Comment: Last gasp antics of an autocrat:
Musharraf has no option but to step down
Afzal Khan, June 7, The Nation
Islamabad Jun 7: The stunning outcome of February 18 polls had thrown up a new political order that has rendered President Gen. ® Musharraf into an anachronism. Amid wild speculations during past several days Musharraf has flitted from despair to fragile hope of sticking to his office by some twist of things. He has even tried to cling to straws coming from abroad. Unfortunately for him, his situation is so untenable that nothing much can help him.
On Saturday, Musharraf talked to a select group of journalists carefully sorted out to avoid any awkward questioning. Ostensibly, this was an attempt to dispel widely held view that Musharraf's days are numbered and he may step down any time. On most occasions he was very economical on truth and tried to twist facts. While one would like to analyse what he publicly stated, many other things he did not utter are equally significant. Despite an outward veneer of a leader ready to fight it out, Musharraf could not hide his desperate predicament and the faint smile on his face was hardly convincing.
Musharraf was in a state of denial. He said he was not resigning nor would go out in exile. But he predicated his statement with the phrase "under prevalent situation". It is apparent that he believes he can quit at this stage only with disgrace and humiliation. He would thus bide time and quietly make the inevitable exit in a "dignified" manner as was recently put by a foreign news wire. It is his bad luck that he has missed the opportunity to achieve that objective.
When the time was ripe to leave shortly after the people had spoken in the February 18 polls, Musharraf indulged in delaying tactics to thwart popular verdict. Assemblies were not convened in time and US diplomats were invited for pressurizing the new government on the day it was installed. He then made the Army House a hub of intrigues to sow discord among the coalition partners and try a realignment of political forces by delivering to the PPP his staunches supporter, the MQM, and later the PML-Q for a so-called unanimous vote of confidence.
It is also intriguing how he interprets "prevalent situation" that compels him to stay on. He warned that the country is fast sliding towards an economic meltdown. Unless urgent steps are taken, it may spell a catastrophe. "If that is not done," he warned, "I would not like to preside over the downfall of Pakistan" He checked himself from using Churchill's phrase "liquidation of the Empire". He blatantly blamed the new leadership for the present crisis and failed to admit his own share in leading the country to present morass. A day before, he obliquely accused the new government of being inept and lacking management skills.
Musharraf spelled out some other settings in which he may step down. "I will quit when I feel that I cannot make any valuable contribution to the welfare of my country." For over eight years he and his handpicked banker falsified facts and fudged figure to create an illusion of progress and prosperity.
It was amusing to hear Musharraf's lips uttering several times the word constitution that he shredded twice and never adhered to throughout his rule. He said he can be removed only by the parliament through a constitutional instrument of impeachment by demonstrating twothirds majority. He is confident that the coalition would not be able to forge a united position on this issue, thanks to the pressure built up by his mentors on the largest party that now unabashedly stands between him and the grouyndswell of popular anger.
Musharraf calls himself 'constitutionally" elected president. He amended the constitution in 2002 to ensure that the outgoing assemblies "elect" him. He thwarted the court verdict that he was no eligible to contest election in uniform. The assemblies from whom he got the vote had neither the mandate nor any legal sanction to elect a new president. This was provided on February 18 when the people rejected them. After the emergency, he amended the constitution to remove with retrospective effect all the provisions that rendered him ineligible to contest.
He also magnanimously offered to accept reinstatement of judges through a constitutional amendment that again requires twothirds majority in both houses which the coalition does not enjoy in the Senate. There was no journalist in the docile pack invited to the news conference who could ask him a pertinent question. Why should twothird majority of the parliament need to alter the order passed by one individual in military uniform?.
Mercifully and, of course unintentionally, he paid a tribute to the sixty judges he sacked on November 3. "It is not true that I dismissed sixty judges of the superior courts," Musharraf explained. "They refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO)." The judges showed grit and integrity not to bow to the orders of a military leader to take oath of allegiance to him by revoking their earlier pledge to be faithful to the Constitution of Pakistan.
Musharraf's admission also gives a lie to the Attorney-General Qayyum Malik who tried to trivialize the significance of refusal by sacked judges to take oath under the PCO. "Most of them were not invited to take oath," he had once said. One of the judges on the Dogar court also taunted that the ousted judges were unduly being eulogized for refusing to take oath under the PCO. They were not simply called to do that.
There is a misperception that Musharraf attacked the superior judiciary to pre-empt a verdict on his eligibility. Only 11 judges of Supreme Court were hearing the case and five of them are still sitting in the court. The rest of five dozen were those who enjoyed the reputation of professional integrity and honesty and had dared to receive Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in July when he visited various cities including Hyderbaad, Lahore, Sukkur, Peshawar etc.
It is evident that Musharraf has lost all options. Even his Washington backers are reconciled to his exit because he is unable to influence the policies and decisions of the new government or the army on key issues of concern to the US. He is thus not only a lame duck president but a liability that must be dispensed with the sooner the better. The indignities and humiliations being heaped on him could have driven any honourable person to gracefully quit. Ayub recognized that fact but Musharraf seems to be adamant to do that.