Opposition leaders meet
in Islamabad, Below: Street protests in Karachi
Takes Crucial Step to Dump the Islam Karimov of Pakistan
Dr. Tarique Niazi
September 8: The 4th of September will go down in history of Pakistan
as the beginning of the end of military dictatorships in Pakistan.
All Parties Conference (APC) that met on the 4th called upon Gen.
Musharraf to step down as “President” and quit the
army command. It has unequivocally declared that he is unacceptable
in or out of uniform. To back up its call with action, the APC
has announced a nation-wide strike on September 9 to shut down
the whole country to protest the continuation of military dictatorship
APC is made up of the country’s liberal-conservative alliance
that is respectively represented by the Alliance for Restoration
for Democracy (ARD) and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). Both
alliances have come across from a gulf of divisions that were
assiduously sown by Gen. Musharraf to keep them divided.
has now brought the two together to forge an unprecedented unity
against dictatorship? The broad-day heist of local governments’
elections that Musharraf held on August 18 and 25 and their robbery
with “state-sponsored terrorism” is what has united
them. The stealing of these elections has left the democratic
opposition in no doubt that fair and free elections cannot be
held on Gen. Musharraf’s watch.
democrat has now come to believe that he has to go and go soon
if democracy is to return to Pakistan. He is the deathly contradiction
of democracy and democracy is the fatal opposite of his. The two
simply cannot coexist; one has to go for the other to live. He
puts on the trappings of democracy by going through the farce
of elections only to seek “legitimacy” for his illegitimate
He has long held this illusion that if he can secure the majority
of popular vote, his “original sin” of power-grab
will be forgiven. However, no elections, no matter how fair, can
wash that sin, let alone fake ones.
military seizure of power is the fatal breach of the Constitution,
which only a court of law, not an electorate, can judge. Anticipating
his fate under the law, he has lost faith in the courts either,
although he has them recast in his own image by conducting a wide
January, 2000, he fired six of the 11 Supreme Court Justices who
dared to accept for hearing a petition against his military coup.
Later, he packed the Court with his hand-picked judges, and forced
the entire bench to swear its allegiance away from the Constitution
to his PCO (Provisional Constitution Order), which he issued in
1999 to substitute the Constitution.
only did the PCO put him above the Supreme Court, but it also
subordinated the Federal Shariat Court to his will. With a stroke
of pen, he, thus, became the Caesar who could double as God. Although
the PCO was junked in 2002, the Supreme Court’s oath of
loyalty to this charade remains intact to this day. He has not
let any of the judges who took oath on the PCO to re-swear their
allegiance back to the Constitution, because the Constitution
punishes his coup with death. As a result, he has gone on throttling
all the most basic democratic institutions of popular sovereignty,
an independent judiciary, the Constitution, and above all democracy
as a system of governance.
hopelessness has now persuaded the democratic opposition that
it cannot vote its way to democracy as long as Gen. Musharraf
is in occupation of Pakistan. He has blocked all democratic avenues
of peaceful change to keep himself in power.
his occupation, there is no institution left in the country that
is powerful enough to hold him to account. He has turned the parliament,
the judiciary, and the executive into forced accomplices of his
military dictatorship. The parliament provides legislative cover
to his unconstitutional rule as it did in the acceptance of the
Legal Framework Order (LFO), the passage of the 17th amendment,
the rushing through of the “Act of Parliament” to
let him retain the office of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), and
substitution of the presidential election with a “parliamentary
vote of confidence.”
judiciary does the same – legalizes his coup, blesses his
unconstitutional presidential referendum, rules in his retention
of the army command, and stays content with the mutilation of
the Constitution. The executive keeps the “Pakistani street”
clear of democratic marchers, jails his opponents, and shoulders
only source of resistance to his totalitarian reach is the military.
Having weighed down by this fact, he already has divided it into
three distributions of the top, the middle, and the base by systematically
having its command ethnicized, personalized, and politicized.
the top that benefits from his dictatorship largely stays loyal
to him, it is the broad middle and the broadest base where his
moral authority as “leader of the men” has sunk to
alarming lows. One may wonder, then, how he has weathered this
division to continue into power. The answer lies in the long-held
tradition of exemplary discipline of the Pakistani military that
is ironically sustaining his dictatorship and subverting democracy.
depth of this discipline can be gauged from its refusal in 1948
to take orders from an “unarmed” Jinnah, the founder
of Pakistan, and its submission to the “armed will”
of its British commander-in-chief. It has since kept up this tradition
of serving its “military commanders” and doing in
its “political leaders.” This exemplary discipline,
however, is now fast eroding, as evidenced in a string of assassination
bids that were mounted against Gen. Musharraf. Each of these bids
was traced to the middle and the base of the military.
he is willing to pit the military against the democratic opposition
to keep himself in power. By all indications, he will fight the
return of democracy to the last. His ultimate refuge from the
surging storm of popular movement is raw force. He came to power
at gun point and he will stay in power at the point of gun.
just as his coming to power was a one-off event, so will be his
departure from power -- forever. He is not a democrat who will
absorb her/his losses today in the hope of a comeback tomorrow.
