We are not quite used to having retired leaders in our midst. They have disgraceful exits, are sent into exile or have a violent end. In most cases, the people of this country have no regrets. Good riddance, they think, and life moves on. Dictators (of whom we have had quite a few) do not have an exit strategy, anyway. They can either continue to rule or be nowhere.
So it was only a matter of time that this announcement about Musharraf’s impeachment came. He sat there alone, sidelined, in the army house and not the presidency, though a president and not the army chief. People of Pakistan had rejected him and his party on Feb 18, 2008. No mean feat the way people stepped out, bomb-scared, to vote out a system that he represented to bring in their own representatives. For a change, this time corruption was not an election issue. Only democracy was.
But Musharraf stayed put. He did not resign at the shameful defeat of his party. He did not address the new parliament. He did not seek a vote of confidence from the new assemblies as promised before the Supreme Court at the time of decision about his candidature late last year. If anything, he claimed credit for the free and fair election. And very soon began to believe that he could undo the system again.
The truth is that the coalition stayed shaky with Musharraf in the saddle. As he began to flex his muscles, the coalition decided to act. Many people think it should have gone for the restoration of deposed judges first, before the impeachment of the president. But that’s how they chose to go about it.
Meanwhile we remain concerned about the system. Whether this decision to impeach the president, which may inevitably lead to his exit even if by resignation, is only about the removal of an individual or is it going to bring in a genuine systemic change, a transition to democracy, as the people of this country want.
If we heard correctly, and analysts did not tire of saying this, that the president would not dismiss the parliament using his powers under article 58-2(b) only because he does not have the army’s support, then are we not assuming that army is very much a player in the power game. It may not be supporting Mr Musharraf in dissolving the parliament but how permanent is the decision.
If we gauge correctly, the decision to impeach president must have been a part of the agenda of the prime minister’s visit to the United States. So what exactly is the status of US influence in Pakistan’s domestic affairs. And what does it bode for the status of democracy in Pakistan.
These are some of the issues that we have tried to discuss in this Special Report. We’ve also discussed the application of the so-called Bangladesh model to Pakistan as well as the state of our polity, particularly the future of the coalition government, minus its common enemy Musharraf.
might be contentious issues ahead but the coalition partners can do well
with a show of “pragmatism, flexibility and accommodation”
This isn’t the first time. Ever since the Feb-18 split mandate that had Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) yoked into an alliance, the political pundits as well as the hawk-eyed media analysts have been debating the longevity of such a coalition. Because the two parties have traditionally been considered as the anti-thesis of each other, most people doubted the arrangement would work — albeit for a few ‘common objectives’, chiefly the removal of Musharraf.
The past four months have seen how — on numerous occasions — the coalition partners came close to breaking up, but every time they were saved by a common thread. On May 12 this year, the PML-N was compelled to pull out from the federal cabinet because the party was getting restless over the ‘noncommittal’ attitude of the PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari with regard to Musharraf and the restoration of judges, but the president’s impeachment has served to bring the Sharifs and Zardari to again start celebrating common interests, and famously so. It should be interesting to see if this sense of bonhomie and camaraderie will hold in the long run. Once their ‘common enemy’ is out of the way for good, will the coalition’s real staying-power be put to test.
According to veteran analyst I. A. Rehman, there might be contentious issues ahead but “pragmatism, flexibility and accommodation alone will help strike common grounds on vexed questions.”
Rehman rejects the notion that a peaceful coexistence of the coalition depends on its being anti-Musharraf. “This coalition came into being as a result of the verdict of the people of Pakistan on Feb 18. The people have certain wishes and aspirations, and the coalition came into being for the realisation of these very hopes and aspirations.
“The purpose of their being in the government together is not Musharraf’s ouster only, because that happened only last week. They also have the restoration of the judges on their agenda.”
However, he insists, “These are only the means, not the ends.”
Together the PPP and the PML-N do not boast a history of companionship or, for that matter, a good functional relationship. Politics of vendetta and bickerings marked the tenure of (late) Benazir Bhutto as prime minister when Mian Nawaz Sharif was the angry young CM of the country’s biggest and most important (economically) province — Punjab. That there was bad blood between Sharif — even after he was elected to the PM’s office in 1990 — and Ms Bhutto, now a fiery opposition leader, is no official secret either. Their rivalry spilt over into their next terms as PM, and would have continued till date if it wasn’t for certain common interests that forced them to place their personal and party prejudices on the backburner and sign on a charter of democracy.
Much will depend on the way the two main coalition partners conduct themselves. They can either consolidate their gains or end up repeating history that saw elected regimes expended at the altar of selfish aims and intolerance. I. A. Rehman proposes a “return to the Charter” that the leaders of the coalition parties committed themselves to.
“Of course, the contradictions are going to be there, otherwise they wouldn’t be ‘two’ parties; they’d become one.
“It’s also true that there are times when the negative factors will operate — factors such as the history of hostility, the existence of a Ziaul Haq or a Musharraf, etc. But, I think the political leaders will have to act with maturity and work towards identifying common goals. They will have to strive towards it.
“At the same time, I believe that the people who voted them into power are not likely to sit passively and let them spoil the verdict. So, the pressure of the people is going to be as important in keeping the coalition together.”
With every passing day the offensive launched against President Musharraf by the coalition government is getting stronger. By now all the four provincial assemblies have passed resolutions in favour of impeaching Musharraf and the government is all set to issue an exhaustive chargesheet against Musharraf. Quite unexpectedly, 26 PML-Q members in Punjab Assembly have also supported a no-confidence motion against Musharraf in the assembly.
Though the provincial resolutions are symbolic, having no direct effect on the impeachment motion, they hint at what’s lying in store for the nation in times to come. The formal process is about to begin in the parliament with the submission of the chargesheet being prepared by a special draft committee formed for the purpose.
The issue of Musharraf’s likely impeachment has caught extraordinary attention of international media as he has been in headlines for the last eight years. But it’s a fact that the national as well as scores of parliamentarians are not clear about the process to be followed to impeach the president. The clause on how to impeach the president has always been there in the Constitution of Pakistan but has never been used in the history of the country. The reason is simple; the president has, most of the time in the country’s history, enjoyed more powers than the elected prime minister or the parliament and pre-empted any such move.
Had Musharraf been enjoying the Army’s support at this critical time he would have dissolved the assemblies by invoking Article 58 2(b) of the Constitution. This time he is not even expecting any support from the US if he decides to take this drastic step.
So it seems quite likely that the nation will witness the process of president’s impeachment for the first time. Regardless of the results, the very execution of this process has a great historic significance — one that can go a long way in making the parliament the supreme forum in a constitutional setup.
Though totally new to our country, the practice of impeaching presidents is not unusual in many other democracies. Even in the US, impeachment move was prepared for nine presidents of which two were impeached and one resigned from the presidency before the process could be initiated. Chances are strong that Musharraf resorts to leaving in a similar fashion without waiting for the reasonably long process of impeachment.
By definition impeachment is the process used to charge, try, and remove public officials for misconduct while in office. The roots of impeachment date back to ancient Athens. Its place in the US Constitution was secured by the influence of the English Common Law on the framers of the Constitution. In US, the impeachment of the president means the constitutional method used to remove charges of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. It requires a majority vote by the House of Representatives, and then conviction by a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
In Musharraf’s case the speaker of the National Assembly will hold a debate in the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament. According to article 47 of the constitution, a majority of two-thirds of the members in both houses must declare that the president is unfit to hold his office due to incapacity, or he is guilty of violating the constitution, or he is involved in gross misconduct.
It is clear that the ruling coalition now has the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him. The ruling coalition’s draft committee has also finalised the chargesheet against President Musharraf. PPP sources claim that the chargesheet against Musharraf is likely to extend to more than 100 pages listing violations of the constitution and examples of the president’s misconduct.
