By Abid Ullah
02 January, 2004
after the 1999 coup, General Musharraf told the nation: "I shall
not allow the people to be taken back to the era of sham democracy."
Four years later, the people realized that Musharraf has truly kept
his word. He did not allow anyone to take people back to the era of
shame democracy. He did it himself.
The lesson General
Musharraf and his Western backers are leaving behind for other coup
leaders in this process is: If the constitution does not legitimize
your actions, delegitimize the constitution. That you can do by virtue
of holding it in abeyance. In the meanwhile, instead of mending your
ways, amend the constitution to legitimize both your actions and the
It might sound odd
and impossible but not for someone backed up by absolute power.
The former shame
Pakistani democracies now seem far better by comparison when looked
at in the perspective of all the crusaders of democracy fully approving
and supporting a people's living under a systematically legalized dictatorship.
Those who still
have doubts need only to begin with the recently approved package of
amendments to Pakistan's constitution - that "legitimize all the
actions and deeds of General Pervez Musharraf since he seized power
in a military coup four years ago," - and see what actions has
it really endorsed.
People hardly doubt
when a BBC correspondent tells them that Musharraf's "biggest critics"
have provided the "constitutional legitimacy he so badly needed."
No one asks if only MMA is the real force behind granting legitimacy
to Musharraf's unconstitutional deeds, and if he is really now a constitutionally
We need to look
at who is actually behind bestowing the "constitutional" legitimacy
on General Musharraf. Internally, it is now an open secret as to who
brought the so-called critics of MMA to this bargaining position and
how everything unconstitutional before the coup is not legitimate in
the constitution amended with absolute power.
It would be too
naïve to believe that the constitution says: "The Proclamation
of Emergency of October 14, 1999, all President's Orders, Ordinances,
Chief Executive's Orders... shall not be called in question in any court
or forum on any ground whatsoever." This is the brute force talking.
Constitution is nothing more than what we put in it. Any clause inserted
under the label of amendment can never be legitimate if it makes its
way only through a series of extra-constitutional measures against the
will of the people.
No one can tell
that today's General is sitting there with half as much public support
as the General of October 12, 1999. By the same token, he occupies the
top slot not because of any legitimacy but simply for having far more
powers than he had on the eve of the coup.
Up to 9/11, he could
not say he would be able to stay in power until 2003. Today his stay
until 2008 is perfectly ensured with guaranteed extensions like any
of the most-favored US-dictators. He formed the government party and
he brought and bought the opposition. Who can beat him now?
His authority to dismiss Pakistan's national and provincial assemblies
is legitimized and despite all the tall claims to democracy, he can
do so now without first consulting the Supreme Court.
General is now able to form a National Security Council that will directly
involve the armed forces in the "civilian" government's formal
In fact, the constitutional
amendments have given Musharraf all these abilities. We, however, need
not let our short memories hold us from asking: who made these amendments
and for what purpose? And: who have approved these amendment and under
Let us not forget
that the General's 1999 coup was widely condemned. US President urged
for a quick return to "civilian democratic rule." US State
Department spokesman called the General to "respect the spirit
and the letter of the constitution." UK Foreign Secretary stressed
that the General should respect the "civilian constitution."
Note the reverence
for "constitution" and "civilian" in these messages
of condemnation. Germany called for respect for constitution. EU president
Finland said: "The EU can in no circumstances approve extra-constitutional
and non-democratic means."
European Union canceled
plans to sign trade and cooperation agreement with Pakistan the very
next day of the coup and Commonwealth leaders at their Durban summit
decided a month later to suspend Pakistan from the group.
From the beginning, Musharraf's was in the hunt for un-constitutional
means to legitimize his rule. In the very first press conference on
November 1, he hinted at holding a referendum to make amendments to
Four months later, the government decided to restore Article 58(2) B
to give him powers to dissolve the national assembly and the government.
In June, 2001, Gen Musharraf dissolved the parliament and named himself
president to replace the figurehead president, Rafiq Tarar.
The US, European
Union and Commonwealth once more criticized Gen Musharraf's unconstitutional
decisions. On August 10, Lahore High Court also observed that the coup
leader has no extra powers as president.
The next month,
however, came with many glad tidings for the General. Just 12 days after
9/11, Washington lifted sanctions against Pakistan. Constitution and
democracy went up in smoke as Powell descended on Islamabad 35 days
after 9/11 and Musharraf was offered $800 million immediate cash grant
on October 20.
forgot all German calls for respecting the constitution. He did not
hesitate to proudly embrace Gen Musharraf on October 28. Rumsfeld was
in Islamabad on Nov 4 and Musharraf was in London four days later.
Less than a week
later, the once unacceptable dictator was addressing the UN General
Assembly. And exactly two month after 9/11, Bush - the chief crusader
for democracy - was standing shoulder to shoulder with Musharraf on
Nov 11, promising him up to $1 billion and talks on Kashmir.
Less than a month later, the IMF executive body agreed to lend Pakistan
$1.3 billion. Afterwards, there appeared no bumps and turns on the highway
to Musharraf's legitimacy. If Blair was in Islamabad on Jan 07, 2002;
Kofi Annan followed on 24th; Musharraf dashed to White House on Feb
13 and emperor Akihito of Japan lauded him in March.
It was an ideal
environment for the rubber stamp cabinet and the National Security Council
to approve holding of a referendum for extending the dictatorial rule.
Six days after declaring
victory in a referendum widely criticized as unconstitutional and fraught
with irregularities, Musharraf focused on inducting army in the future
civilian setup. Constitutional amendments were next to come out of Musharraf's
In August 2002,
Musharraf granted himself further sweeping new powers for which he was
widely accused of perpetuating dictatorship.
The champions of democracy turned a blind eye to Musharraf's taking
several measures prior to the October elections to ensure his long-term
survival and influence the election outcome.
The major embarrassment
in referendum misled many to believe that the General would be less
inclined to interfere in the future election process. However, political
developments indicated this was not to be the case.
This summary of
unconstitutional steps shows that a seemingly constitutional vote in
the end does not legitimise all the means adapted by the General in
the last four years.
It shows the extent
of US interference and Western manipulation of democracy in countries
such as Pakistan. The victims of shame democracy have absolutely no
idea as to how to bring an end to a dictatorship that went constitutional
with their own vote.
While voting in
2002 elections, very few Pakistani knew that most of the apparently
anti- Musharraf candidates were also propped up by the most powerful
government agency. The result is granting constitutional legitimacy
to tyranny with people's vote by people's representative.
are not alone. Many Iraqis and Afghan are also busy digging their own
grave as the US oversees their constitution developing process. Americans
too are not spared as their representative in Congress are leading by
example through extending governmental power to suppress the free and
open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals
exercising free inquiry.
USA Patriot Act
is an example of a present danger to the constitutional rights of Americans.
The happy news for peace and freedom loving people of the world at these
depressing times is that we are still at the early stages of our forced
march towards perfecting global tyranny.
And the solution
lies in shattering the myths of secularism, democracy and freedom as
presented by the totalitarians in the high places today.