For him, there is neither hope nor tomorrow; only a despair of
importantly, unlike democrats, he has employed himself in a “dead-end
job” where there is no way forward. Once out of job, he
would have nothing but his obituary to look forward to, as had
his predecessor dictators -- Sikandar Mirza, Ayub, Yahya and Zia.
of an insurgent democratic movement, he has recently taken the
ax to his democratic opposition. He has attempted to split the
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), especially two of its dominant
parties – the Jamaat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami
(JI) by placing the JUI on the Supreme Court’s chopping
bloc, while menacing the Jamaat-e-Islami with a ban on its operation.
he has been sowing divisions in the Alliance for Restoration of
Democracy (ARD) and its two dominant parties – the center-right
Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and the center-left Pakistan People’s
Party (PPP). By shutting their leaders out of the country, he
apparently has turned off the mobilization power of the ARD.
worst victim of his machinations, however, has been the unity
of the liberal-conservative alliance of the ARD and the MMA, which
he has kept apart, against his dictatorship. The moment the two
agreed on a democratic challenge to him, he deftly linked the
MMA to extremism and terrorism.
it was transformed into legions of barbarians at the gates, who
were ready to seize the nuclear-armed Pakistan. This image of
the MMA had the secular ARD and the gullible west cringing in
fear. No one cared to ask if the MMA was such an extremist or
a terrorist outfit, why is Musharraf propping up his dictatorship
on its shoulders in two of Pakistan’s four provinces? Why
does he still insist that MMA leaders sit on the National Security
Council (NSC) that supposedly deliberates on such highly sensitive
issues as “the war on terror,” “strategic implications
of American operation in Afghanistan,” “the ethnic
balance in the government in Kabul,” and “authenticity
of American intelligence on Taliban?”
is about time the PML and PPP stopped making fool of themselves
and took a leaf from the General’s own playbook that they
successfully did on September 4 by attending the APC that was
called by Jamaat-e-Islami. They should have long ago brought the
MMA into the mainstream political life and enlisted its immense
street power for a democratic challenge to military dictatorship.
should have stood up in defense of the MMA that is neither an
extremist nor a terrorist organization. It is a political grouping
of conservative Muslims, who firmly believe in the democratic
governance of Pakistan. Two of its component parties find natural
allies in the mainstream center-right PML and the center-left
PPP. The Jamaat-e-Islami that largely has urban base of support
gravitates to the urban-based PML, and the JUI that has a broader
constituency among Baloch and Pakhtun minorities embraces the
challenge for the opposition, however, has been to bring together
the MMA and the ARD into a democratic movement against the destructive
advance of Musharraf’s dictatorship. On September 4, the
opposition did just that. The two alliances – the ARD and
the MMA – swore to rid the country of military dictatorship
once and for all. They issued a loud and clear message that time
for Musharraf is up. This message came out of the opposition’s
deeply-held conviction that it cannot vote its way to democracy
as long as Gen. Musharraf holds the forte. The natural corollary
of this message is to immediately form a national unity government
with a two-fold mandate”
to restructure the Election Commission of Pakistan
(ii) to hold elections within 90 days as stipulated in the constitution
demands, however, should be backed up with a solid action. The
opposition cannot sound appealing in its demand for Gen. Musharraf
to leave the scene if it goes on sitting in a parliament that
exists only to strengthen his dictatorship and weaken democracy.
opposition must quit the parliament to show its seriousness. It
has 45 per cent of seats in both houses – National Assembly
and the Senate. If it resigned en masse, there wouldn’t
be any parliament left. Soon, the entire nation would line up
behind its demand for Musharraf to step down.
mass resignation also will crack up the top military brass, bringing
Musharraf under unbearable pressure to quit. For such a possibility,
the opposition needs to have its “Rashid Dostum” ready
to block all flight paths to a fleeing dictator.
opposition may further raise the stakes for the dictator by making
a two-step call for civil disobedience. First, it may invoke the
universal democratic principle of “no taxation without representation,”
and ask the under-delivered, overtaxed Pakistanis to stop paying
taxes, which are going into subsidizing an illegal and unconstitutional
it may consider advising all domestic creditors to stop advancing
loans to finance a military dictatorship after a well-defined
cut-off date, for which future governments will not accept responsibility.
In such measures, the opposition may seek the goal of starving
the beast of dictatorship.
it may call on civil and military personnel to refuse the orders
of an illegal and unconstitutional military dictatorship. It may
warn those who make the top of the civil and military bureaucracy
of punitive action, under the law, for abetting an illegal and
opposition leaders tend to contemplate to supplement such calls
with advice to all authorized personnel in civil and military
branches to hunt the country’s military dictator and bring
him to justice for his trespass on the Constitution. They are
relying on the military law that obligates every officer in uniform,
right from a 2nd Lieutenant to a 4-star General, to arrest any
of their comrades-in-arm who have committed an act of sedition.
opposition, however, must remember that if there ever was time
to mount a democratic challenge to Musharraf’s military
dictatorship, it is now. If the opposition is ready to seize this
moment in the cause of building a democratic Pakistan and willing
to go all the way to bring democracy to the country, it will find
Gen. Musharraf’s dictatorship no more fortified than a “house
of cards” that it has become.