However, constitutional experts are of the opinion that the chargesheet should be brief and compact.
In case of an extraordinarily long chargesheet the parliamentarians will find it difficult to prove all the allegations, they opine. The creation of PML-Q by Musharraf on the advice of his close aide Tariq Aziz in 2002, as confessed by him in his memoir ‘In the Line of Fire’, is too big a violation of the constitution as well as the Army’s rules to warrant impeachment. Similarly, his role in the Kargil episode, Lal Masjid carnage, killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, May 12, 2007, massacre and deadly military operations in Balochistan and the FATA strengthens the case against him to a great extent.
Musharraf has three options. He can either contest the impeachment in parliament, resign and ask for safe passage or invoke Article 58 2(b) and dissolve the parliament. The ruling coalition needs 295 votes out of 442 (342 MNAs and 100 senators) to impeach President Musharraf. Currently, they claim to have the support of 305 members. Here, one senator from Balochistan — Sana Ullah Baloch — has resigned from his seat and two national assembly seats are still vacant. Therefore, there will be total 439 total members present in the both houses instead of 442.
Under Article 47, clause 6, the joint sitting of both the houses will investigate the charges upon which the notice is founded. Constitution of Pakistan’s same article, article 47 in its clause 7 mentions the right of the President to defend himself. He can do that either by appearing himself or by sending his representative in the session during investigation. And, the representative can be anyone, lawyer or advocate or any one.
Under Article 47(8), the president shall cease to hold the office immediately on the passing of the impeachment motion. There can be no discontinuity. The Chairman Senate is not required to be sworn in as acting president because his oath also includes the oath of the president.
In case Musharraf succeeds in defending himself he can face a stronger impeachment motion in March 2009 when the numbers game further tilts in favour of the coalition. At that time, many PML-Q senators will retire and be replaced by new senators from coalition parties.
Once the army’s image is rehabilitated and the people have forgotten the excesses committed by the previous military ruler, there would be opportunities for the present lot of generals to take over power directly or actively start pulling the strings of the civilian government
— if the bungling politicians do not learn their lessons
Though an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis wants President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf to quit his ill-gotten office, everybody is waiting for the Pakistan Army to make up its mind about the fate of the former army chief. There is a strong belief in the country that the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, will have the final say in determining whether President Musharraf, otherwise doomed, should stay in power, be impeached or allowed to quit without facing trial.
This explains the power of the armed forces, or the Pakistan Army to be precise, because the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy are normally kept out of the consultation process when a military coup is being planned or decisions to make or break a government are taken. The airmen and the sailors don’t enjoy the kind of clout exercised by the more numerous, khaki-clad ground soldiers.
This wasn’t the case in the early days of Pakistan. Strong politicians such as Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, along with the principled ones from the then East Pakistan including Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy and Maulvi Tameezuddin, were a bulwark against any military intervention in politics. In any case, the army and its generals weren’t strong enough at the time to think of mounting a coup and capturing power. Politicians in the 1950s in their game of musical chairs played in the hands of the powerful civilian governor-generals, shifted political loyalties and served for ridiculously short periods as prime ministers. Still there was no military coup until 1958 and that too after the bureaucrat Sikandar Mirza had manoeuvred his way to effect changes in government and assumed powers far beyond his capacity. He was to be undone by his army chief and defence minister General Mohammad Ayub Khan, who sent him packing to London, proclaimed martial law and became Pakistan’s first military ruler.
He set a precedent that tempted three army chiefs — General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf — to launch successful coups and many others who lusted for power but failed to fulfil their ambition. Ayub Khan made himself the Field Marshal and stayed in power for 10 long years, Yahya Khan wanted to rule for 14 years but had to go when his unwise policies led to Pakistan’s dismemberment and Ziaul Haq lasted for 11 years after having promised to return to the barracks after holding elections in 90 days. Pervez Musharraf wanted to rule forever and deemed himself indispensable for Pakistan’s security and well-being. But circumstances forced him in 2007 to give up his position as army chief and set the stage for his decline. His fate now hangs in the balance and his chosen successor, General Kayani, has to decide how his former boss should be treated at a time when the President’s former political allies are abandoning him.
