Getting away with farce?

So brilliant was the masterstroke of Nov 3 that our man on horseback and his increasingly glum supporters are on one side and the entire nation on the other. Folly can’t get any better than this.

The Constitution has been packed up and judges whose integrity rankled with Army House have been sent home (or rather confined to quarters) because their lordships were lenient with terrorists. Or so we are told. As the entire world knows by now, the two judges who released Lal Masjid students (or ‘terrorists’) on bail, Abbasi and Khokar, continue to be judges in the revamped Supreme Court. Abbasi was most zealous in taking up the cases of the Lal Masjid brigade. Wonder why.

Something more odd happened just a day after the trashing of the Constitution: the hush-hush release of over 20 men on Nov 4 accused of planning suicide bombings, and their handing over to the militant commander, Baitullah Mehsud, in return for the release of over 200 captured army personnel. How would this help the fight against terrorism?

No one is fooled by this spin. The knives out on Nov 3 were meant for the SC because an adverse verdict was expected regarding our man on horseback’s presidential ambitions. But what have the knives actually done? The judiciary may have been purged but the ousted judges have been taken into the hearts of the Pakistani nation.

All of them - Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Bhagwandas, Ramday, Javed Iqbal (his stock sky-high), all those in the Supreme Court and the various high courts who have refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order - are today the undisputed heroes of the Pakistani nation.

As my Lord the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, said to the lawyers of the Islamabad bar (while he was under detention), the tocsin of defiance must sound, the masses must make their voices heard, the Constitution must be restored and horses running wild across Pakistan must be returned to their stables.

Let us be grateful for the possibilities opened up by the latest events in our country. Before Nov 3 most of us were resigned to the fact of another five years for the present rider-in-chief. Now that desired outcome is not so sure., different outcome is a distinct possibility.

Even our paymasters, who have poured billions into its coffers to help prop up the present setup, are dismayed. They were working for a ‘military-liberal’ coalition, Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto atop the same wagon. What they have got instead, thanks to the ineptitude on display in Islamabad, is this mess threatening to become a disaster. For the Yanks a destabilised Pakistan is bad enough but a nuclear-armed Pakistan teetering at the edge of chaos comes close to their nightmare.

That is why hard questions will be asked in Washington. No one likes backing a liability. How long can the police keep beating protesters? How many people will the police arrest? We will have to build new jails to accommodate all dissidents. This won’t work and for once the people of Pakistan seem in no mood to accept what has been imposed on them. Something will have to give.

Ayaz, a columnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad