Ashish Shukla for BeyondHeadlines
The forefathers of our most troubled neighbour had assumed that Pakistan would be a homeland for the Muslims of Indian subcontinent where their identity, interests, rights, cultural and civilisational values would no longer be threatened by a majority community. More than sixty five years have been passed, since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, but their expectations remain unfulfilled and dreams unrealised. There are many who believe that the “Idea of Pakistan” was stronger than the “State of Pakistan.” There are others who not only question the validity of the very idea itself but out rightly reject it for being faulty and based on a communal “Two Nation Theory”. The debate over the identity of the state is still unresolved and according to a number of scholars, including Western and Pakistanis, is the root cause of most of the problems of contemporary Pakistan.
Peace and Democracy are the two chants that dominate the present century and will hopefully continue to drive people crazy in centuries to come. The power of democracy is as such that even iron handed military juntas claim to be democratic at heart and justify their actions and activities in the name of strengthening democracy and advancing the agenda of peace internally as well as externally. Why is democracy dominating the agenda of every statesman? Fareed Zakaria suggested in his book The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad that we live in a democratic age and majority of the people in the world believe that democracy is the sole surviving source of political legitimacy. Rajni Kothari, an eminent Indian scholar, in his famous work Rethinking Democracy points out the fact that it is difficult to realise the long cherished ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity—the undisputed characteristics of a democratic and just society—in present phase of human history.
At a time when democracy is indisputably the best form of government, people of our neighbouring country are striving to witness a peaceful transfer of power from one elected civilian regime to another elected civilian regime. Pakistan, where army has been the de-facto ruler since the first military coup in 1958, has recently made history when Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government completed a full five year term. Elections are due to take place on 11 May 2013 under the caretaker government led by Mir Hazar Khan Khoso—a former Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court. Initially there were rumours that the caretaker setup may long lost. However, Justice (retd) Khoso not only rejected the wrong perception but promised that election would be held on time (11 May) and he will quit the office of caretaker Prime Minister, if he fails to deliver on time.
With the announcement of elections, political temperature has gone on record height and various players are trying hard to get an edge over their potential rivals. Amid such politically charged environment, dictator’s love for democracy and his country forced him to come and participate in the electoral process. Riding on the wave of pre-arrival protective bail of Sindh High Court, on 24 March 2014, Uncle Sam’s blue-eyed boy, during 2001 to 2008, General Pervez Musharraf landed in Karachi with an agenda of “Saving Pakistan” and leading his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) in the elections. Referring to the threat of Taliban, he claimed, during his short interaction with media at the Karachi airport, that “I’ve put my life in serious danger and come back to save Pakistan…Those who are giving me life threats, I want to tell them that I am a Syed, a soldier and a staunch Muslim. I don’t fear death. I am a more devoted Muslim than those who are threatening me.” He sounded like a staunch patriot and blamed the Zardari and PPP government for the precarious condition of the state and stated that poverty and unemployment have broken the back of the people. After this he promised the people of Pakistan to get them back the same Pakistan he had left behind four years ago. It is no secret in which (pathetic) condition he left Pakistan in 2008. The “dictator turned democrat” was trying to shoot various targets with his first speech in Pakistan—an act in which political leaders claim to be specialised. The poor turnout of his supporters at the Karachi airport is a clear indication that people of Pakistan are not interested to give him another chance to mess with the things in the country.
Musharraf received his first set back on 5th of April when his nomination papers for Kasur (NA-139) was rejected by the Returning Officer (RO) who declared that Musharraf did not meet the definition of Sadiq and Ameen as prescribed in article 62 and 63 of the Pakistani Constitution. Merely two days after his nomination papers for Islamabad (NA-48) and Karachi (NA-250) were also rejected by the respective ROs on the ground of article 62 and 63 of the constitution for his alleged violation of the constitution and imposition of emergency in November 2007. Although his papers for Chitral (NA-32) has been accepted by the RO on the ground that former president has not been convicted for the case, however, this does not solve his problem as lawyers have decided to challenge the decision in the High Court.
Apart from this, a number of petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to try Musharraf for treason and stop him taking part in the electoral process of the country. Two-judge bench headed by Justice Jawad S Khwaza, which is hearing petitions on treason charges on Musharraf, directed the government to take steps to prevent Musharraf from leaving the country. As per the latest reports, Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing till 15th April so that Musharraf’s lawyers could prepare a response on the charges levelled against him.
It is no secret that Musharraf is guilty of treason and he will be convicted if a fair trial takes place. Now the question, being frequently asked in Pakistan and abroad, is what would be the fate of Musharraf? Given the chequered history and developments, predicting things in Pakistan has always been a difficult task. Former President, at the moment, is undoubtedly in a tight corner. However, since army is the de-facto power in Pakistan, there exists every possibility of Musharraf escaping unhurt. Those who are betting on the rising judiciary, evolving democracy and adverse public opinion should not forget that army behaves institutionally. Musharraf may not be at the helm of affairs, presently, but he is the man who gave the military a permanent role in the decision making of Pakistan by establishing National Security Council. He is the man who made Uncle Sam happy and brought enormous amounts in terms of military and civilian aid to Pakistan and strengthened the institution of military in Pakistan. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayan, Chef of Army Staff (COAS), will not let his predecessor down because it will adversely hurt the image of the army. There is a strong possibility of army influencing (not intervening and taking over) the outcome at a right time.
(Author is Ph.D. Candidate, South Asian Studies, School of International Studies in JNU, New Delhi.)