On March 9th, the Chief Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was summoned to that bastion of Pakistani democracy, the Army House, and suspended from office. This is another shameful episode in the long, sad story of Pakistan's first 60 years. Reading the newspapers it is clear that the civil society is unanimous in deploring this latest authoritarian powerplay by Pakistan's current self-styled savior. The way the hopes and dreams of the founding generation of the country have been dashed are enough to kill the spirit of the most optimistic amongst us. The dream of a Pakistan based on the rule of law is further today than it ever has been since its founding.
Anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of Pakistan's sordid khaki-dominated political history can be forgiven for not taking the official reasons seriously. Given that Musharraf has not shown the slightest regard in the past about the destruction of politial institutions or the probity of our judiciary there is not an iota of reason to believe that this was motivated by anything other than power consolidation. This is just a step in the preparation for rigged elections later in the year to keep Musharraf in power and uniform in perpetuity. In retrospect it is clear that Naeem Bukhari's letter widely circulated on the internet was a charade likely orchestarted by the agencies in preparation for this pre-meditated move. Whatever Justice Chaudhry's personal shortcomings it is indeed a fact that he has presided over several decisions that have embarassed the government including the high profile Steel Mills case. His probing in the disappearance of hundreds of Pakistanis into the lawless, Kafkaesque world of Pakistani military intelligence also likely did not endear him to Musharraf and his cronies (amongst them that crying shame of an enabler Prime Minister, Shaukat 'shortcut' Aziz). Going into a fraught political season Musharraf cannot take any chances. That this was orchestrated at a time when the next in seniority Justice Bhagwandas was out of the country provides more evidence of the government's real intentions.
I find Pakistan's current political scene, never encouraging, extremely depressing of late. Musharraf and the army's perpetual chokehold on the people, with intelligence agencies as instruments, has sapped the country of its vitality. Mainstream political parties are paralyzed and in complete disarray. The mullahs are more regressive than ever. Law and order is at an all time low. Pakistanis are likely to emerge from the Musharraf nightmare as a country institutionally more decimated than at any other time in its history. The people of this benighted land seem destined forever to be at the mercy of one tinpot uniformed dictator after another.
The best we can do is to continue to raise our voices for the rule of law and in opposition to constant governmental violations of fundamental rights and to the systematic taking over of the institutions of state by an unaccountable and parasitic elite military class (there are of course honorable exceptions in the military but too few sadly). I am reminded of Dylan Thomas's famous poem, pessimistic as it no doubt is:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.