Forum

Chief Justice in Pakistan reinstated with public support?

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Bravely overcoming hurdles that disrupted their “Long March,” Pakistani lawyers were not only successful in forcing President Asif Ali Zardari to fulfill his promise of restoring the judiciary, but also managed to earn Pakistan a commendable reason to be in the headlines.

Earlier this month, a stream of lawyers, activists, and students marched across the country demanding the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and the 60 judges who had been sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf. To prevent them from challenging the legitimacy of his re-election, the so-called “democratic” government of Pakistan attempted to suppress the movement by mobilizing an otherwise apathetic police force and blocking its advancement with enormous shipping containers.

Images of elderly men and women literally being tossed into police vans splashed across national television. Both inside and outside Pakistan, many view this restoration of an independent judiciary as a critical first step toward Pakistani democracy. Undoubtedly, the people of Pakistan made history by overturning an unconstitutional decision.

Reaping the imagined fruits of this victory, the masses feel empowered, and once again, Pakistanis all across the world are citing the “power of the people” in the war-torn nation. As a Pakistani, I too took pleasure for a while in exploring this beautiful mirage known as “the power of the citizens,” which is a rare sight in Pakistan today. It was refreshing to see that change had occurred in Pakistan not because of U.S. intimidation, but because of the positive will of educated citizens. However, despite my pride and patriotism, I could only avoid the facts and entertain this fantasy for so long.

Besides Pakistan remaining a lawless state buckling under the irrational decisions of its government and the Pakistani Taliban, a major consequence could have arisen from Zardari’s refusal to reinstate the rule of law — and it has nothing to do with the persistence of the “people.” It has very much to do with continued U.S. backing of Zardari, as well as the $1.5 billion in non-military aid from the U.S. (the first influx of a total of $7.5 billion over five years) that has just poured into Pakistan.

Political analysts had already begun suggesting that Zardari was deliberately dodging the restoration of the Chief Justice, since it would unearth the issue of an amnesty provided to Zardari by Musharraf that immunizes him against charges of massive corruption. An independent judiciary may also call into question the president’s day-to-day actions, sapping away a large chunk of his unlimited powers. Zardari’s aides already claim that the president has an “image problem.”

This kind of publicity could not have helped, yet it did not deter Zardari. On the other hand, the leader of the opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), Nawaz Sharif, alleged that the Supreme Court, under Zardari’s orders, stopped Sharif from assuming public office while it deposed his brother Shahbaz Sharif from the position of Chief Minister of Punjab, the second largest province in Pakistan. To defy the criminal and corruption charges against him, Sharif was joined in leading the mass lawyers’ movement that, if successful, would to a large extent nullify all allegations against him. The government placed Sharif under house arrest during the long march, causing his supporters to lead a fueled rally of their own. That is when the riots caught flame.

This kind of anarchy and instability in the region was more bothersome to the U.S. than to the leadership of Pakistan. The reason is simple: The U.S. cannot afford to see the current leadership in Pakistan fall to pieces because such an incident would destabilize the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, as well as hinder the “war on terror,” now resurrected under President Barack Obama as the “overseas contingency operation.”

Furthermore, “told-you-so” sighs from the Indian media, which is committed to endlessly victimizing the nation at the hands of its struggling neighbor, did not fall on deaf ears. The Bharatya Janta Party (BJP) has not restrained from cautioning the U.S., as it provides aid to Pakistan. With opposition for U.S. support of Pakistan soaring in India, a potentially important ally, the U.S. cannot be seen backing an ineffective government.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly threatened to revoke the U.S.’s promise of providing Pakistan a total of $7.5 billion in non-military aid, Zardari was left with little choice.

It is interesting that Clinton has suddenly begin to consider herself an authority on the country, because until last year, she did not have a clue about the election process in Pakistan and believed that if Musharraf was running in elections for the parliament, he must do so according to the same rules followed by all the other candidates, while in reality Musharraf had already elected himself for the next five years.

Moreover, she took the liberty to dictate the course of internal affairs in a country where the U.S., hypothetically, is supposed to foster democracy. Assisting her was the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Miliband. How ironic, then, that the U.S. must feel the need to repeatedly adopt a bullying strategy toward Pakistan, and include its former colonizer Britain in the game, in order to secure its own interests.

It comes as no surprise that shortly after announcing the hefty aid package, Obama also laid out his new strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once again, Pakistan has been paid to compromise its sovereignty and open up its borders to U.S. foreign policy that may not be in the best interest of the people. By means of economic intervention, we have flashed a green signal for complete political and military intervention and established a sense of servitude to flawed U.S. foreign policy.