The following is a translation from a recent Arabic political analysis Q&A:
Question: Since March 9th, 2007 when Musharraf suspended Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, protests have flared up whenever the case for hearing has held its session. The court in its hearing on April 19th, 2007, accepted to look into the objections raised by the defence counsel (Former Interior Minister, I’tizaz Ihsan) that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter relating to the Chief Justice. The court announced that it will consider the objections in its hearing on 28th of April. Despite this the public protests have continued unabated. What has forced Musharraf to take this unpleasant step and only exacerbate people’s hatred for his rule which has already been there because of his support and assistance provided to America for launching its attacks on Afghanistan? He has further left the Kashmiri Mujahideen in lurch. Is he not afraid that people’s resentment will unseat him?
When a ruler severs his link with his Creator and the Ummah, and maintains relations only with the Kafir colonialists who are now led by the United States, he is no longer bothered by the resentment of people and his fear of their anger unseating him from power is overcome by his friendship with the big nations like the US whose interests he has been serving. He develops and illusion that such countries will protect his power. The ruler fails to realise that this is merely an illusion and those big countries will ditch him as soon as he overstays his usefulness, like they have done to his predecessors. He will be a loser in this world and the hereafter which certainly is a clear loss.
Musharraf’s arrogance is due to the support of America which enabled him to come to power in a most perilous manner, he amended the constitution, postponed elections, played with the judiciary etc., and yet he is apparently safe:
In the October 1999 coup, he toppled Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef and immediately thereafter he suspended the constitution and placed himself as the President.
Began to consolidate his power and focused on three issues:
First of all he established links with the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Shareef and the Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto and formed a political party allied to him in order to serve the American interests.
He then went on to consolidate power of the President and weakened the authority of the Prime Minister.
Finally, he institutionalised the role of the armed forces in Pakistan’s politics.
He frustrated the efforts of the opposition, who are the agents of the British when they petitioned the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the Military coup.
But the Supreme Court, reluctantly and under pressure from Musharraf and the US ruled in his favor. In its judgement, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the military coup was a necessary and in national interest! It recognised the pre-coup situation as one which could not have been solved by constitutional means. The court also said that it was necessary to hold general elections within 2 years, but allowed delaying them until October 2002 C.E.
When the court legitimised the coup, Musharraf took concrete steps to consolidate his hold on power as President and Chief of the army. His term as chief of the army was to end in 2001, and could then only be extended by order of the President (Rafiq Tarar). But since he feared that the President may not agree to it, Musharraf overthrew Rafiq Tarar as president in June 2001 C.E and thus occupied the two posts of army chief as well as that of the President simultaneously.
With the help of his secret service and by threatening the opposition, he formed a political party, the Pakistan Muslim League with the leaders of the PML (Nawaz Shareef) and followed the same process to wean away leaders from the PPP of Benazir Bhutto and some independent politicians. During this period, Musharraf prevented both Nawaz Shareef and Benazir Bhutto from returning to Pakistan and participating in politics.
In the October 2002 elections, his party won the majority and gained power in the provinces of Sind, Punjab and Balochistan either on its own or in coalition with other parties. But in the North West Frontier province (Sarhad Province), it was the Muttahida Majlis that gained power. To counter its effect, Musharraf used his position as head of the state and appointed army generals as the provincial governors of NWFP, because the US saw the Muttahida Majlis as too closely allied with the Pashtoon movement which is opposed to the secular policies of Musharraf which he implements in the name of modernity and development.
Because Musharraf does not command a two-thirds majority necessary to amend the constitution in order to increase his powers, he sought to strike a deal with the Muttahida Majlis in December 2003 under which he will forsake his position as chief of army in return for the Majlis’s vote to increase the powers of the president. Thus Musharraf overcome the crisis and garner two-thirds of majority to bring about amendment to the constitution; concentrating all the powers in the presidency and eroding the authority of the prime ministers.
Musharraf was able to carry out these actions without either bothering the people or the constitution, nor was he concerned with accepted convention on the issue, because he is one who is neither afraid of Allah (swt) nor His servants. Further, he supported the American attacks on Afghanistan and confronted the Mujahideen in Kashmir and tightened his noose on them. And because he was not harmed all the while and was propped up by America, he became arrogant. This is why he boldly sacked the Chief Justice and referred his case to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) charging the sacked chief justice with exploitation of authority, exceeding his jurisdiction and of behaviour inconsistent with his position. In doing so, Musharraf was not at all concerned with the resulting consequences of such an action because of his arrogance.
As to why Musharraf ventured onto such a course of action, consider the following:
As per the constitution of Pakistan, the election of the president follows the general elections, and the members of the National Assembly along with the members of the four provincial assemblies form the Electoral College that elects the president of Pakistan. Now because the election of the members of the assemblies is scheduled to be held before the presidential election, and the Electoral College consists of members elected under the previous elections wherein Musharraf enjoyed a two-thirds majority, which means that if election of the president is held currently, the president will enjoy another term in office. Since the people resent his ugly policies Musharraf can not be assured of a the-thirds majority in the Electoral College of the president in the next elections, especially because of launching of attacks in the frontier province of the Muttahida Majlis. This clearly means that in the next elections, Musharraf can not be sure of returning to power, he therefore feels that this is the opportune time to hold the presidential elections ahead of the general elections under the emergency powers which he has assumed as head of the state.
For Musharraf to carry out this, he needs a chief justice, who will concur with and legitimise such a change, and also support him in the face of a challenge by the opposition. Now since the sacked chief justice Mr. Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is not likely to allow Musharraf a free run and is seen as close to the opposition, Musharraf has thought it fit to sack and bring charges against him and consequently appoint a loyalist as successor to the sacked chief justice. Having done this, Musharraf would bring a presidential order to hold the presidential elections prior to holding the general elections in order to get elected by the current Electoral College which was elected under the previous elections and where he enjoys a majority as a result of the deal with the Muttahida Majlis.
But it appears that the US and Musharraf have both misjudged the opposition’s reaction to the sacking of the chief justice and also did not anticipate mass movement in its aftermath. Now if the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) fails to substantiate charges against him and if the protests continue on a large-scale and if Musharraf fails to calm them down. It may be possible that Musharraf may be forced to reinstate the sacked chief justice.
In such an event, the elections may have to be held as scheduled, then, as certain sections of the media have indicated, Musharraf may strike a deal with PPP of Benazir Bhutto, instead of Muttahida Majlis to prop his presidency. In such a situation, it is likely that Musharraf may allow Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan in order to consolidate the situation and restore civilian rule. That is Musharraf holds on as the president and appoints one of his supporter as chief of the army and Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister.
13th Rabee’ ul akhir, 1428 A.H
30th April 2007