In its 61-year existence, Pakistan has been under military rule now for more than 30 years. Even if the army wasn’t ruling the country directly, it was calling the shots from behind. Such was the power of the army that issues critical to Pakistan’s security including the nuclear programme, the Kashmir conflict and the Afghan policy were almost entirely placed in control of the military. Ruling politicians were at times involved in consultations but the final decision with regard to these issues rested with the army. The message was loud and clear: only the military could be trusted to make and implement decisions concerning Pakistan’s nuclear, Kashmir and Afghan policies.
There has been a familiar pattern to the methods and tactics used by military rulers to prolong their rule. Often their first move is to write or amend the Constitution and legitimise their illegal and unconstitutional rule with a helping hand from the ever-obliging judges of the superior courts. They also got inserted clauses like 58-2(B) in the Constitution to obtain power to dismiss democratically elected parliament and prime minister. Judges were terminated from service or rewarded with promotions keeping in view their hostility or utility to the military dictators. In the process, the Constitution was disfigured beyond recognition and the judiciary lost its credibility.
Another measure used by the military dictators was to devise a system of local government, hold elections for union and district councils and use the elected councillors as an electoral college for presidential elections as was done by President Ayub Khan or to depoliticise the society and neutralise the influence of political parties. Ayub Khan called the system “Basic Democracies” or BDs, Ziaul Haq used the term ‘Majlis-i-Shura’ for his unelected consultative bodies and Pervez Musharraf named the chairpersons of the local councils as nazims. In certain cases, the uniformed presidents held elections for non-party assemblies to keep political opponents out of the system. Ayub Khan ‘ebdoed’ rival politicians and banned them from politics. Ziaul Haq got rid of his dangerous foe, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, by ensuring his judicial murder. And Pervez Musharraf manipulated the laws of the land to send his political rivals into exile or disallow their return to Pakistan.
One more tactic used to maximum effect by military rulers was to create their political party. The Pakistan Muslim League, a party forever run by feudals and industrialists, came handy whenever the need arose to give a civilian facade to military rule. Factions of PML were created with high-sounding names as PML-Q to provide political support to the ruling junta of generals. The army made extensive use of the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to create splits in political parties, rig elections and intimidate those critical of the military rulers. That the ISI, otherwise a counter-intelligence agency, is now getting flak at home and abroad is also due to the political role that it acquired over the years through its internal wing. The ISI has certainly earned notoriety abroad on account of its sometimes lethal external role but it has also made enough enemies in the country for manipulating elections, arm-twisting and bribing politicians and making people disappear.
The army leadership cleverly withdraws from public life when the military’s political role dents the image of the armed forces. Presently, too, the army under General Kayani has taken a back seat and pronounced its neutrality in politics after having realised that public support for it has eroded due to General Musharraf’s overt and covert use of the military to prolong his unconstitutional rule. The personality of the army chief also played a role in determining the military’s role in politics. General Aslam Beg, General Jehangir Karamat and General Abdul Waheed Kakar too could have attempted military takeover but they chose not to do so. As a disciplined force, the Pakistan Army obeys its chief and becomes involved in jobs that are way beyond its duty to defend the country’s borders.
The military’s image probably suffered the most during General Musharraf’s rule. It is, thus, understandable for the present army hierarchy to stay out of politics, at least for the time being. However, General Musharraf’s expected exit from the Presidency is unlikely to greatly diminish the army’s influence in the country’s political life. Once the army’s image is rehabilitated and the people have forgotten the excesses committed by the previous military ruler, there would be opportunities for the present lot of generals to take over power directly or actively start pulling the strings of the civilian government. Such opportunities may come sooner rather than later if the bungling politicians refuse to learn their lessons and continue to disappoint the people of Pakistan.
