ISLAMABAD-Law Minister Farooq Naek's statement that a Constitutional package is on the anvil to be introduced before the budget session has caused considerable stir in the country. Though the Minister has yet not disclosed the full contents of the package, it has triggered a heated debate about the timing, motives and the prospects of its adoption under given circumstances. Ostensibly, the stated objectives-judicial reforms; clipping Presidential powers to restore genuine Parliamentary system, strengthening Article 6 and restoration of deposed judges are lofty and laudable. However,there are many imponderables and some fine prints that are disconcerting. Naek's statements, his inexplicable exuberance and optimism notwithstanding, are no help to soothe this discomfort. The most intriguing part of the whole plan is that Naek does not have the numbers to push through the package, at least in the Senate. One is simply incensed as to how Naek is going to perform the great feat. There may be a catch. Unless President Musharraf is also on board and provides the requisite numbers in the Senate, the amendment will not pass. If that is the situation, then the only possibility of the present coalition coming close to gaining two-thirds majority in the Senate will be in March next when half of it is elected afresh. Till then the deposed judges would have to be left in limbo. For past about two months Naek has been promising the nation good news in judges case. All that we have till to date is more agony and injury for them. Every second day, Naek comes out with diabolical plans to 'reappoint' judges, split them into two courts, enhance their strength, have two Chief Justices, abridge the tenure of Chief Justice and so on. The timing, the manner and the setting in which the package is being introduced is intriguing. It will be instructive to trace the recent history of the issue. Naek and the likes of Latif Khosa and Babar Awan, have been talking about it for quite long as something inextricably linked, rather a pre-condition, to the restoration of deposed judges, it has been suddenly thrown into the national debate without revealing its actual draft. Infact Naek has been claiming for past several weeks that he has the package ready in his pocket. The package comes on the heels of lawyers declaration of a Long March on June 10. Apparently, the movers believe that it would confuse, if not dilute, the entire exercise. It is doubtful if many people would be deceived for long as the real nature of the package would be known soon. It is now evident that Asif Zardari and his advisers led by Rehman Malik never wanted restoration of judges. They found one excuse after the other to obfuscate the issue. A campaign of vilification was also carried out against the CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry in particular and the judiciary in general to lower them in public eyes by citing personal examples of injustice. The PPP reneged on two deadlines- first set in Bhurban and later in Dubai. After Bhurban, Naek, Khosa and Awan lost no time to virtually reject the declaration while echoing Musharraf's assertion that only a Constitutional amendment can restore the judges. Then Zardari started ridiculing Aitzaz and others on the 'count down' (ulti ginti wale) and declared that he does not believe in it, meaning the deadline is not sacrosanct. He and some PPP Ministers also initiated a laughable debate on the meaning of 'Federal govt' confusing it with 'Federation'. It was claimed that the Federation includes all the four Provincial Assemblies and the 30-day deadline would start when the last of the provincial govts is installed. Incidentally, the timetable for such installation was set by Musharraf and not the PPP. In Dubai, Hafeez Pirzada was deliberately inducted into the committee formed by Zardari and Nawaz Sharif to create a stalemate. The principle of consensus was enshrined in the terms of reference of the panel knowing fully well that it will never materialise. Pirzada did the needful and the committee could not make any progress and the matter was reverted to the leadership for another round of protracted negotiations in London. Asif Zardari never showed any sense of urgency. He made Nawaz Sharif run after him from Islamabad to Dubai to London until Sharif was sufficiently humiliated and eased out of the govt. Naek says the draft package has not been sent to the Presidency. It is no secret that Rehman Malik and Tariq Aziz interact with each other on almost daily basis. So Naek had no need to send it to the President, for it was the Presidency where it had originated. Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi also says it has not been seen by the Presidency. As is often the case, there are many aspects of his statement: i-It is not in his personal knowledge and not that the President is necessarily in the dark about it. He has not talked to him on the issue. ii- The spokesman represents one of many layers of manipulative mechanisms created in the Presidency. There the right hand does not know what the left is doing. Thus Rashid is not privy to what Tariq Aziz is up to. iii- a system is in place in the Army House in which one section keeps denying while the other is engaged in all types of intrigues. As stated earlier, the PPP does not have numbers to get it through. Even the coalition does not enjoy simple majority, much less two thirds in the Senate. Naek's confidence that the time is ripe for introduction of the amendments and that these would be adopted stems from plans prepared somewhere else. It is disturbing to say the least. It cannot be done without the blessing and active help of the President and his surrogates including the MQM and the PML-Q. Musharraf has moved fast not only to bring them closer to the PPP but also nudged them to close their ranks and bring an end to forward blocs. It is a wild guess that members of the PML-Q including those in the forward bloc are now scenting the prospects of regaining a share in power with the PPP at the Centre and in Punjab minus the PML-N. The fickle minded among the forward bloc members would certainly return to the mainstream. If Musharraf is really on board, then how does the 18th Amendment serve his interests? So what is the qui pro quo? a- He gets the much needed indemnity. By implications the actions of November 3 are validated. Naek has said that indemnification is possible if it is in nation's interest. For past eight years, it is Musharraf who has defined and determined what is in the national interest. b-Judges' restoration will take place on his terms. In the process they may be so demeaned and humiliated that many may decline to rejoin. In any case they would be in minority in the Supreme Court and high courts which have been stuffed by pliant judges. c-The move will further rupture the unity of the coalition and widen trust deficit, alienating the PML-N. d-It is also possible that Musharraf may block the amendment in the Senate turning the whole exercise into a farce. If the President achieves his objectives through the package it would be a small sacrifice if he sheds some powers, like the Article 58-2(B). He may also allow the PM to make certain appointments though not in the three services. The superior judiciary which he purged and then stuffed with pliant judges would come to stay and rule the courts and deliver justice of his choice. Judicial activism would have been buried, doctrine of necessity resurrected and the divine right of the Army Chief to intervene would be established. The amendments made in Article 6 will have a prospective and not retrospective effect do no harm to Musharraf and judges of Dogar court. These are meant only to offset future takeovers and validations by the judges. This is meaningless. The Article has existed since 1973 but never deterred the adventurers to intervene or the courts to validate and even allow the dictators to amend the Constitution, an authority the court itself does not enjoy.