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If parliament dissolves

(Modified version published in the Daily Times Lahore, dated 06.09.2003

Nadeem Yousaf

General Musharraf in hindsight has given a thereat to the opposition that if the opposition did not accept his authority the parliament might be dissolved. Contrary to the opposition, his vision about the Legal Framework Order (LFO) is that it is a part and parcel of the Constitution, and without it, the October elections could stand invalid. He argued that if the LFO was repealed, joint electorates, women's representation in assemblies and 10 million additional voters also could have to go. The interpretation of Gen. Musharraf Supreme Court verdict in Syed Zafar Ali Shah’s case is that it has given him the authority to amend the Constitution without bringing about any structural changes and that is exactly what he has done to the best of his abilities. The opposition parties and Gen Musharraf interpretation of LFO regarding Supreme Court order is completely in opposite directions. It is also a fact that the clauses of LFO he has highlighted are not bone of contention and parliament will approve them in one session; rather it is his authority and uniform.

Taking into account national politics and international atmosphere, undoubtedly, it is a pressing time for Pakistan; and Musharraf regime must accept the ground realities that it needs opposition support to overcome on problems. Ignoring truth and ground realties for a long period always bring devastating results for the nation and the state. The ground reality is that he was constitutionally debarred to make a coup against the civil government on any reason and to be a president. If we go by the constitution, even the Supreme Court has no right to legitimize such move. Even if we accept Musharraf’s past actions against the civil government on the grounds of the Supreme Court decision, the SC had not given him the authority to amend the Constitution in a way that he brought in any structural changes in the constitution. Only a naïve person can argue that LFO does not change the basic fiber of the constitution.

Musharraf recent assertion that elections were held under LFO is also incorrect. The fact is that elections were held under the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002, which was issued on Feb 27, 2002 in order to follow the verdict of the Supreme Court in which it was stated that elections must be held within three years time. The said order states: "The election held under this Order shall be deemed to have been held under the Constitution and shall have effect accordingly." On the contrary, the LFO was promulgated on Aug 21, 2002, to weaken the power of Prime Minister and parliament. Moreover, the Supreme Court in a constitutional petition (Watan Party versus the Chief Executive and others) on Oct 7, 2002, also declared that the elections were being held under the Conduct of General Elections Order 2002. The Supreme Court observed "The elected parliament is in immediate sight and obviously parliament and not this
court is the appropriate forum to consider all these amendments. We may further observe that the procedure to amend the Constitution as enshrined in Article 239, Part XI remains unaltered. The parliament retains same power to amend the Constitution as it did before the promulgation of the LFO." 


 

Since the completion of election 2002, the parliament is oscillating between certainty and uncertainty and it has not been functioning effectively because the opposition has not accepted one man authority. Gen. Musharraf played all his cards to get elected Prime Minister of his choice and did not call national assembly session until he was sure that Mr. Jamli would be elected for the post. Now government is playing cat and mouse game with the opposition to gain time and find a back door to make LFO part of the constitution. All the rounds of table-talks between the pro-Musharraf Muslim League (Q) and opposition have led nowhere because the ruling party had no significant power to negotiate LFO with the opposition. The ongoing political situation might not leave room for Gen. Musharraf to dissolve this parliament and find other ways to keep his undivided authority and power.

However, if such a scenario takes place, it would be naïve to think that Musharraf and army would not be blamed for dissolving the parliament or/and discontinuing the democratic process. Those who are painting illusionary picture to the current regime that the people, except politicians, have no interest in issues like uniform, 58(2-b) and National Security Council, they are completely wrong. If people have no interest in it then why there are so many articles, editorials and letters to the editor are published in newspapers! It is true that people are highly concerned with their subsistence, social welfare and security of life but they are also interested in maintaining their political right to choose. The ruling group must take the lesson of the incident of 1971 and appreciate the fact that it is not only poverty that led East Pakistanis to demand independence but also inadequate political share. Gen. Yaya was also confident that nothing would happen and retain supreme power but history is a witness that his manipulating tactics brought dire results for the country.  It is very likely that people will react strongly if Gen. Musharraf dissolves the parliament, especially, if a call for ‘civil reaction’ comes jointly from all the opposition parties. The fact is that if assembly dissolves or LFO is imposed on the nation by any unconventional move, such as holding a fresh but engineered election, it might increase a discontent in small provinces and lead to some drastic civil actions. It is in the national interest that Gen. Musharraf and army generals must leave it on the elected bodies to decide what is in national interest and what is not. They should do their jobs for which they were selected in the army.

The history shows that statements such as all measures will be taken against those who would try to break the country from army rulers are meaningless because the empty statements do not affect or change the behavior of nations; the case of the East Pakistan is a good example of it. The fact is that actions speak louder than words in the history of nations. Good governance will never finds its way until the hubs of power learn to follow the constitution and establish writ of the law, for they are the only means to achieve the goal of good governance.

07 September, 2003

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