lahore including the one that Nawaz Sharif used to address the participants. Similar facilities have been provided to long march participants all over Punjab, from Rahimyar Khan to Rawalpindi. (Daily Times).
From dissent to dispute —Ejaz Haider
Barrister Ahsan’s statement is clear on this: if parliament is the biggest hurdle in the way of pushing the military back and restoring constitutionalism (we are again assuming that restoration of judges automatically means that) then the very configuration of the polity is under question and challengeable
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, who is the thin end of the lawyers’ wedge, said a few days ago that parliament is the biggest hurdle in the way of the restoration of deposed judges. Since Ahsan himself has been a parliamentarian and is affiliated with the political party currently in power — let’s leave aside the issue of growing differences between him and the PPP — the statement is intriguing and needs to be deciphered.
Consider some benchmarks.
Theoretically, in a parliamentary system, the parliament is supreme. It can tell anyone, including the judiciary and the crown, to take it or lump it.
Democratic systems, even at a minimal level, require some procedure to determine the will of the people. This is generally done through elections, an exercise considered essential to a non-violent aggregation of interests.
Political dissent, in a democratic system, is channelled through various devices: protests, sit-ins, marches (long and short), lobbying, media campaigns, voting out or in a party et cetera.
The assumption is that dissent relates to issues that can be resolved and are not about the very fundamentals of a system. When fundamentals are challenged, dissent crosses the line and becomes a dispute. A dispute over fundamentals can shake the very legitimacy of a political configuration, the contract which underpins the existence of state and society.
Unlike dissent, whose expression in evolved polities is institutionalised, disputes are much more difficult to resolve. They betoken a polity still in search of a legal-normative framework. Such a polity may have the trappings of democracy, elections, parliament, judiciary etc, but it remains unbalanced in the absence of a legal-normative framework accepted by all the actors.
Two things can happen. Such a polity can either witness violence or lumber from one crisis to another.
Pakistan saw the first in the erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971 and, in a much lesser degree, in Balochistan; the second, a persistent problem, has manifested itself not just in and through cycles of military rule but also the inability of the civilian enclave to get its act together. The situation has acquired bidirectional causality now, each being both the cause and effect of the problem.
Given this, what are the necessary implications of what Barrister Ahsan has said?
Since the issue of transition and transformation has already been much debated, let me not take that route and stick with just the proposition that transformation indeed is the way forward. Broadly, transformationists argue that civilian supremacy can only be achieved by pushing the military back to the barracks in one go — not through smaller steps and pacts and intermittent stages, but “in one fell swoop”.
While it is highly debatable whether civilian supremacy in and of itself can take care of the structural problems that are responsible for the current state of affairs, being more a necessary though not sufficient condition for doing so, let’s assume that it can.
We now have the following proposition: if we can push the military back to the barracks, this will result in civilian supremacy which will then result in making us a viable polity.
Let’s now see what’s stopping us from transforming. One marker of establishing civilian supremacy is to push out General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. If we can get the judges restored who he threw out using his dictatorial powers, constitutionalism will have been established and with it would come civilian supremacy.
So far so good. The problem is that the will of the people is expressed in and through political parties. These parties, despite Mr Musharraf’s blueprint, went into elections and have been voted in. The party that got the most seats, which is also Barrister Ahsan’s party, wants to do two things: one, it looks at the restoration of judges as part of a broader constitutional package; two, it does not want to rock the boat at this stage as far as Mr Musharraf is concerned.
Indeed, the only party among those that contested the election and has thrown its full weight behind the lawyers’ movement is the PMLN. Let’s also assume that it is doing so for moral and constitutional reasons and its motives are not tainted by political expediency and the desire to ultimately upstage its chief rival and current senior coalition partner, the PPP.
We run into problems. This is not an issue of dissent. It is a dispute and simply because it relates to the fundamentals of the polity. Please note that here we are again assuming that the demand by the lawyers will actually result in the supremacy of the constitution, the strengthening of the institution of the judiciary and, consequently, undermine the position of the army. Further, we are assuming this despite the fact that the demand by lawyers is not aimed at the institution of the judiciary itself because it is minimalist (restore the judges) even as its expression is deterministic (I am thankful to Moeed Yusuf for this argument).
