By Humayun Gauhar
People thought that the Zardari government had hit rock bottom and none could ever be worse. Well, the Sharif government has found a new bottom and proved them wrong. Pakistan is fast becoming bottomless, like hell where sinful sods keep looking for bottoms but find none.
I am agog. In the face of the countless crises fast spinning out of control that this already failed government doesn’t have the capacity to handle, they have decided to put General Pervez Musharraf on trial for high treason under Article 6 of the constitution. Let it happen, I say. Musharraf has won bail in all the cases vengefully filed against him. Let’s get this one out of the way as well.
Twice before has Nawaz Sharif committed political suicide: seeing him beckoning yet another defies credulity. They have learned nothing and remain intent on punching above their weight, which inevitably leads to knockout. One is left wondering whether Nawaz Sharif will outlive the trial or the trial will outlive him?
Why did they do this at this point in time? It is not for just one but for all the reasons being proffered, and more.
1. Considering that this government has a single digit collective IQ, stupidity and alienation are the prime suspects. Their death wish just won’t go away.
2. To divert attention from government’s inability. They have succeeded for a while, for if they hadn’t I wouldn’t be wasting time writing this article and you reading it, but for how long? Diversions fail when deprivation hurts.
3. To prevent Musharraf leaving Pakistan and getting out of their clutches. Why would he when he voluntarily entered the jackals’ den and into their clutches? I suppose pompous cowards who beg for pardons, withdrawal of cases and exiles through foreign governments cannot understand this.
4. To malign and weaken the army further so that it cannot mount another coup. By doing what they are doing they could accelerate yet another. They still don’t realize that a coup is an institutional, not an individual’s decision.
This last point was proved by the countercoup mounted by the army in reaction to Nawaz Sharif’s coup against it on October 12, 1999. If coups were the decision of the army chief alone, how could they have reacted when their chief was totally cut off and out of the picture? Obviously, this is what Nawaz Sharif was banking on, not knowing that army interventions are institutional decisions. Those who say that it had been planned earlier only demonstrate their stupidity. How could the army have put the idea into Nawaz Sharif’s head to rush back to Islamabad from Bahawalpur and commit political suicide? In fact, had Musharraf’s PIA flight not been delayed by over an hour the army may not have had the time to move. When it was delayed, a hysterical Nawaz Sharif tried to prevent the flight from landing in Pakistan and even delivering our army chief into Indian custody. Is this not attempted treason? He is lucky that the pilot was a patriot and refused to take the aircraft to India.
Thus it is facetious to wonder who the next army chief will be. Whoever it is, if the institution decides that Pakistan’s decline has gone far enough it will move and even a reluctant army chief will have to go along or face mutiny, which will be very destructive for the army and the country. Mutiny has been tried thrice before and failed only by fluke, which is why it is also facetious to say that this is too big and disciplined an army for mutinies to happen. Flukes do not take place all the time. Desperate simpletons are asking, “What did we sacrifice so much for and make an army except to save us? Now save us. Will you save us only after there is nothing left to save?” This is damaging both for Pakistan and the army that we have made for other reasons. An army at war on many fronts doesn’t need the additional headache of running a country.
Some say that the case against Musharraf is “open and shut”, only he will be tried and only for imposing the November 3, 2007 emergency and not the army takeover of October 12, 1999. How illogical can they get? What an affront to natural justice. What an affront to the intellect. They just cannot hide their bias. There is no way that only Musharraf can be singled out and there is no way either that October 12, 1999 will not come into the fray. Look, if October 12, 1999 had not been validated by the Supreme Court and later indemnified by parliament there is no way Musharraf could even have reached November 3, 2007 much less impose emergency. To say that someone can be tried and punished in only one alleged crime and not all is wrong if an earlier crime led to a later crime. It is the original sin of the perpetrators and aiders, abettors, legitimizers and indemnifiers that matters. The Supreme Court judges that validated October 12, 1999 will have to enter the dock, as too should the parliamentarians that indemnified it.
Article 6 says:
(1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.
“(2) Any person aiding or abetting [or collaborating] the acts mention in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.]
“(3) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court or a High Court.]
“(4) Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.”
Forgive the atrocious mutilation of language by the constitution’s latest constitutional mutilators.
The word ‘abeyance’ was insinuated into Article 6 after Musharraf had lost power because he had neither abrogated the constitution nor ever declared martial law. ‘Abeyance’ was insinuated only to get him. But can it be applied retroactively? Natural justice says that it cannot.
If neither the Supreme Court nor any High Court can validate an act of high treason, the validation of the army’s takeover of October 12, 1999 by the Supreme Court is null and void and the judges that validated it become aiders and abettors and have to be included in the trial as well. If ‘abeyance’ is brought into retroactive effective there is no way either that they can avoid bringing the October 12, 1999 army reaction into the fray and put all aiders, abettors and collaborators, including and especially the Supreme Court judges in the dock. Parliamentarians have subverted the constitution more than any military ruler has. The last parliament subverted the federal structure of the state and turned Pakistan into a de facto confederation but they sit pretty because their amendments were done constitutionally. Ergo: if you subvert the constitution constitutionally you are a good boy, but if you do it unconstitutionally you are a bad boy. Parliamentarians can commit any crime they wish, including defaming people, so long as they commit it within the constitution and in parliament.
If you look at the oaths taken by military personnel, they are sworn to uphold the constitution and, most importantly, to save Pakistan. However, if the spirit and intent of the constitution is violated constitutionally and Pakistan is being endangered they should remain silent hoping that the Supreme Court will declare such legislative acts ultra vires of the constitution. My argument sounds rather convoluted only because it is dealing with a very convoluted constitution that has been woefully mutilated.
The literal minded say that you can single out a person and forget about both the original ‘sin’ and its aiders and abettors in both sins because Pervez Musharraf used the word ‘I’ more than once in declaring the November 3, 2007 emergency. They should know that when an officeholder speaks or writes in the first person in his official capacity he is representing and speaking on behalf of the institution in which he holds office and the people especially mentioned in an order are party to the order. Thus there is no way they can get away with singling out Musharraf for trial and only for the November 3, 2007 emergency. No, Sir, neither can Musharraf be singled out nor can October 12, 1999 be ducked. They are doing this to save their thick necks by ducking the first question that should be asked: “Why did you and your aiders and abettors Mr. Prime Minister create such conditions on October 12, 1999 by removing the army chief illegally as determined by the Supreme Court that caused an army takeover?” That was the real original sin.
My ‘sugary’ question, neither here nor there, is: what is the nexus between Sri Lanka and Nawaz Sharif committing political suicide?