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Musharraf, the last military dictator in Pakistan
June 19, 2007
Many in the subcontinent believe that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] is fighting a 'former' chief justice.
In fact, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is still a sitting chief justice, though not an effective one. According to Pakistan's constitution, Justice Chaudhry -- three months into his battle with the most powerful man in Pakistan -- still enjoys the status of a sitting chief justice.
This battle has ruined Musharraf's authority and image in Pakistan like nothing has done before. Questions about the Pakistan army's role in the country's politics have been raised once again, but this time, far more seriously than ever before. And the battle, epitomised by the one between the chief justice and the president, is moving fast towards its logical conclusion.
I believe General Musharraf lost the half the battle the day Pakistan's supreme court ordered the suspension of the hearing against Justice Chaudhry in the supreme judicial council and formed a bench of 13 judges to hear the case. Musharraf fears the 13-member supreme court bench will go with Justice Chaudhry and is planning another reference against the chief justice.
It will not be easy for Musharraf to continue his fight with the chief justice. He will ultimately ask his Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to resign because it was he who sent the reference against the chief justice to the president.
Second, Musharraf will have to take off his uniform sooner or later, since otherwise it will be difficult for the West to continue supporting a military dictator.
In Pakistan, people have started believing that democratic forces will win this battle in the end and the army will go back to the barracks, this time forever.
This battle will have a negative short-term impact on Pakistan, with a lot of instability for four or five months.
But in the long term, it will bring a positive and long-lasting change in Pakistan, a change that is already visible in the hearts and minds of common Pakistanis. The majority of them want a true democracy, rule of law, supremacy of constitution, independence of judiciary, a strong parliament and freedom of media.
These are no more merely words, people are actually dreaming about it. But they cannot have all these things with a president in uniform sitting over their heads.
I would like to believe that Pervez Musharraf is the last military dictator in Pakistan.
The independent media has played a key role in creating and promoting democratic thinking in Pakistan in the last five years. These days, Musharraf's power is being threatened not only by some upright judges, but also from a defiant media.
This is the first time the media is fighting back. Some newspaper editors and television channel owners tried to make underhand deals with the establishment, but a majority of working journalists threatened to revolt, even against their bosses.
Musharraf promulgated an anti-media ordinance few days ago just to clip the wings of some television anchors. The next day, I was one of those who led a protest inside the press gallery in the national assembly, the Pakistan parliament.
The government tried to silence our voice with help of some non-journalists who were sent inside the press gallery to resist us, but they were thrown out of the gallery by angry journalists.
The next day, the assembly speaker banned the entry of all journalists, who then staged another protest in front of parliament house. Finally, on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's advice, the speaker banned just me. By banning my entry to parliament, they were trying to send the message that the government is not weak.
Let me not forget to mention America and its role in Islamabad.
I don't think the Americans are interested in democracy for Pakistan. Democracy will not help them because democratic governments are answerable to their voters; Americans need a man in uniform who will be answerable to the donors instead of voters.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Assistant Secretary of State Richard A Boucher and the Commander, United States Central Command, Admiral William J Falcon arrived in Islamabad on June 16, and met Musharraf at the same time that Justice Chaudhry was going to Faisalabad to address the bar council.
The US team gave a strong message to the people of Pakistan that Washington is standing behind Musharraf. The troika was not in Islamabad to discuss democracy; they actually wanted Musharraf to do more against the Taliban and Al Qaeda [Images] in Pakistani tribal areas.
The American dilemma is quite obvious. Washington doesn't want to lose Musharraf, because they have no substitute. No other political leader can bomb his own countrymen just to please Americans. He is their 'frontline ally' because they don't have any other ally.
The US has failed in Afghanistan. The Taliban is back, Al Qaeda is back. Afghanistan will become another Iraq in the next few months. The Americans are also planning to use Musharraf against Iran. This is why they don't want to lose him at this point of time.
India can only resolve its disputes with Pakistan when there is a democratic government in Islamabad. If Musharraf signs any deal with India in the coming days, the next government will not honour that deal.
The people of Pakistan hope that India, which is the biggest democracy in the world, should make deals only with elected political leaders, and not with old fashioned military dictators.