|Rule of Law or Rule of Man|
I begin this article with a quotation from Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman’s report. “A person who destroys the national Legal Order in an illegitimate manner, cannot be legitimized and cannot be regarded as a valid source of law-making. May be, that on account of his holding the coercive apparatus of the state, the people and the courts are silenced temporarily, but let it be laid down firmly that the order which the usurper imposes will remain illegal and courts will not recognize its rule and act upon them as de jure. As soon as the first opportunity arises, when the coercive apparatus falls from the usurper’s hands, he should be tried for high reason and suitably punished. This would serve as a deterrent to all would-be adventurers”.
On December 17, 2019, a Special Court convicted former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf of treason and sentenced him to death, triggering sharp army reaction which said that all servicemen were pained and anguished by the Court ruling. Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to stand by Musharraf! His top law officer has already said that the prosecution would support the General if his lawyers filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.
How would Mr. Jinnah have reacted to “General Musharraf in uniform” reading out the Riot Act to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. General Musharraf tried all kinds of strong – arm methods to browbeat the Chief Justice into submission. We Pakistanis are too accustomed to bowing before Power. But the Chief Justice held his ground and stood firm. He was not intimidated. He did not waver. Quite unexpectedly and in a total break with past tradition, he decided to fight back and defend himself. General Musharraf had misjudged the man. A simple act of courage shown by Chief Justice Iftikhar triggered a revolution which knocked away the foundations of dictatorship. This was the moment when Pakistan lifted its head and began to fight back against the military ruler. People everywhere in Pakistan took to the roads and set out on the historic long march to Islamabad. The world witnessed the “power of the powerless”. Musharraf had to leave in disgrace.
How would history judge General Musharraf? That he subordinated national interests to his political ambitions; that he inducted the army into the politics of Pakistan; that he used the army as an instrument for capturing and retaining political power; that in the process he did incalculable harm to the army and to the country; that he capitulated under American pressure and compromised national sovereignty; that Pakistan lost its independence and virtually became an American colony during his Presidency; that he joined hands with the corrupt and discredited politicians to acquire political support; that he held a dubious Referendum so that he could rule anther five years; that he allowed blatant, flagrant use of the administration and official machinery in support of the King’s party; that he turned the Parliament, the embodiment of the Will of the people, into a rubber stamp; that he broke faith with his people; that he denied them their constitutional right to elect their President; that he defaced, disfigured and mutilated the constitution in order to perpetuate his rule; that he assaulted the sanctity of the Supreme Court; that he failed to honour his public commitment to give up his post as Chief of Army Staff and doff his uniform; that he promised a great deal and delivered very little. The years General Musharraf remained in power will go down in history as “the nightmare years”. How can any patriotic Pakistani defend such a person convicted of treason by a Court of Law? Pakistan can never be a State of Law if it fails to punish Musharraf.
We were a nation founded on laws and rules. What Musharraf did was essentially to throw away the rule book and say that there are some people who are beyond the Constitution, beyond the law, beyond scrutiny, unaccountable. People were filled with anger. If you believe in democracy, Rule of Law, sovereignty of the people and the Constitution, you would not be anything other than angry.
Today the only ray of hope is Supreme Court of Pakistan. A malicious campaign has been initiated against the judiciary. There are already worrisome indications that the executive is determined to defy the apex court. The fear of conspiracy against the court hangs heavy in the air. Attempts are being made to subvert the people’s will and overturn the judicial revolution of 2009. The first threats of counter-revolutionary activity have already begun to appear. People must rally around the court and depend it.
Where do we stand? The Pakistan Mr. Jinnah founded is gone. It disappeared the day power – hungry Generals used the army as an instrument for grabbing political power and hijacked Pakistan. On that day, the lights went out. Pakistan slid into darkness.
Pakistan army is a people’s army, in the sense that it belongs to the people of Pakistan. It is the only shield we have against foreign aggression. Don’t involve it in the dirty politics of Pakistan. If Pakistan is to survive, army must be placed outside the turbulent arena of political conflict. It cannot be used to abrogate, suspend, decimate or disfigure the Constitution of Pakistan. It cannot be used to topple a Prime Minister or install a Prime Minister. It cannot be used to capture or retain political power. Above all, it cannot be used to defend or protect any person from the blade of law.
“These are times that try men’s souls. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country, but he who serves it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”.
Our moment of truth has arrived. We are at the crossroad of a historic choice. The issue before the nation is clear. Do we prefer Rule of Law, independent judiciary, a republic of Jinnah’s Dream, or a fake democracy, a subservient judiciary and a thinly disguised army rule with a civilian facade. Every citizen, every political leader worth the name and every political party is free to choose; but by force of circumstances they are all fated to make their choice quickly.