So, despite the minimalism of the issue, it is now expressing itself as a dispute and its premise challenges the current political configuration. If the PPP is seen as protecting the interests of Mr Musharraf — and by extension the army — then it is militating against the requirement of constitutionalism and thereby civilian supremacy. It belongs to the adversarial camp.
That granted, what does one do about the party having been voted in as the largest entity? Could it be that people voted it in because it would do what the lawyers — and presumably others too — want done: restore the judges? If yes, then it has gone against its mandate. Should we wait for another five years so people can vote it out?
Yes, if we consider the system legitimate. No, if we do not.
Barrister Ahsan’s statement is clear on this: if parliament is the biggest hurdle in the way of pushing the military back and restoring constitutionalism (we are again assuming that restoration of judges automatically means that) then the very configuration of the polity is under question and challengeable.
By extension also, what has happened is mere electoralism; it is neither democracy nor constitutionalism. And since Barrister Ahsan has mentioned “parliament”, not just the “PPP”, it is safe to assume that the entire House, with the possible exception of the PLMN, is part of ancien regime that must go.
What that means and what its implications are, we shall come to tomorrow.
Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at email@example.com
The wannabe heroes
By Ayesha Siddiqa
THE retired servicemen seem to have rebelled against President Musharraf calling for his impeachment and trial for planning the Kargil operation. In a press conference held on June 4, a group of retired servicemen demanded Gen Musharraf’s trial, restoration of judiciary, revision of the Kashmir policy and the revoking of the controversial NRO.
An important point raised during the meeting was to investigate the Kargil crisis which cost Pakistan a lot of money, precious lives and reputation.
While an audit of military operations by the government is certainly needed, the important question which must be asked is that is this press conference just a ‘rebellion’ of ‘civilianised’ army men against the former army chief in defence of democracy and higher political values in the country?
If at all, the ex-servicemen’s call for revamping Musharraf’s political and military legacy indicates a malaise within the political power structure, especially the deeper establishment. Broadly speaking, this indicates the problems which arise with the military’s long entrenchment in politics which is now working against the organisation’s much-flaunted ethos of unity of command.
But before we get into a systems analysis, lets look into the actors who are part of this ‘rebellion’ and whether it is true that they merely acted in defence of democracy and independence of judiciary. It is interesting to note that this club of ‘old soldiers’ struck at the time when Musharraf is engulfed with criticism from all sides.
Notwithstanding the importance of the movement for restoration of judiciary, the intent of the ex-servicemen, especially some of its members could be more than strengthening a civilian institution. So, the onlookers have to be careful in distinguishing between the need to investigate the Kargil crisis and the actual intent of people like Gen Jamsheed Gulzar Kiyani and others in telling the story now. The good general sat silent all these years enjoying his stint as head of Fauji Foundation’s company Marri Gas and then as the chairman of the Federal Public Services Commission. The question is that why didn’t he ask any question then?
One of the features of popular or semi-popular movements is that they throw up all sorts of personalities who join a political race for their own goals. In fact, the dialectics of the political movement of these ex-servicemen wannabe heroes denotes two interesting issues.
First, there is a rift within the deeper establishment and this group of ex-servicemen is just a glimpse of the internal friction. Contrary to the argument that these retired generals, brigadiers and colonels are innocent civilians, the fact of the matter is that they are part of the military fraternity which includes serving officers, retired officers and some civilians as well who are linked with or dependent upon the military’s power. The retired ones, hence, are as much part of the larger institutional politics as the serving officers. It was very clear from the press conference that the real issue was removing an individual than strengthening democratic institutions.
The retired officers defended the economic, political and social power of the armed forces and defended the organisation’s control of the state. They even mentioned the military’s right to ten per cent jobs as granted by the constitution which is an absolute fallacy. The ten per cent quota was granted by Gen Ziaul Haq and is mentioned in the Establishment code of the government and not in the constitution.
What makes the old officers’ attack against Musharraf significant, as mentioned earlier, is that these voices represent the friction within the deeper establishment that is the military. The retired officers serve the purpose of airing views that the serving cannot. While representing one view or the other, these officers represent differing points of views rather than an independent voice. So, while some would air the concerns of the pro-democracy lobby, others speak for the pro-US, pro-China or pro-Islamist views within the defence organisation. The reason that these voices have become louder now is because the friction has increased. Moreover, with the years of engagement in politics of the military what could one expect but for the noises to become more audible?
