Trial and Tur­bu­lence

If the cur­rent cri­sis vis-à-vis. Gen. Mushar­raf’s trial continues, the pres­sure could force the army chief to act.

Southasia - - COVER STORY - By Shahzad Chaudhry

The high trea­son case against Gen­eral Mushar­raf has placed the pil­lars of the state and so­ci­ety in an an­tic­i­pated quandary. The fault lines are deep and have fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ated the in­her­ent di­chotomies.

The ju­di­ciary has been pushed to an in­evitable po­si­tion of be­ing both the judge as well as a party to the case. Con­sider how Chaudhry Iftikhar, the un­re­strained for­mer Chief Jus­tice of the Supreme Court, be­came politi­cized af­ter Mushar­raf’s il­lad­vised move of Novem­ber 03, 2007 to im­pose emer­gency on the pre­text of con­di­tions that were not as worse as they were made to look only to jus­tify the new or­der.

As he con­cen­trated all the pow­ers in his per­son, Gen. Mushar­raf asked the judges of the higher ju­di­ciary to reaf­firm their oath un­der the re­vised or­der. Hav­ing al­ready done so twice

in the past – in var­i­ous for­mu­la­tions – to con­sol­i­date Mushar­raf’s rule, some judges, in­clud­ing the CJ, re­fused to give cause to Mushar­raf to ar­bi­trar­ily re­move the chief jus­tice along with the other erring judges.

Al­though Chaudhry re­gained his po­si­tion in March 2009 as a re­sult of a long ag­i­ta­tion launched by some heav­ily politi­cized lawyers and po­lit­i­cal par­ties against Mushar­raf, he did not for­get the treat­ment meted out to him and re­turned the fa­vor when the op­por­tu­nity arose.

He may have been seen as sim­ply pur­su­ing cases pe­ti­tioned by oth­ers against Mushar­raf, but the irony of it all failed to es­cape no­tice in this fas­ci­nat­ing see-saw of power be­tween the two.

Chaudhry Iftikhar was not as holy a judge as he seemed to have be­come mainly due to his sym­bolic re­fusal to bow be­fore a mil­i­tary ruler. He had al­ready com­pro­mised his in­tegrity in 1999 by sanc­ti­fy­ing Mushar­raf’s takeover.

Nei­ther was with­out blame. Mushar­raf hoped to ex­tend his stay in the Pres­i­dency through an­other court ad­ju­di­ca­tion, but sensed a re­luc­tance in the Supreme Court to play ball. He thus felt forced – for mo­tives that were en­tirely self­ish – to seek other av­enues to achieve his ob­jec­tives and re­sorted to the im­po­si­tion of emer­gency.

The CJ paved the way for Mushar­raf by his overzeal­ous in­ter­ven­tions in theh ex­ec­u­tive’s do­main, es­pe­cially by sus­pend­ing the planned pri­va­ti­za­tion oof the Pak­istan Steel Mills. But when Mushar­raf moved a ref­er­ence against the CJ in the Supreme Ju­di­cial Coun­cil, the brother judges of Chaudhry Iftikhar de­clared it null and void.

En­ter the com­pli­cated games of pol­i­tics. Mian Nawaz Sharif, then the leading op­po­si­tion fig­ure in the coun­try to the Zar­dari govern­ment, and a co­terie of well-known lawyers since el­e­vated to the po­si­tion of sav­iors of Chaudhry Iftikhar, started a move­ment to pres­sur­ize the govern­ment of the day to re­in­state the sus­pended ju­di­ciary.

The de­mand was con­ceded, mak­ing Chaudhry Iftikhar eter­nally in­debted to Nawaz Sharif. It was an­other suit­able ac­com­pa­ni­ment that a close rel­a­tive of the CJ was re­port­edly a key mem­ber of Nawaz’s party and was the law min­is­ter in Shah­baz Sharif’s govern­ment in the Pun­jab.

To say that Nawaz had an ear­lier axe to grind with Mushar­raf would be an un­der­state­ment. Mushar­raf had re­moved Nawaz from power in 1999. They were thus al­ready locked in a deadly em­brace. Chaudhry Iftikhar’s en­try con­verted this into a tri­an­gu­lar re­la­tion­ship where Mushar­raf was the com­mon tar­get of the other two.