The demolition man.
PPP-led coalition was forced to get rid of Musharraf and complete the
process of transfer of power that was long impending
By Nadeem Iqbal
“It is impossible for me to preside over the destruction of the country. It grieves me to see that the great desire of my life could not be realised. It was my desire to establish the tradition that the political power should continue to be transferred in a constitutional manner,” said President Ayub Khan in his last address to the nation in March 1969 after having ruled the country for more than a decade.
Ayub Khan abdicated power but handed it over to the then army chief Gen Yahya Khan and not to a politician. Gen Ziaul Haq was in for a similar situation but he got killed in an air crash in 1988.
Musharraf is no exception. The former general imposed a second martial law on Nov 3 last year. His speech to the nation on the very day carried the same tone as that of his predecessor Ayub Khan.
“Pakistan is on the verge of destabilisation. This is not acceptable to me and this has forced me to take action,” he asserted. “I believe that at this stage, lack of action would be suicidal. I cannot allow this since this would badly affect the third stage of the country’s transition to full democracy.”
Like Ayub, Musharraf doffed his uniform in favour of Gen Ashfaq Kayani and like Yahya he held the general elections (on Feb 18) in which his staunchest supporters lost. Still he clung to power and did not bother to win the trust of the new parliamentarians.
A comparison between Musharraf’s two martial laws shows that after 1999, his constitutional meddling only strengthened his stay in power. But, post Nov 3, the tables turned on him.
It is widely believed that the March-3 removal of Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, is one major distinguishing factor between the two martial laws. The kind of material the government produced in the Supreme Court to substantiate its allegations against the CJP only served to establish the intellectual bankruptcy of the Musharraf regime.
Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on Dec 27, 2007, and the complete breakdown of law and order in the country only earned Musharraf more brickbats. Compare this with the time when Musharraf unceremoniously showed the door to the then President Rafiq Tarar (June 20, 2001). He kept the parliaments suspended for two years without evoking any criticism.
In early 2000s, the ‘would-be’ defiant judges were replaced with a group of ‘benign’ judges who gave Musharraf three years to hold elections and fulfil his agenda. After providing relief to the government, Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan later presided over the Election Commission and held referendum in 2002 asking popular opinion on “the continuation of the system of local government, establishment of democracy, continuation and stability of reforms, elimination of sectarianism and extremism and attainment of the ideals of Quaid-e-Azam.”
The referendum asked, “Do you want Gen Pervez Musharraf as president for the next five years?” The fabricated results showed a majority of people as saying yes.
In the Oct 2002 ‘flawed’ elections, a number of dissenters from PPP and PML-N along with other smaller parties such as Farooq Leghari’s Millat Party were clubbed together to form the King’s Party that was to dominate the rubberstamp parliament.
In Dec 2003, Musharraf vowed to Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six-member coalition of religious parties, that he would quit the army by Dec 31, 2004. In return, he asked for their support to the PML-Q in the passage of the 17th Amendment bill which had retroactively indemnified Musharraf’s 1999 coup.
Musharraf went back on his word, his legislators passing a bill that allowed him to retain both the offices of the army chief and the president.
After 9/11, Musharraf’s complete capitulation to America’s demands helped him perpetuate his regime. During this period, virtually no one posed a serious threat to Musharraf’s one-man rule and he conveniently kept the main opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of the country rendering their parties dysfunctional.
But the moment he faced resistance in the shape of the lawyers’ movement and the increasing terrorism in the country, his rule started crumbling and he was compelled to enter into secret negotiations with Benazir and withdraw all cases of corruption against the former first couple.
The enraged lawyers’ community, chanting anti-Musharraf slogans and demanding the rule of law, clearly rejected Musharraf’s tactics to stay in power as illegal. The Nov 3 martial law clearly offended the members of the civil society and media which had not offered any resistance to Musharraf in 1999 and bought all his versions.
