Prospects of Martial Law in Pakistan: An Interesting Perspective!

Fourth time unlucky?
Hamid Mir: The News,August 19, 2007

ISLAMABAD: With the prospect of an emergency receding, the country is now facing the threat of a fourth martial law.

A few days ago, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain contacted Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Tehran and informed him that due to extraordinary circumstances, the authorities are pondering three options. The first is emergency, the second martial law and the third an extension in the tenure of the current assemblies. Shujaat actually preferred the assemblies extension option, but with the consent of the MMA. However, Maulana Fazlur Rehman clearly told him that he wanted only fair and free elections on time. Immediately, after talking to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly called NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani and instructed him to see Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain personally in Islamabad and convey him a message: “If there is an emergency we will dissolve the provincial assembly and if you are thinking of any other option, we will resist it on the streets.” Akram Durrani conveyed the message through Senator Maulana Gul Nasib to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman came back from Tehran and participated in the opposition public meeting in Rawalpindi on August 14th without the PPPP. The message of that public meeting was loud and clear: the opposition will not accept Musharraf as president in uniform and the general cannot survive just by engaging Benazir Bhutto, as the rest of the opposition parties are ready to resist. The day after the public meeting, Maulana Fazlur Rehman was told that if the opposition parties were determined to push the government to the wall, then they must be ready for martial law.

Ex-premier Nawaz Sharif has emerged as the real winner of Musharraf-Benazir meeting. He has also formed a broad-based opposition alliance against Musharraf without Benazir Bhutto. He is planning to come back next month with the blessings of the Supreme Court.

Musharraf knows that Nawaz Sharif will create a lot of political problems for him because he is the most popular leader of the largest province of Punjab. A political agitation led by Nawaz Sharif may well lead to another martial law in the country. That is why so many senior government officials are talking about the possibility of martial law these days. Some top advisers of Musharraf are also aware that another martial law is not a good solution to the current political crisis. As a new strategy, they are trying now to convince both Benazir Bhutto and Maulana Fazlur Rehman to forget their differences and once again cooperate with each other like they did during 1993-96. This time, the USA seems to have no objection to engaging Maulana Fazlur Rehman. US Undersecretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher met Ghafoor Haideri, a close aide of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a few days ago in Islamabad. Musharraf’s advisers want Maulana to say goodbye to Qazi Hussain Ahmad and make a new alliance with the ANP to work towards normalising the situation in the tribal areas, but Fazl is not ready to break his ties with Qazi, and wants him on board. He believes that if there is no understanding between the government and the opposition, then the Pakistani nation may face another martial law followed by a bloody civil war.

Once again, Pakistan is standing at a crossroads. For the West, this country is regarded as the centre of Islamic militancy in the region and a hiding place for Osama bin Laden. The West is trying to control this unstable nuclear power through a military president. On the other side, a majority of Pakistanis think that presidents in military uniform are not the solution. Military uniforms in politics are always a part of the problem.

Today, the USA is pitting the Pakistan Army in North and South Waziristan against Pakistanis in the name of War on Terror. This year, many people in the tribal areas observed Independence Day as a black day. Today, Pakistan Army is under attack in the tribal areas as well as in the settled areas of Punjab. There is a mushroom growth of suicide bombers. Many of these bombers are angry because their homes were bombed by Pakistan Army or their dear ones were killed in Army operations. There is a red alert in all the big cities of Pakistan. Intelligence agencies have issued warnings that dozens of suicide bombers have entered Islamabad and other cities and they will target the security forces. General Pervez Musharraf is worried because his troops are losing lives because of someone else’s war. Recently, a parliamentary secretary blasted the USA and claimed in the National Assembly that the Americans were playing a double game with Pakistan, and are involved in terrorism against the Chinese in Pakistan.

On the other hand, the USA is putting pressure on Musharraf to strike a deal with exiled leader Benazir Bhutto to fight Islamic extremism. Musharraf and Benazir had a quiet meeting a few weeks back in Abu Dhabi without any breakthrough. Both faced a lot of questions about their credibility after that meeting.

Sixty years after the creation of Pakistan, it is still not decided who will rule the country, the military or civilians. Pakistan was created through a political struggle under the leadership of Barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Unfortunately, politicians have ruled Pakistan for only 28 years while the military rule is entering its 32nd year in 2007. Historical facts tell us that politicians always added more territory to Pakistan and also regained lost territories but this country only lost territories when the Army was in power. Pakistan liberated a big part of Kashmir in 1948 without the active participation of the Army when Liaqat Ali Khan was the prime minister. The port city of Gwadar was part of Oman in 1947 but it became part of Pakistan in September 1958 when Malik Feroz Khan Noon was the prime minister.

Pakistan lost a large chunk of territory in West Pakistan (in Punjab and Sindh) during the war with India in 1971 when General Yahya Khan was ruling the country. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto got back the lost territory in 1972, as well as more than 90,000 POWs, after the Simla Pact with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Once again, Pakistan lost the Siachin heights from India in 1984 when General Ziaul Haq was ruling the country. Whenever the Army was involved in politics, Pakistan received a setback. Whenever the Army was in power, Pakistan had a war with India (1965 and 1971). Unfortunately, Pakistani generals never learnt their lessons.

Today, we need to learn lessons from our history and not from the US government. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan was weakened during the military governments and gained strength during political governments. However, our friends like the USA always supported military governments and imposed sanctions on political governments. It was prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who invited nuclear scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan from Holland to Pakistan in 1976 and started the nuclear programme. Pakistan detonated its nuclear devices in 1998 when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister. Interestingly, the Army chief in 1998, General Jahangir Karamat, advised Nawaz Sharif to refrain from nuclear tests because the Americans were not happy. Pakistan became a nuclear power through the major role played by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, but today the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb is detained in his house in Islamabad without any formal case because the USA is not happy with him.

Sixty years after the creation of Pakistan, generals are being advised to repeat their past mistakes.

On the other hand, lawyers, media and workers of many opposition parties are not scared of the threat of a fourth martial law. Many political analysts and constitutional experts believe that in case of a deep crisis, Musharraf will have only one option and that is resignation from both his offices. They think that the 60-year-old Pakistan has finally come of age and is once again ready to fight against another martial law with a firm belief that Musharraf is the last military dictator. No other general, they believe, will dare to interfere in politics after Musharraf. Martial law will be a real test of the judiciary, media, politicians and civil society. By defeating another martial law, a new nation can reborn out of the old Pakistan.

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