May 21, 2007

5 Options for Musharraf

By Dr Farrukh Saleem
The News, May 20, 2007

The presidential dream of retaining all four stars and getting re-elected by dying assemblies will remain just that a dream. In fact, the ongoing nightmare is a direct consequence of that dream. Is Islamabad getting a new dispensation and Pakistan early elections? The jury is out whether the new team will be headed by Musharraf or not. Between now and then it's going to get worse before it begins to get better. Musharraf's spectrum of choices is now down to five:

Option One: Tough it out. Make summer heat an accomplice and hope demos will run out of steam. Reality check: In March, the CJ addressed Rawalpindi High Court Bar Association. Civil Judge Sajida Chaudhry was the lone serving judicial officer from Punjab attending; while her brother judges remained cloaked in their poised chambers. Sajida was penalised, OSD'ed and transferred to Bhakkar. At the Sukkur Bar two judges of the Sindh High Court (SHC) were present. In Hyderabad, fifteen judges of the SHC came rushing. At the Peshawar Bar, the CJ of Peshawar High Court along with eleven judges showed up. Then came Lahore; what happened there has never happened before. Then 5/12, when all hell broke loose in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial hub bled and burnt. To be certain, it's getting bigger -- and deadlier -- by the day. So far, toughing it out isn't working.

Option Two: Reinstate the CJP, find scapegoats and blame it all on wrong advice. Reality check: There is no indication from the government that it's prepared to do anything close to that, and then it might be too little too late. Reinstatement shall mean an emboldened judiciary, and that by definition is in conflict with 'unity of command' (in Political Science, 'unity of command' is the equivalent of 'dictatorship').

Option Three: Co-opt Benazir. Reality check: It's post-May 12. Benazir is now going to demand an arm and a leg but real 'power sharing' and 'unity of command' are mutually exclusive. Besides, the essence of the current struggle has made a Musharraf-PPP alignment largely irrelevant.

Option Four: Doff off the uniform, call early elections and serve as a transitional president. Reality check: Time shall be of essence (and this may in effect be a 'non-option').

Option Five: Emergency measures; martial law, suspension of all fundamental rights, press censorship, postponement of elections along with wholesale repression. This is what armies around the world do best (SC's removal of CPJ will also lead to Option Five).

Pre-5/12 there was a choice between repression and PPP co-option. Post-5/12, co-option will change little if anything at all. If Option Four is really a 'non-option' then repression is the only avenue open. The only avenue open has always been a double-edged sword because state violence weakens the user's political grip rather than strengthening it. Would repression crush the movement or make an Ayub out of Musharraf?

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email:

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