You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In the commando's footsteps?

By Kamran Shafi

REALLY, now! It is one thing to renege on repeated solemn, signed, public promises; it is quite another to use one’s powerful office to rub an honourable man’s face in the dirt.

Indeed, to trample so cruelly and thoughtlessly a most honourable and brave and courageous movement’s face into the ground.

I refer to Asif Zardari’s statement: “The way these ‘former’ judges are delivering speeches similar to that of politicians, I would advise the prime minister to give them a party ticket for the Senate elections to be held next year.

“I do not see even a minute judicial crisis except a few judges delivering political speeches … 42 out of 62 judges have taken new oath and now it’s a problem of only four, five people as many of them have already retired.” A newspaper added: “When asked whether these 4/5 judges also included Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, [President Zardari] said in a lighter tone that [Justice Iftikhar] was so popular that he might pose a threat to the government, as they had assumed the role of politicians and we would invite them to join politics and contest the Senate elections. He said the president has the power to lift the two-year ban before any judge or government servant contests polls.” I am not shocked, for anything might happen in a country where for the very first time the leader of the largest (so far anyway) political party has the gall to say that a political promise was just that, politics; that it was not the word of God.

What saddens, and greatly angers me, is that an honourable man, and from what I have seen and heard of him, a damn good judge, is being treated the way he is. Let me clarify here and now that I have only once attended My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry’s court, on the day that he had suo motu remanded Mukhtaran Mai’s case to the Supreme Court after the Lahore High Court had released her rapists and their henchmen.

The way the judge, helped by his brother justices Bhagwandas and Syed Saeed Ashad, disposed of the seven or eight cases before Mukhtaran Mai’s was exemplary. Indeed, one of the lawyers who I have known for more years than I care to count told me that the judgment against his client was exactly right! Justice Chaudhry’s many achievements have been recounted in this column too many times before; suffice it to say that a man of his stature and standing does not deserve the ignominy being heaped upon him by none other than the highest in the land. Indeed, going to the extent of sarcastically saying that Iftikhar Chaudhry had become so popular that he “might pose a threat to the government” is a blow that reminds one of Musharraf calling My Lord Chaudhry “the scum of the earth”.

Not to be left behind, Attorney General Khosa — a fitting successor to the much disgraced Malik Qayyum who was actually forced by the Supreme Court to resign from judgeship of the Lahore High Court for conspiring with Saifur Rahman to award a heavy sentence to Benazir Bhutto — has invited My Lord Chaudhry to take a fresh oath and become a judge of the Supreme Court! Khosa has, once again, aired the New Pakistan Peoples Party’s line that whilst Musharraf’s actions of November 3, 2007 were de facto improper there is no way other than a constitutional amendment to put his actions right. And that there is no constitutional way of doing that other than a constitutional amendment. Then why don’t you move an amendment, Attorney General?

It is no use trying to talk to the purposely deaf. One can only shake one’s head in dismay at the way the mightiest (thus far, but certainly not for long) political force in the country is heading towards certain disaster.

Elsewhere now, and while some Indians are protesting the expense of $76m on sending a moon probe on an indigenouslymade Indian rocket that will reportedly do what no probe has done before (thank you, Star Trek), the Pakistan Navy is procuring a 35-year-old frigate from the US which will refurbished at a cost of (a further?) $54m! Talk of priorities! What do we need a 35-year-old frigate for, please? Who does the Pakistan Navy intend to frigate, specially in light of President Asif Ali Zardari’s ringing recent pronouncement that India has never been a threat to Pakistan? Another toy for the boys, what, such as the F-16s which are programmed not to leave Pakistan’s airspace and which will mean another $3bn down the tube?

And another thing. I have asked this question before, let me ask it again: who are the Pakistani agents for these two deals? Why is this a deep dark secret? And while we are at it, who is the agent for the two Saab early warning system aircraft which were procured two years ago (way before the rupee’s dive into oblivion, mark) for US$1.2bn, which was double their offer price in 1995?

And yet another thing. Why is the army going ahead with the new GHQ project in Islamabad the Beautiful at this time when the poor have neither food nor electricity nor potable drinking water? It has a very plush headquarters in Rawalpindi already; we are living in the Information Age where the headquarters of the three forces do not have to be in the same city for ‘coordination’. So why?

Finally, there is a great debate raging on whether the Commando will enter politics to try and resurrect his ‘golden era’ — I swear someone said this just yesterday! My answer is this: Musharraf can do what he wants but the man must be tried first in an open court of law for his sheer ineptness, and for setting this country alight with the fires of hate and malice and rancour.

Above all, since he was the allpowerful Commando-in-Chief, he must be asked why both the crime scenes where two deadly attacks on Benazir were made, the one in Karachi resulting in the death of over 150 poor innocents and the maiming of hundreds of others and the one in Rawalpindi resulting in her own tragic death and that of many others, were sanitised inside of minutes while every other bombing was cordoned off for days on end while forensics experts scoured the area for clues.

Let him answer the charges, then jump off a bridge if he must. ¦

The article was published in Dawn on October 28, 2008 (Tuesday).
'In the Commando's footsteps?'Dawn ePaper - Digital replica of Print Edition.

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