Helping those who don’t help
Sharif family sources
say that Mian Muhammad Sharif has sent a clandestine letter to the military
ruler of Pakistan appealing for early release of his two sons, Mian Nawaz
Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif.
This letter was delivered to the CE by Siranjam
Khan, Central Secretary General of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and a
former Lt. General of Pakistan army. He was also a member of the defunct
upper house of the parliament.
Does the delivering of a letter from the Sharif
patriarch mean nothing beyond the element of courier service, particularly
when Lt. Gen. Siranjam Khan is also among close friends of General Musharraf?
Army circles have, however, denied having received any such letter.
One source said that an appeal for release is
normally considered by a Head of the State (in this case the Chief Executive)
only when a case against somebody goes through legal process and the sentence
is pronounced. In the case of Mian Nawaz, he has just been brought to the
court of law. He faces the charges of treason and murder under Article
6 of the Constitution. But this is practically invoking a Constitution
that has been blatantly violated by the invoking party itself. Never has
the general will been profaned more than in this case.
Mian Nawaz’s younger son, Hasan Nawaz also addressed
a letter to the US President Bill Clinton and members of the US House of
Representatives’ International Relations Sub-Committee on Asia and the
Pacific. The letter states,” I write this to urge you, as elected officials
in a democratic system, to ask the coup leaders in Pakistan to release
my father Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other family members from illegal
detention since October 12th when a democratically elected government was
toppled in Pakistan.”
The letter has been addressed to the president
of a country that is policing the whole world whether democracy has gone
amiss anywhere. But apart from that, Nawaz Sharif’s son has another strong
reason to ask President Clinton to intervene. Mian Nawaz had ordered withdrawal
of Pakistani regulars from Kargil heights on his assurance. In the Blaire
House meeting, President Clinton had allayed his fears of a coup, likely
to be engineered by the Generals following the withdrawal decision.
Beyond a faint lip service, the self-appointed
gendarme of democracy has nothing to say about the massacre of democracy
in Pakistan. This is a lesson for other politicians and rulers in
South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular; Pakistan because she,
according to one of her Martial Law administrators, was “more aligned than
an ally”, and Pakistan because her political leadership, in the government
or in opposition, has been vociferously asking for US mediation in Kashmir.
The world knows that the US has seldom denied support to Generals and dictators
in Asian and African continent if and when they overthrew popular governments
and assumed power themselves.
Nevertheless, democracy means power of the people.
If the deposed Prime Minister enjoyed the trust of his party - PML (N)
- what has been its role after his unconstitutional deposition? Not a dog
barked. Did he really enjoy the majority support or was he a liability
to be dumped willy-nilly?
Recently top PML leaders held a meeting at the
Islamabad residence of former interior minister, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
Interestingly only 30 leaders attended the meeting. Second line party leadership
refused to launch an agitation campaign against the military regime’s sacking
of a democratically elected government.
They expressed opposition to the army intervention
but at the same time they declared that they had no plans to confront the
armed forces “ because it would be dangerous for the country.” What is
surprising, the meeting failed to take any decision on whether or not to
challenge the dismissal before the Supreme Court.
Of course there have been some unannounced moves
on the political chessboard in Pakistan. Efforts are on to broker some
sort of working relationship between the Pakistan Muslim League and the
military regime. If the PML government was despised for its acts of omission
and commission, the military regime is faced with tremendous external pressures.
A former federal minister in Sharif’s government, Lt. Gen. (retd) Abdul
Majeed Malik, is reported to have approached some close associates of General
Musharraf for a patch-up.
“We are just trying to communicate to the regime
that the weakening of the PML is neither in the interest of the country
nor the army,” said Ejazul Ha suspended MNA and senior vice president of
In this bizarre background, the amusing development
is Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s threadbare support to the
deposed Prime Minister of Pakistan and rejection of the military rule.
Mr.Vajpayee is reported to have adopted an outright anti-military rule
stance in Durban Commonwealth meet.
When the people of Pakistan are not interested
in launching agitation against unconstitutional dismissal of a government
they had voted to power, when the party line is loath to launch a nation-wide
agitation against the coup, when the world powers in general and the US
in particular are soft-pedaling on military incumbency in Pakistan, why
should India try to be more loyal than the king?
New Delhi must remember that the General in Pakistan
is going to be there in the seat of power for at least a decade if not
more. New Delhi must remember that the General has a strong support structure
in the US Congress and above all he has the pro-sectarian groups in Pakistan
and in Afghanistan to lend him a helping hand. He has already convinced
Saudis and the UAE of the validity of his coup. They are not going to let
down Pakistan’s economy as in the past. Therefore, like it or not,
New Delhi has to have business with him and his country. New Delhi should
not brush aside his offers for talks on bilateral issues.
Mr. Vajpayee is a seasoned leader. Under the pretext
of search for regional peace, he should not allow interference by India
in the internal affairs of a sensitive neighbouring country. Pakistanis
are not aliens to military regimes. India should try to understand what
the axiom “God helps those who help themselves’ means. Let us not try to
replace God and become unsolicited helpers of those who do not want to