In 2007 Condi Rice, Richard Boucher and British diplomat Mark Lyall Grant created a law called NRO to whitewash the illegal wealth of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and many other Pakistanis to help them come to power. Two years later, in 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has indirectly declared the NRO as valid. The excuse for this is to avoid ‘rocking the system’. Musharraf is gone but his NRO will survive. In a theatrical move, he was condemned but his illegal creation – and that of Condi, Boucher and Grant – was preserved. This could prove to be the biggest deception carried out in Pakistan in the name of democracy.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Wednesday, 12 August 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The edifice that has fallen is not only that of Mr. Musharraf’s. Another edifice – Mr. Zardari’s – has been shaken. All the judges appointed by the incumbent government have been sent packing. But let us not fool ourselves. Unless the entire parliamentary strength of the government turns against President Zardari – an improbability – there is no chance the parliament will strike down the NRO and reverse the fortunes of some of the most powerful men in the Zardari government. [Continued below]
British diplomat Mark Lyall Grant, one of the godfathers of the secret BB-Musharraf deal that gave birth to NRO and to the incumbent Pakistani government, visited Pakistan recently. Mr. Grant’s mission was expanded in the last few months to include a new deal, this time bringing Mr. Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N on board. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry basically protected this whole setup by sparing the NRO.
At least this last pillar of the edifice raised by Mr. Musharraf will continue to stand tall, ironically. But the mother of all ironies is how the Doctrine of Necessity – the cover for all military coups – was used this time, by the Supreme Court no less, to save the ’system’ from collapse. May I respectfully ask the honorable court what was the fuss about? The NRO is the worst part of Mr. Musharraf’s legacy. Throwing it to the parliament might have actually spared the necks of many. This was done in order not to destabilize the country. Fair enough and commendable. But if the doctrine of necessity applies here when it suits the court, it surely applied back on 12 October 1999 when a prime minister mishandled the serious matter of removing an army chief from office. Taking a high-stakes action without considering the views of the military brass and removing the army chief mid air surely sounds like an immature hasty act not worthy of the prime minister of a nuclear-armed nation.
Is this why the dictator’s pre-Nov. 3 actions were not touched? Is this why PCO-I judges have been spared and PCO-II judges axed?
While there is no question that most Pakistanis are looking up to the honorable Chief Justice for salvation because they have no faith left in the political system, last week’s ruling has actually thrown a lifejacket to this failed system. Instead of taking our rulers to task over national mismanagement, we will be treated for the next few months to a media circus over the fate of NRO, Musharraf, the axed judges and the resulting legal mess.
All of which would have been fine if this were the Republic of Rome. But this is Pakistan, and it is headed for national failure on a massive scale. A few blocks away from where all these games are being played is the US embassy, which has expanded 18 acres more during the reign of our democrats. With close to 2,000 staffers soon, the American embassy in Islamabad will rival the one in Baghdad. The only difference is that Iraq had to be invaded and occupied for this to happen. Diplomats will tell you that abnormal expansion of embassies is the first sign of a big power trying to swallow a smaller one. That’s what the Soviets did with their client states. Better still, that’s what Iraq did before invading Kuwait this week 19 years ago. Almost 6,000 ‘diplomats’ were listed in the Iraqi embassy in Kuwait the night before the war. That’s what the Indians are doing now with their ‘consulates’ in Afghanistan.
But who will pay attention to this? Our playful democrats should remember that Rome’s republic triumphed over monarchy and lasted for five centuries. But after civil wars and mismanagement came the rise of imperial Rome, not democratic Rome.
This column was supposed to appear on 5 August. It was blocked for inexplicable reasons. One more example of how democracy does not work in Pakistan despite the best efforts of Condi, Boucher and Grant.
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