Although the outgoing parliament elected Musharraf for the second time as president on Oct 6 last year, the elections and the later attestation by the Supreme Court could not remove doubts as to the credibility of the elections.
On Nov 28, Musharraf handed over the position of the COAS to Gen Ashfaq Kayani. But even this could not help him redeem himself as the now civilian head of the state.
The February general elections gave a clear, popular verdict against him. But he was characteristically adamant about staying in power. Many believe that Musharraf is playing into the hands of the USA which wants an unconditional commitment to its ‘war on terror’. However, the increasing complications being faced by the government in running the affairs of the state forced the PPP-led coalition to get rid of Musharraf and complete the process of transfer of power that was long impending.
adoption of Bangladesh model for Pakistan is preposterous as a solution in
Pakistan’s current situation
As the leaders of the two major political parties announced the decision to impeach the president, some analysts in Pakistan began discussing the possible alternatives available with the president which included the use of his powers under article 58 2(b) or institution of a caretaker government on the lines of Bangladesh. The adoption of Bangladesh model for Pakistan, though based on a verity like the dominance of military in politics common to both countries, is preposterous as a solution in Pakistan’s current situation.
To refresh people’s memories, Bangladesh has a caretaker government for about two years now. The last government led by Khalida Zia handed over the charge to the caretaker government (CTG) in Oct 2006. The CTG has, since then, embarked on a series of political and institutional reforms, many of them at the behest of the main political parties, and the holding of elections has been consistently delayed as a consequence. According to the latest announcement, the polls are now going to be held towards the end of 2008.
Apart from electing a neutral and independent election commission and undertaking many other reforms, the CTG has for most part been involved in cracking down on corrupt politicians. This is where the problem of implementing the Bangladesh model begins. The elected political forces in Pakistan, having declared their estrangement from the establishment, have not been in power since 1999. The ‘corrupt politicians’ have stayed behind bars and faced exiles — without the corruption charges having been proved in many cases — and there is no immediate call to punish the corrupt politician among the populace. The days of exposes are long gone. If there is any possibility of an expose, it is about the person of the president himself and the system he put in place in the last nine years.
Fortunately for Pakistan, the Feb 2008 election was contested on the sole issue of a systemic change and the Musharraf-led dispensation was dealt a crushing blow. The lesson, loud and clear as it were, has not been learnt by those who mention possibilities such as these.
The caretaker government in Bangladesh, as provided by the thirteenth amendment of its constitution, is headed by the president and has a team of advisors. This is what must have given the idea of imitating the ‘Bangladesh model’ to analysts on our side. It does not involve the appointment of a prime minister and conveniently pushes the system close to a presidential model. It does not specify a timeframe for the caretaker government and can delay the election for as long as it likes. And, most importantly, it allows the military to exert its influence, to the extent that one of the three members of the reconstituted Election Commission was a retired brigadier general, the first time ever for an officer with a military background to be appointed in the EC.
To deny these charges of an increasing military influence leading to an eventual takeover, the military leadership in Bangladesh expressed its desire to only “put the country on the right track”. To that extent, the analogy Pakistani analysts draw with Bangladesh makes sense. There is a lot that is wrong with this country that needs to be put on the right track. But is a long term caretaker government with the mandate to initiate institutional reforms a solution to our problems? Not really.
As a matter of fact, both Pakistan and Bangladesh are examples of weak democratic cultures. Why else would they need a neutral caretaker government to conduct elections, something that majority of democracies including our neighbouring India do not have? The elected government continues as the caretaker government that holds the elections. As for putting the system back on track, that is a job well left with the elected representatives of people. In India, the independent election commission ensures that the elections are held fairly. That is the model the establishment in both Bangladesh and Pakistan must look up to. A model that, in essence, sidelines the establishment itself.