By Humayun Gauhar 

Timing is everything. Not good to be early or late. General Musharraf has managed both. He returned too late for elections and too early for ‘revolution’. Elections are eleven days away while the objective conditions on the ground are not ripe enough for an urban uprising that changes the status quo. It’s happened twice before, but the status quo changed for the worse.

More social dislocation is necessary to start a movement. That depends on the performance of the new governments. If they do well anarchy can be averted, but for a time because the iniquitous status will remain. Chances that we will get good governance are low: they will be coalitions with their tails tied together with only one thing in common – to last as long as possible and get richer as long as possible. The masses are nowhere on their radar. Unlike Egypt, we have safety valves to let steam out – people drugged high on the symbols of democracy: parliaments and a hyper media independent of the state but not of vested interests.

Every citizen has the right to return to his country, clear his name and exercise his fundamental right to travel within and without. Musharraf exercised that right without getting cases against him withdrawn courtesy the USA and UK or get a pardon courtesy the Saudis. He has returned and put his life on the line to face everything. That is brave. But the self-serving and hypocritical cases against him will keep Musharraf occupied.

If he subverted the constitution on October 12, 1999, why did he? Coups don’t happen in a vacuum. They are a reaction to an action or situation. Didn’t Nawaz Sharif first subvert the constitution by removing the army chief illegally, as the Supreme Court adjudged, and invite the coup? “General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, is a holder of [a] Constitutional post. His purported arbitrary removal in violation of the principle of audi alteram partem was ab initio void and of no legal effect” said the Supreme Court. Did the judges on that bench subvert the constitution by legitimizing the coup? Did those too who took oaths under Musharraf’s first Provisional Constitutional Order? How come those who did under the first become rejects but those who were thrown out by the second sprout wings and remain judges? Justice is supposed to be blind, not cockeyed or selective. Don’t try one person for ‘subversion’; try the whole lot.

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In hijacking Musharraf’s aircraft and ordering the pilot to go to India, Sharif pushed the borders of treason: lucky for him the pilot had the sense not to comply. He could easily have landed in Ahmedabad and handed over an unsuspecting Pakistan army chief to the Indians, a shameful sight indeed for us to see our army chief in enemy custody, handcuffed and being paraded on television courtesy the prime minister of Pakistan. Sharif’s was the coup against the army; the army’s was the countercoup. He asked for it.

Musharraf will not be alone in the dock. It takes many to do a coup, help it, legitimize it and sustain it. With him will be a former prime minister and his henchmen, many serving and retired generals, judges and politicians. Do they have the stomach for it? First and foremost, Nawaz Sharif will have to answer why he subverted the constitution by sacking the army chief in the manner that he did and tried to throw him into Indian hands and thus invited the coup. Does he have the stomach for it or will he start pleading to be sent to Jeddah again? It was good of Musharraf to agree to send him to a friendly country and not to an enemy, like Sharif wanted to do to Musharraf. Sharif may be the prime minister again but I don’t give a fig: Pakistan comes first.

As to the ‘hero’ Akbar Bugti, he killed himself by misadventure in trying to kill soldiers of Pakistan by detonating the explosives he had planted in his cave and caved it in, mistakenly killing himself too. If the army intended to blow up the cave to kill Bugti, why would it first send in its unarmed officers and soldiers? They went in to negotiate with Bugti and arrest him, not to kill the renegade; else they would have been armed.

Tell me: what does a state do with a man who takes up arms against it? Those who build Bugti up as a hero should be ashamed of themselves. It was the Marri tribe that first gave him refuge on its land and then betrayed him to the army as revenge for what he had done to them as Governor of Baluchistan under Bhutto the patriarch. The tribal warlords and chieftains called Sardars are a stigma on the name of the Baloch, bloodsucking rapacious oppressors, primitive in the extreme, holding the power of life and death over their people Until they become history the Baloch will remain mired in the Stone Age.

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As to Lal Masjid, Musharraf’s mistake was to take action too late, wasting time in hoping that politicians could peacefully negotiate the government out of an explosive situation. Where are the names, relatives and graves of the “hundreds of women and children killed” that our media goes on about? If relatives of missing persons can come out in protest, why can’t they?

What is the prime duty of a government? If it is not to protect the integrity and writ of the state and the life of its citizens, then what is the point of having a state? Anyone who takes up arms, missiles and suicide vests against a state, occupies part of it, declares his own law there, establishes courts and drags people in, foreigners included, and ‘tries’ and punishes them, kills its soldiers, police and citizens and destroys their legitimate businesses is a rebel and has to be dealt with accordingly. Those who create a state within a state are called ‘Kharajis and are anathema to Islam. The two brothers who ran the mosque, one surviving, are no scholars but a blot on the name of scholarship and on Islam. It is they who are the criminals, responsible for whatever death and destruction that occurred, especially the one who tried to escape like a coward in a burqa. Would you find any of the true soldiers of Islam trying to escape battle that they had started disguised in female garb? It is they who have blood on their hands.

What about some television anchors who goaded Musharraf on to launch the operation, taunting him and questioning what the army was for if it couldn’t liberate a mosque, promising that they would not rant against Musharraf if he took action. When Musharraf said that the moment he did they would turn against him, they promised that they would never. Came the operation came the U-turn: they exploited it to the maximum to increase ratings and get Musharraf. Are they culpable too?

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The president is perfectly within his constitutional rights to send a reference to the Supreme Judicial Council concerning any judge. He is also within his rights to summon him, show him the charges with the evidence and, if he decides to send the reference to the SJC ask him go on leave while it considers it and gives its opinion, not judgment, to the president that he is free to accept or reject. So far, so good, but what followed was unacceptable: forcibly suspending the chief justice, putting him and his family under house arrest, cutting off all communications and manhandling him. Musharraf went to Karachi. One should ask the police and intelligence agencies what they were up to and under whose orders. What was the government doing, the interior ministry? That is what blew the judges case out of proportion and got Musharraf into trouble. Since the buck stops with him and the prime minister, they paid the price. So did the country.

The National Reconciliation Ordinance that withdrew all cases against Benazir, Zardari and over 8,000 others, as did the Saudi deal with the Sharifs for going to Jeddah were both wrong too. The US, Britain, certain Musharraf officials and politicians and some of his friends gave him the wrong advice. Pakistan paid the price for it even more than Musharraf. He has been man enough to admit that the NRO was a mistake. But what about the many pseudo democrats who kept whining that “democracy would remain incomplete until the two great leaders of the two nationals parties are allowed to return and lead them in elections”? Now everyone complains against the NRO and the pardon, not realizing that without them Benazir or Sharif could never have returned. You asked for it, you got it. Don’t bellyache all the time lest you become a habitual bellyacher.

As to threats to Musharraf’s life, the state has to realize that this is not the Wild West – or is it? In no civilized country are there bounty hunters. No one can put head money on someone and incite murder much less release videos threatening to kill someone. They would get arrested immediately or eliminated by a functioning state.