UPDATE (Sept 28, 2007): In a split decision (6-3), the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled that Gen. Musharraf can contest the Presidential Elections in uniform. Earlier, on September 20, Justice Javed Iqbal had remarked that the 17th Constitutional Amendment provided crutches to President Musharraf, not by the Supreme Court.
According to The News:
The nine-member larger Bench hearing the identical constitutional petitions comprised of Justice Rana Bhagwan Das, Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokar, Justice Falak Sher, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan and Justice M Javed Buttar…. Six of the nine-judge larger bench gave verdict in favour of dismissing the petitions while other three judges, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Justice Shakirullah Jan differed.
ORIGINAL POST: The main headline in The News today (Sept. 21, 2007) is revealing. It reads:
News reports in major newspapers do not usually use headlines with such obvious sarcasm. In fact, more than sarcasm there is desperation in the headline. It seems that like much of the nation, The News has also, finally, given up on the sham Presidential elections which are making a mockery of the Constitution, of the courts and, frankly, of the nation. The inverted commas in the headline say it all. The General wants to remain in power for his personal reasons, and he will do so no matter what, and no matter how. As the old Fifty-Fifty skit used to say: "karr lo jo karna hai"!
In a country where we change, amend, abuse, and concoct Constitutions at whims, it has always surprised me why we take Constitutional provisions so very seriously when it comes time to manipulate it. The spirit of the Constitution died long ago, what does it matter now whether the letter is followed or not?
Frankly, like The News, I am also disgusted with the process â€“ and with everyone in it. While Gen. Musharraf has now lost all shred of process and is hell bent on keeping the Presidency by hook or by crook (and most likely by crook), the politicians and the media do not come across as much better either. The judiciary has fared better for now, but one wonders for how long.
What bugs me is the manipulation games everyone is playing with the Constitution. The media discussions are particularly depressing and people debate clauses but disregard the concepts behind the clauses. Everyone seems to relish the jorr torr, and no one wants to step back and say what does all of this mean for Pakistan.
There is absolutely no sense of what is "right" or "wrong". Only, a discussion of what is â€˜possibleâ€™ or â€˜not possible.â€™ Politics may well be the â€˜art of the possibleâ€™, but there is only that much abuse that even politics can take. Frankly, we have abused it enough.
Musharraf with his machinations to hold on to his kursi, the Chaudhries with their manipulations, the MMA with their fueling of fires, the MQM with its strongarm tactics, Benazir with her deals that seem really to center around getting the cases against her removed, even Nawaz Sharif with his less than convincing convictions â€¦. None seems inspiring and none seems ready to rise to the moment.
Even the media seems to have lost its luster and relishes the minutia of dancing over a polity dying and being killed before its eyes. Engrossed in the sensationalism of the moment (whether it be a Presidential order, a Court adjournment, an Election Commission parchment, or merely the latest inanity from Sher Afghan) it seems to have no interest in the larger questions confronting the nation. The questions of democracy, the questions of extremism, the questions of civil war, the questions of economic disparity, the questions of civic disengagement, the questions of national lethargy in the face of all these questions.
I fear that I sound depressed. It is because I am. I have been in Pakistan the last three weeks, and personal reasons have kept me from writing much, or even visiting ATP much (thanks, Owais, for doing such a fine job managing the site), but I have thought often of writing about the daily political developments in this topi drama. I have not done so partly because I had even more pressing crises on my mind, but also because it has become increasingly difficult to look at all of this as anything except a political circus. But a very sad and depressing circus at that. This is not just playing poker with the fate of the nation, this is more like playing Russian roulette!
I made arrangements to be able to visit the Supreme Court during its current interesting cases. I decided not to go. Same reason. Its way too depressing. I am sorry, readers, to dump this on you, but its just one of those times. May these times end soon and may the sun shine again! Ameen! I have very little faith left in any of the major actors anymore, but I do have faith in the democratic spirit of ordinary Pakistanis. It will eventually triumph.
They say that democracy can sometimes lead to dirty politics. Yes, it can. But what we have just proved in Pakistan is that the lack of democracy leads to even dirtier politics.