Musharraf’s Lost Legitimacy

SOROOR AHMED wonders whether Pak Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary’s reinstatement would help restore people’s government or just end up in a give-and-take compromise between him and Musharraf.

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SOROOR AHMED wonders whether Pak Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary’s reinstatement would help restore people’s government or just end up in a give-and-take compromise between him and Musharraf.

At last the judiciary and the army went two different ways in Pakistan. In 60 years of its existence a typical army-judiciary-bureaucracy nexus ruled over the country for most of the time. The judiciary have often puts its stamp of legitimacy on what the rulers – most of the time army and sometimes even politicians – did. The bureaucracy silently connived with the army and judiciary. Even politicians like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif did everything to twist the arms of judiciary. It was during the rule of Nawaz Sharif that the Lahore High Court was subject to attack by his supporters. And during 1950s the judiciary was used to give verdict of death sentence against the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi. There was no army rule then.

The 10-3 ruling of Supreme Court in favour of the ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary, came as a big blow to General Musharraf’s regime. Musharraf played all the cards to divert the attention from this crisis, which started on March 9 after he removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary. His political opponents and independent observers felt that he deliberately allowed the Lal Masjid issue to go out of hand so that the people’s attention got distracted.

But the judiciary – both judges and lawyers – stood firmly against him. More than the political parties it is the revolt from within the system which paved the way for Musharraf’s retreat. His agony is that unlike in the past the triumvirate of army, judiciary and bureaucracy had gone in different directions.

Neither the opposition political parties nor the generals from within could pose such a big challenge to his regime. Instead it is the judiciary which had gone against him.

All this is happening at the crucial phase of Pakistan’s 60 years history. The Lal Masjid gamble seems to have backfired and the Americans appear to have been watching the situation very keenly.

Many political scientists across the world had already declared Pakistan a failed state. Whether it is so or not cannot be said with surety but the truth is that in the last six decades Pakistan had always been ruled in an ad hoc manner, for which not only army, but other institutions too are to be blamed.

The institutions could not fully grow or assert themselves in such a situation. The whole process of the birth of the country was so haphazard and disorganised that it was bound to have impact on the future. Perhaps the founding fathers failed to anticipate that the birth of the country would be preceded and followed by such horrible communal riots. They never thought that things would go out of hand only a few years after the country came into being. There were many currents and cross-currents flowing in the country at the time when its foundation was laid. The clash of ideologies started in the 1940s after the Soviet victory in the World War-II. The situation reached to such a pass that sometimes the triumvirate of the army, judiciary and bureaucracy appeared to be the best bet for the country’s existence. On a couple of occasions even some politicians appealed to the army to take over the country as the situation had gone out of control.

The irony is that the challenge to army from the judiciary came at the time when ‘security’ was apparently the greatest concern of the country. In this eternally beleaguered state of Pakistan the army has always used the excuse of security to prolong or justify its stay in power, though its stay in power, most of the time, only jeopardizes the security of the country. The army used the security concern to emerge as the most powerful institution of the country with judiciary and bureaucracy playing second fiddle.

Pakistan came into existence just after the World War-II, at the time when both the Super Powers, the United States of America and Soviet Union, were busy expanding their bases. The country, which was yet to overcome the pangs of birth, was compelled to play its role on the international front too. That was the demand of the geography as well as history.

It is to be seen whether the recent development would go a long way to set the things right, or will prove just a momentary flash in the pan. The truth is that Pakistan as a country came up on August 14, 1947 and got divided on December 16, 1971. But the process of nation-building is yet to begin. With the imperialist forces keenly waiting for the dismemberment of this country, it is to be seen whether Chaudhary’s reinstatement would prove something good – restoration of people’s government – or is it just give and take compromise between him and Musharraf.