Why the Emergency?
The straightforward answer to the above question is: to set the score straight with the Judiciary. The declaration of Emergency, as has been made clear by the text of the proclamation, which also shows that General Musharraf is first and foremost the Chief of Army Staff, and his speech, is in reality a declaration of war against the Judiciary and the Constitution of Pakistan. This time around, the General has decided to play the game in a clear-cut way rather than engaging in any complex legal deliberations.
The proclamation of Emergency-cum-Marshall Law leaves no doubt about its key target: “some members of the judiciary” who are working at the “cross purpose with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism”!!! Although the General has completely flushed the constitutional theory down the drain, he has also expressed his misconceived perception that he is only hope left of the people of Pakistan against rampant terrorism and extremism. What rubbish! He is the one who should be carrying the burden of blame for the mounting religious militancy; for he towed the Imperialist line in the ‘war in terror’, not the members of Judiciary. If the members of the Judiciary were offsetting the role of the notorious intelligence agencies and calling for transparency in the system in the favor of fundamental constitutional rights, what was so preposterous about that – except for the fact that the higher-ups in these agencies find any interference from the ‘non-intelligent’ civilians extremely distasteful?
The upsurge of religious extremism is a threat for the people of Pakistan – conceded. However, that being said, the Military dictatorship of General Musharraf can never provide a solution to problem of raging religious militancy. One of the main reasons for the escalating terrorism in the name of religion is the “war on terror” which has victimized the innocent civilians of North Western Frontier Province at countless occasions. For the people of that devastated region, who see the army of their own country fighting against them, General Musharraf is nothing but a stooge of U.S. Imperialism.
But the thrust behind that declaration of Emergency is not the threat from religious extremism. Despite the recent events in Swat, the religious militants could have been fought well without any Emergency in place, or the Emergency could have been limited to those areas where the armed clashes were taking place. The real thorn in the way of General Musharraf’s authority was not religious militants, though it’s a good pretext to show to the International community. The real problem was the judiciary of Pakistan.
The Judiciary of Pakistan, which proudly terms itself as the ‘watch dog of the constitution’, has emerged as an anti-authoritarian institution over the last eight years due to its internal drive to find coherence in law. It has revealed almost all the hypocritical facades that the present Military regime built around itself. They shattered the myth of economic prosperity and efficient governance while exposing the corrupt privatization policies and tried to do justice with the victims of the infamous intelligence agencies. Finding it hard to tolerate the Judiciary, General Musharraf decided to mend it so that it can get back to old track of serving the Military Might.
General Musharraf tried to re-structure the institution of judiciary on March 9th this year by suspending the Chief Justice of Pakistan, but was met with a surprise. His attempts were frustrated by the massive popular protests led by the legal fraternities all across Pakistan. With the help of popular forces, the Judiciary emerged as a more independent institution even though it posed no major immediate threats to the existing Military dictatorship. Nevertheless, General Musharraf must have realized that the upcoming elections will present a number of constitutional questions – all to be decided before a court no longer in his pocket. And when the constitution could not provide any adequate way out for the General – the constitution was to give some democracy after all – he simply decided to do away with it. No constitution, no judiciary.
Moreover, the timing of the emergency is that crucial moment when a critical decision from the Supreme Court deciding over fate of General Musharraf’s election to the President’s office was due. “The Supreme Court was going to rule against him,” told Aitzaz Ahsan, the arrested president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Aitzaz Ahsan, and now there is no good reason to doubt his judgment. The Constitution of Pakistan could no longer provide a room to accommodate Musharraf as the President of Pakistan. As Aitzaz Ahsan puts it, “Constitutionally he [Musharraf] had no right to run as president while staying a general. This is the end of the road for him.”
It is also to be noted that Judges of Supreme Court immediately denounced the emergency orders, which suspended the constitution of Pakistan. Seven of the 17 Supreme Court judges signed a declaration calling the state of emergency illegal. As expected, they were all kidnapped by the Police and taken away.
With a constitution – which despite all its inadequacies proved to be an anti-authoritarian instrument when in right hands – out of the picture, the politics of Pakistan is plainly about power. It is the People versus the Military. Who will win, only time can tell? But, there is no reason to be a cynic. Let’s hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.