With Nawaz Sharif in power af­ter the May 2013 elec­tions, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore he moved against Mushar­raf.

Sharif made his move but by ini­ti­at­ing a case against Mushar­raf un­der Ar­ti­cle 6 of the Con­sti­tu­tion and also placed the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen­eral Ra­heel Sha­reef in an un­en­vi­able dif­fi­culty.

Gen. Sha­reef’s men ex­pect him to en­sure the dig­nity of their in­sti­tu­tion, the army, against ma­lig­nant ac­cu­sa­tions that are sure to emerge when their for­mer chief is dragged through var­i­ous courts. Ra­heel Sha­reef, on the other hand, is known as a mild man not given to as­sert his prover­bial strength as the army chief.

In Pak­istan the army has al­ways re­tained a strong, per­pet­ual in­flu­ence and has ruled the coun­try for half of its ex­is­tence as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion. A process of grad­ual regress was started by Gen. Kayani but it can fall vic­tim to the brew­ing in­ter­nal dis­com­fort within the army as the me­dia and the civil so­ci­ety de­bates the army’s rather as­sump­tive in­ter­ven­tions in the af­fairs of the state.

With the in­crease in Mushar­raf’s tribu­la­tions while he re­mains an ab­scon­der from the court meant to try him – ei­ther be­cause of the sick­ness that came his way at the mo­ment of trial or due to se­cu­rity con­cerns that ap­pear to be con­trived events to prove the dan­gers that lurk around his pub­lic pres­ence – the spec­u­la­tion in­dus­try will only gain fur­ther im­pe­tus.

The army and its new chief would rather move the spot­light away as the in­sti­tu­tion fights a com­plex and deadly war against in­sur­gency. For the new chief, his hon­ey­moon has been rather short.

The se­nior mil­i­tary lead­er­ship is nu­anced enough to un­der­stand the evolv­ing demo­cratic struc­tures and its af­fil­i­ated ac­com­pa­ni­ments – a free me­dia and a vo­cal civil so­ci­ety. But it is not loath to voice the pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ments among its sub­or­di­nates to the se­nior-most lead­er­ship.

The ju­nior of­fi­cers are more likely to see things in black and white. To their sen­si­bil­i­ties, spec­u­la­tive as­per­sions on the in­tegrity, honor and dig­nity of their in­sti­tu­tion is akin to per­sonal in­dig­nity and dis­honor.

The politi­cians, civil so­ci­ety and the me­dia have been rather cal­lous to this sen­si­tiv­ity in the army. The pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ment in the army is that with democ­racy has be­gun an ef­fort to ma­lign the army.

The trend that has per­sisted in the me­dia, and is likely to pre­vail with Mushar­raf on trial, is to dis­cuss is­sues re­lated to civil­ian supremacy, civilmil­i­tary bal­ance and the role of the mil­i­tary as the coun­try passes through one of its most tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods since its in­cep­tion.

Does it have the po­ten­tial of a back­lash where the mil­i­tary might once again up­set the demo­cratic or­der? Un­likely. What ne­ces­si­tates a mil­i­tary takeover in essence is mas­sive dis­sat­is­fac­tion with an ex­ist­ing or­der. A nor­ma­tive so­lu­tion would per­haps be a re­fer­ral back to the elec­torate by the sit­ting govern­ment if it in­deed de­ter­mines that as a dom­i­nant sen­ti­ment. It has hap­pened in Thai­land in the re­cent past.

But, given the lack of suf­fi­cient fidelity in our ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ment, demo­cratic gov­ern­ments con­tinue to hold onto power how­so­ever un­pop­u­lar they might be.

If such a sit­u­a­tion was to be sup­ported by a bot­tom-up dis­af­fec­tion with a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem within the army, the pres­sure could be such that the army chief would be pushed to act. If such dis­af­fec­tion takes root, it will come with many in­di­ca­tors.

If pol­i­tics un­der­per­forms, all bets are off. If Pak­istan un­der­per­forms, our state will be at risk re­gard­less of the type of dis­pen­sa­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.