But why should these people be treated as informal spokespersons of the internal lobbies? This is because the military suffers from the lack of a strong institutional mechanism for internal dialogue. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, (JCSC) which was established during the 1970s to redress this very problem, came to nothing due to the army’s take over in 1977. Gen Sharif, who was the first chairman JCSC, was of the view that the Zia martial law killed the institution. Since then, the three services have used two mechanisms: (a) retired servicemen and (b) media to debate their interests and present their perception. The smaller services also have favourite journalists they can lobby to present their standpoint since they do not have any other option.
Then there is the problem at another level which is the services themselves where different groups and lobbies have to convince the higher command of their point of view. This is where the voices of the retired officers become part of the din. The Kargil crisis itself is an example of the absence of string internal mechanisms for debate and analysis. The retired Gen Kiyani says that even the ISI was not informed about the operation. However, the fact is that a major war-like operation was launched without sitting officers seriously objecting to it. Some will argue that the silence itself is a sign of professionalism. The officers are meant to obey the higher command and not present their views. In the post-colonial military tradition the command of the service chief cannot be challenged. Nonetheless, the officers, who in the past have challenged the higher command on moral grounds, were no less professional or officer-like than those who continued to obey questionable decisions. The three brigadiers who refused to fire on civilians in Lahore in 1977 were real officers.
This discussions, nevertheless, is not about what is a real officer but to make a simple point that the wannabe heroes amongst the retired officers do not necessarily represent an alternative. They have during the course of their careers been part of questionable decisions and it will be sad if they become heroes by aligning themselves with the lawyer’s movement. There should certainly be a trial for Kargil but for all the other sins as well which were committed by many in the course of the country’s history. What is even more important is creation of institutions within the state and the deeper establishment so that we can be saved from unwanted heroes. (Daily Dawn)
The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
Pieces which don’t fit
Friday, June 13, 2008
We know what the lawyers’ long march is for. It is for a noble cause with which few people in post-Feb 18 Pakistan will disagree: the restoration of the deposed judges, starting from My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry and encompassing all the other judges who, showing courage and integrity, refused to take oath under President Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order (Nov 3, 2007).
So far so good. But who or what is the long march against? Who is its target, against whom or what this outpouring of passion and emotion, this vast expense of time and energy? It is at this point that the lines blur and confusion sets in.
Last year there was no such confusion. Right from March 9 when My Lord Chaudhry’s departure from the bench was sought by Musharraf and a clutch of his generals, to Nov 3 when Musharraf, in the last throes of desperation, struck at the Constitution and imposed emergency rule, the target of the lawyer’s movement could not have been clearer: it was Musharraf and his increasingly detested dispensation.
But things changed when emergency rule was revoked and elections were held in which the people rejected Musharraf and his works and reposed their trust in parties on the other side of the divide: the PPP which bagged the highest number of seats and the PML-N which was not far behind. The rules had changed and so had the ground reality. While Musharraf continued to be demonized—elements in the media still finding it hard to come out of this mode—the judges’ issue was now not in Musharraf’s lap but in parliament’s. It was for parliament—or, more accurately, Asif Zardari, the real power behind the new PPP-led government—to take a decision about the judges: whether to restore them or how to restore them. Musharraf could nurse his likes and dislikes, and indeed his prejudices, but the decision on this contentious issue was no longer in his hands.
Now if Zardari is playing an elaborate game of bluff, and there’s no doubt that he is, if he is not comfortable at the prospect of My Lord Chaudhry returning to the Supreme Court as an all-powerful chief justice, and if he is out to protect and preserve the incumbent chief justice, Justice Dogar, from whom he has received many a favour, he has his own reasons for doing so. And whether those reasons are pious or driven by less than the purest motives is beside the point. Of relevance to the long march is the circumstance that impeding the smooth, hassle-free restoration of the deposed judges is not beleaguered Musharraf but very much buoyant and perpetually-smiling—his wide grin beginning to grate on many nerves—Asif Zardari.
