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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 39

Countdown begins for Bush’s friend Mush

Editorial

Tuesday 18 September 2007, by SC

It was written in these columns last week (Mainstream, September 8, 2007):
Musharraf has firmly declared that notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Nawaz Sharif he would definitely arrest the PML-N leader if he steps on Pakistani soil. In that eventuality the pro-democracy movement would assume a new dimension in Pakistan and the internal situation of the country would snowball into a real crisis for the military dictator himself. As things stand today, Musharraf is fast running out of options and if the going gets tough he would be left with no alternative but to quit in spite of his backers in Washington.

With the forced deportation of former PM Nawaz Sharif to Jeddah within hours of his landing at Islamabad on September 10 the “real crisis for the military dictator” has indeed set in. Nawaz not being allowed to return to his country despite the unambiguous ruling of the highest court of the land is a manifestation of the panic of the Musharraf establishment which has also betrayed not just callous desregard but in effect brazen defiance and profound contempt of the judiciary exposing in the process his sham democratic pretensions (conveyed occasionally for the benefit of his friend and mentor, George W. Bush). Indeed no such claim by a military regime can ever be accepted at face value (except by the likes of Bush for their own self-interest) but there is no gainsaying that Musharraf has exceeded his predecessor Martial Law regimes in his naked attack on the judicial process without in reality proclaiming Martial Law. In that sense his offence is far worse than whatever Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul Haq did while in power. He is desperately clinging on to the President’s office by virtue of a tenuous unity in the ranks of the armed forces, his main internal prop of support, but here too one is not sure how long the military will remain united (or whether even now it is at all that united) behind him. His conduct has caused acute embarrassment to his American backers (whatever Bush might say in public) as well as his rival Benazir Bhutto with whom he is still trying to strike an “arrangement” for his own survival with US blessings. Following the latest developments in Pakistan it will gradually become crystal-clear that a Nawaz Sharif behind bars or sent to exile for a second time is more dangerous for Musharraf and his cronies, the US and Benazir, than a Nawaz Sharif permitted to operate free in Pakistan. However, what is beyond dispute is the fact that his incarceration at the hands of the hated autocrat has elevated him to the stature of a hero before his own people. Indeed Nawaz now has the solid support of the political parties, the democratic forces, the judiciary and the people at large, something Benazir too would have enjoyed had she not been misled by her “friends” in Washington—who are also Musharraf’s buddies. And who does not know that the Yanks are the most unreliable allies of the Third World leaders?

The public protests against the treatment meted out to Nawaz Sharif have been spontaneous and across-the-board. The PML-N leader’s close colleague, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, did not mince words when he bluntly declared: “If you think that by sending Sharif to Saudi Arabia you can save your skin, you better stop fooling yourself.” The message for whom it was meant could not have been more direct.

The countdown has begun. It’s just a matter of time before Musharraf is bundled out of power. In the wake of the real crisis for the military ruler the issue of whether or not he contests the presidential poll in uniform has become a subject of secondary importance. Precisely because before the bar of public opinion and of course the judiciary he has lost whatever legitimacy he ever had to conduct the affairs of state.

The movement for democracy in Pakistan, which has already acquired wider magnitude than in the past, is bound to gather renewed momentum in the coming days. The groundswell of support for Nawaz Sharif will doubtless sustain the movement as the dictatorship nears its eventual inevitable collapse under the weight of its own misdeeds. And George W. Bush’s open endorsement of his affront to the highest court of the land will only hasten Musharraf’s departure from the scene (for the sake of the very democracy the US head of state never tires of advocating for the whole world).

September 12 S.C.

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