STRAIGHT TALK

October 6th has come and gone, not with a bang, but a whimper. I was in Islamabad on that fatal day, as I had an appointment with Dr. Faqir, Registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan, and had expected that access to the SC building would be difficult, due to barricades and blocked roads.

When I asked the crew of the leading TV channels who were there to record the momentous events of the day, where was the Awam, the opposition and the lawyers, who had vowed to stop the elections and storm the Secretariat, they did not even bother to answer my question.

It would seem that the anti-Musharraf legal fraternity and the combined opposition, all put together failed in stopping the election. They failed not only in the assemblies, but also in the streets, where the masses have given a clear verdict against them by rejecting and ignoring their call for the shutter down, piyajam, gherao of the assemblies and mass protests etc.

So, the drama and suspense is finally over. BB has won and the army general with a commando background and his government have admitted defeat and surrendered, for the sake of ‘Pakistan First’ and for national reconciliation.

It must not have been easy for the general to eat humble pie and compromise with a person whom he had accused of robbing the nation blind and bringing it to the verge of economic collapse and a failed state. He had vowed that he would never allow them back.

Many feel that the General seems to have abandoned the values and ideals that he had voiced in his seven point agenda, when he had stepped in and taken over the reins of the country. At that time, he had vowed to purge the country of the politics of corruption. Now he has done quite the opposite and given the corrupt and the dishonest the licence to loot and plunder through a National Reconciliation Ordinance.

According to critics, the NRO is not an ordinance for national reconciliation, which means ‘The reestablishing of cordial relations’, “but an ordinance for reconciliation between the corrupt and the criminal minded in society and has divided the nation and destroyed the confidence of the citizens in the rule of law and is a cruel joke with the 160 million people. And that too during the Holy month of Ramazan.”

The NRO has created a storm and drawn severe protests and criticism from the press and civil society. According to concerned citizens, the ordinance protects future plunderers of our country, as they cannot be arrested unless it is ordered by a sixteen-member board of the national and provincial assemblies, who are part of the problem.

They feel that the NRO would grant parliamentarians, bureaucrats and politicians a licence to corruption, without any fear of being arrested. It would allow MPs a free hand to embezzle billion of rupees, get an amnesty by making a deal with the government and be free to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth.

Legal experts say that the ordinance is openly a contravention of the laws of the country. “How can parliamentarians assume the role of investigators and judge the authenticity of the charges, which is the work of professionals?” They feel that it is unlawful and will be challenged in the courts of law. Most citizens are shocked at the deal. “It is the taxpayers' money and no single person has the right to forgive plunderers. Only the courts have the right to acquit and accuse, even if the charges are false and baseless”. They feel that the money must be recovered and the guilty must be prosecuted under the law.

One angry and disgusted senior, respected army officer whom I met in Islamabad last week, had described it as “a sordid document that aims to whitewash the crimes of those politicians and bureaucrats who have made hay in the past 15 years. It grants amnesty to all those involved in the misuse and abuse of power that made the country bankrupt and gave the army the opportunity to intervene”.

Another friend of mine, who has always been a supporter of the General, stated with a gloom and doom voice: It is sad day for Pakistan, the army and the citizens. I have always admired the General for his bold and decisive U-turns on Kashmir, the Taliban and his declaration of war against terrorism, but disappointed and saddened by his recent actions and we are indeed a Banana Republic”.         

However, PPP stalwarts and BB’s admirers and supporters insist that it has nothing to do with power or betraying her father’s legacy and her party’s wishes or any such nonsense. And all that garbage about her assets worth millions circulating on the internet is rubbish and is a case of sour grapes by the losers.

They insist that BB has made great sacrifices in the last eight years for the citizens of Pakistan and democracy and saved Pakistan from extremism. BB must be congratulated also for making the grand sacrifice of accepting a ‘power sharing deal’ with a serving General and a President in uniform.

Now that her terms and conditions of immunity from all the corruption charges of the past have been endorsed by parliament, she can come back to serve her Awam with a clear coconscious and a clean slate and she and Asif can restart from where they had left off.

Under the circumstances, one must appreciate Maj. Gen. (r) Naseerullah Babar, a former interior minister and staunch stalwart of PPP, who, like Mustafa Khar, formally announced quitting both the PPP and politics.

Explaining his action, the retired General stated that he felt greatly concerned over the “compromise politics” for personal gains and said this was never the character of the PPP.

So be it. But if only, the General had remained a General, with a no nonsense policy, and not tried to be a know it all and do it all politician. If only he had not embarked on the treacherous journey of Pakistan’s politics through his ill advised Referendum.

And if only the Hon. Judges had used the same ‘doctrine of necessity’, as so many leaders have done in the past, by coming to the aid of the citizens this time and had shared the same views as the Hon. Rana Bhagwandas. He had headed the nine-member bench hearing the petitions challenging the dual office of General Musharraf as president, and had recorded a note of dissent on the verdict that declared these petitions as not maintainable and had resigned.

The Hon. Judge had stated that: “any law, decision or administrative action against the constitution is null and void and that is why the constitution stands on a high pedestal as compared to the ordinary law”. The Hon. Judge deserves all praise for responding to the call of his conscience.

 (Email: trust@helplinetrust.org.pk)