The National Assembly as a whole is guiltless in this respect because the parties represented in it act according to the good sense or the whims and prejudices of their respective leaders. I am sure there would be many members of the PPP parliamentary party who may not see eye to eye with Zardari as regards his all too clever stance on the judges’ issue. But they wouldn’t speak out because that is not the fashion in our parties. Indeed, anyone speaking out or showing himself a dissident would soon be out in the cold, having committed something close to political suicide. The same of course holds true for other parties.
The point of all this exegesis is that for the lawyers’ long march to make sense it would have to be directed against the PPP government, especially its leadership as represented by Asif Zardari. But the leaders of the long march dare not train their guns openly at the PPP because that would split their movement. So they are speaking in a language which at best can be described as coded. They thunder against authoritarianism and say that their long march will lead to momentous consequences. But they are not able to say with much clarity as to what exactly they mean by authoritarianism in the present context or what precisely those consequences are likely to be.
This lack of clarity, or call it enforced prudence, already makes this march different from the lawyers’ movement last year. Everything about the movement last year was spontaneous and true. About the only calculated element in it was Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan’s driving, his Formula One formula being to arrive at a destination as late as possible. Workers of various parties also formed part of the movement but they did so out of conviction and not on orders from their party high commands. In any case, the leadership of both the major parties was outside the country. So whether for good or ill their influence on the movement was limited.
Because ground realities have changed and because on the judges’ issue at least it is parliament which is the relevant body rather than the presidency, this long march has something forced and strained about it. So, not surprisingly, it has not triggered anything like a mass movement which alone, under the circumstances, could have caused the government to panic and led Zardari, the key man in this entire equation, to alter course and change his mind.
It is hard even to say whether the upfront involvement of some political parties in this affair is a good or bad thing. It might be good for the parties concerned in strengthening their democratic and pro-judiciary credentials but this upfront involvement also allows critics and detractors to suggest—even if the imputation is false—that the lawyers’ movement is playing into political hands. My Lord Chaudhry has also come out in front during this march. Should he have done so? I personally think—and I could be wholly wrong—that maintaining some distance and cultivating a measure of silence would have served the purposes of the long march better. Familiarity may be a good thing but it can also breed indifference.
So my guess is that Zardari, his wide grin always at his service, will choose to ride out the mini-storm making its way to Islamabad. Indeed, signs suggest that the PPP leadership may try to smother the long march with kindness. Interior boss Herr Rehman Malik’s container policy—a leaf out of the pages of the MQM: heavy containers deployed around the presidency and parliament to block the progress of the march—would have played right into the hands of the long-marchers and given their passion and fury something to strike at.
This policy thus was the best guarantee for the partial success of the long march. The containers would have been the barricades the long marchers would have charged. And if then the forces of law and order had responded with batons and teargas, the world’s television cameras would have caught the burning images in their sights and the long march would have been able to claim some vindication for its efforts.
But second thoughts having prevailed, and I suspect Herr Malik having been overruled, the container policy has been reversed and although there will still be roadblocks and plenty of police and rangers, there is likely to be no attempt to completely block the marches, unless of course the marchers turn lucky and Herr Malik has his way again.
So the marchers, if the picture I am painting turns out to be correct, should be able to flow on to the Constitution Avenue, on which the principal buildings of state stand, there to stage a sit-in or hold a public meeting. I am dying to hear my friend Ali Ahmed Kurd, the pre-eminent orator of the lawyers’ movement last year, once again. But what then? What happens after the speeches? Are we likely to see a prolonged sit-in in front of parliament?
That would be heady stuff but for any revolution—velvet, orange or Bolshevik—to get going, let alone succeed, you need three indispensable elements: teargas, the sound of occasional rifle fire and, behind the scenes, a Herr Rehman Malik pulling the strings. But I think the most fearsome thing we are likely to encounter is Zardari’s flashing teeth, which should be enough to set teeth on edge and make any beer taste flat.
I’ll of course be there on Constitution Avenue hobbling on my crutches—having stepped into a hole as deep and booby-trapped as the one the Islamic Republic seems to be permanently in—and there will be, I trust, a sufficiently impressive contingent from Chakwal to augment the strength of the long march.
But do I see My Lord Dogar taking to his heels from some back door of the Supreme Court, and My Lord Chaudhry being swept into the same portals by an unstoppable tide of revolutionary zeal? For this soul-stirring sight I think we shall have to wait some other day. (The News).