The Emergency that Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf had imposed on November 3 was technically lifted today. The operative word there is ‘technically.’ Pakistan, Pakistanis and Pakistani politics were already in a very troubled state when the emergency was imposed and it is in a far worse condition now. Only someone who has totally missed on everything that has happened over the last month and a half or someone in total denial could even argue that we are back to where we were before the emergency. Pakistan is, in fact, in a much bigger quagmire because of the emergency.
The President claims in his address that “The country has been saved from grave dangers through imposition of emergency.” He is wrong. Unless, of course, he actually believes that he and his person is the country. His Presidency has, in fact, been saved by the emergency. But everything else – democracy, national security, the political fabric, the judiciary, the constitution, media freedom, extremist violence, national morale – has been severely maligned by this emergency. One only prays that the damage inflicted does not turn out to be permanent.
The President also claims that “as promised, PCO has been repealed, emergency lifted and the Constitution restored.” Once again, he is not being fully honest. In fact, he made parts of the PCO permanent and played around (yet again) with the spirit as well as teh substance of the constitution only yesterday. As The News reported in its lead story yesterday:
President Pervez Musharraf on Friday amended various articles of the Constitution providing protection and continuity to the superior courts judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO), and removed those who did not take oath under the PCO. However, they would be entitled to pension and other retirement benefits.
The amendments were made a day before he intends to lift emergency and restore the Constitution. The president, in exercise of powers under the PCO, has amended Articles 41, 44, 193, 194, 208 and 270-C.
In case, there was any doubt in anyone’s mind the Attorney General made clear that: “Whatever amendments are made in the Constitution do not need ratification from parliament.” This, by the way, the second set of arbitrary and unconstitutional changes to the Constitution in the guise of this emergency.
And all, one wonders, for what? From the part of his speech targeted to foreign audiences one would assume that the emergency has in some way helped ease the extremism and violence in Swat and the Northern areas. Had that, in fact, been so there would be some mild relief. The fact of the matter is that the emergency only distracted the attention away from that grave situation and the situation there continues to worsen. In fact, the emergency has only strengthened the militants and given them time to organize and mobilize further. Again, all one needs is the daily newspaper to keep abreast of far the government has lost control over militant extremists. For example, from Dawn:
Local Taliban from tribal areas and some districts of the NWFP on Friday decided to set up a centralised organisation for a joint war against US and Nato forces in Afghanistan and appointed Baitullah Mehsud as their Central Amir, a spokesman for the militant commander told Dawn. The militants have named their movement as Tehrik Taliban-i-Pakistan and said the aim of the movement was to enforce Sharia in their respective areas.
The decision was taken at a meeting of 40 Taliban leaders, held in an undisclosed place in South Waziristan Agency. â€œThe sole objective of the Shura meeting was to unite the Taliban against Nato forces in Afghanistan and to wage a â€˜defensive jihadâ€™ against Pakistani forces here,â€ Baitullahâ€™s spokesman Maulvi Omar said. He claimed that Pakistani forces were bombing seminaries and killing people and the Taliban wanted to avenge the forcesâ€™ action.
The meeting asked the government to call off military operation in Swat and North Waziristan and abolish all military checkpoints within 10 days. Otherwise, it warned, a suitable course of action would be chalked out in the next meeting of the militants. Taliban leaders from seven tribal agencies, six Frontier Regions of Fata and NWFP districts of Swat, Kohistan, Buner, Dir, Malakand, Kulachi, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank and D.I. Khan attended the meeting.
They demanded release of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz and other Taliban jailed across the country.In another development, Baitullah Mehsud on Friday withdrew his threat to subvert the polls and allowed candidates to run their election campaigns in the South Waziristan. Maulana Hassamuddin and Maulana Mairajuddin, candidates for NA-42, South Waziristan, told Dawn that they had been allowed to take part in the election by Baitullah during their one-to-one meetings with him. Baitullah had earlier written a letter to elders of the Mehsud tribe and asked the candidates to withdraw their nomination papers and warned them of serious consequences if they contested the election.
Note the last paragraph. Those contesting in forthcoming elections had to take permission from the Taliban to do so. Note also the picture we use here. This is a “Taliban Police Station.” If this is not an abdication of national sovereignty by the Musharraf government one wonders what it is!
If there was any doubt at all earlier, it should be clear now that the emergency was for one and one purpose alone. To remove a bunch of judges who seemed to be moving towards a verdict that would not have allowed Gen. Musharraf to remain president. Even in our own highly soiled political history one cannot imagine an instance when such irreparable harm was done to the national polity, to the national psyche and to the national image for such little gain. The last minute changes in the Constitution to keep our some judges proves, as if more proof was needed, that the goal was merely for Gen. Mushrraf to hold on to personal power and office, and no more. Now he has. Good luck to him!
So, while nothing has been gained (except for him in maintaining personal power) what has been lost is significant. The militant extremists have not only reorganized, re-energized but they have also been reinvigorated by the distraction of “emergency politics.” Two of the most important institutions have been crushed. The emerging assertiveness of the judiciary and the independence of the media have been squashed with venom. A third critical institution – the military – has also suffered a serious blow as the respect for it in society has been gravely damaged. None of us have really ever respected the constitution much, but never have we made as big a joke of it as we have now.
It was demonstrated that Pakistan remains a democratic society trapped in an undemocratic state and at least some people have consistently spoken out against what has been happening. But the sad part is that our ‘organized political forces’ have totally let them down. The political fabric has been left asunder.
The political bankruptcy of our supposed political leaders has been further exposed and in their shenanigans for power with Gen. Musharraf all have lost respect – indeed “iss hamam mein sab nangay hain.” Once again one hears the sham cries of those who do not like democracy anyhow (and who mostly do not understand what it really is) that since all the alternatives (Benazir, Nawaz Sharif, etc.) are bad therefore Musharraf should be tolerated. They are wrong. This argument rings even more hollow today than it always has. The politicians remain as full of problems as they always have. What has changed is that Gen. Musharraf has proved that he is no better. Maybe, he is worse.
As you can see, I am in no mood to ‘celebrate’ the supposed ‘lifting’ of the emergency. I do accept, however, that it is good that it is not there. It will also be good if we have elections; even though they will be sham and manipulated elections. It is good. But not good enough. Even if this is a tottering half step forward, the three steps that we have gone backwards means that we remain far worse off than we were at beginning November. What is even more troubling is that all signs suggest that things will become much worse before they become any better.