By Tariq Ali
Pakistan’s military dictators never go quietly. Field-Marshal Ayub was removed by a three-month long popular insurrection in March 1969. General Yahya Khan destroyed Pakistan before he departed in 1972. General Zia-ul-Haq (the worst of the lot) was blown up in his military pl;ane rtogether with the US Ambassador in 1988. And now General Musharraf is digging his heels. There is a temporary stalemate in Pakistan. The Army is in favour of him going quietly, but is against impeachment. Washington is prepared for him to go, but quietly. And last Friday the chief of Saudi intelligence agency, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, had secretly arrived in Pakistan and held talks with coalition leaders and President Musharraf. He wants a ‘safe exit’ for the president. Sanctuaries in Manhattan, Texas and the Turkish island of Büyükada (Prinkipo) are being actively considered. The General would prefer a large estate in Pakistan, preferably near a golf course, but security considerations alone would make that infeasible.
One way or another he will go soon. Power has been draining away from him for over a year now. Had he departed peacefully when his constitutional term expired in November 2007 he would have won some respect. Instead he imposed a State of Emergency and sacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In January, the latter wrote an open letter to Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, Condoleezza Rice and the president of the European Parliament. The letter, which remains unanswered, explained the real reasons for Musharraf’s actions:
At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words ‘claiming to be the head of state’. That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf’s constitutional term ended on 15 November 2007. His claim to a further term thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a bench of 11 learned judges of the Supreme Court that the general arrested a majority of those judges in addition to me on 3 November 2007. He thus himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that point. Besides arresting the chief justice and judges (can there have been a greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the constitution and to purge the entire judiciary (even the high courts) of all independent judges. Now only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to ‘validate’ whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and earlier order passed by the Supreme Court on 3 November 2007.