file Photo of an Opposition MMA rally against Musharraf
Opposition in Pakistan Joins Hands Against Musharraf
M T Butt
August 12: Pakistan’s entire political Opposition on Thursday
put its act together to challenge the Pakistan Army by announcing,
after a marathon All Parties Conference (APC), to unite in this
common goal by launching a movement against Musharraf and even
to resign en bloc from the present Assemblies.
APC, one of the most significant events in recent months, brought
almost 30 big and small political parties and alliances on the
same platform, including the religious rightist Muttahida Majlis
Amal (MMA), Benazir Bhutto’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s
many as 63 Pakistani and international human rights groups and
organizations joined the conference to express solidarity with
the Democratic civil society of Pakistan and to condemn the manipulated
system set up by General Musharraf and his military colleagues
to continue sticking on to power through the use of State machinery
and Army tanks.
Declaration issued after the APC described the Musharraf regime
and the proposed elections he was holding on a non-party basis
as a “total farce” and leaders told the APC and the
media all these parties were considering en masse resignations
from the Assemblies to force Musharraf to hold not a rigged but
a fair general election in the country.
critical point of agreement was to review all amendments in the
1973 constitution which means the MMA had agreed to revisit the
issue of the 17th Amendment which gave General Musharraf the excuse
to claim himself to be the legal and constitutional president
all amendments also means that previous changes in the constitution
would be revised and that could pose a serious threat to Musharraf
because he could then be held accountable for overthrowing the
Nawaz Sharif Government in 1999.
threat of mass resignations is bound to shake the fragile political
system created by General Musharraf through a cleverly executed
policy of carrots and sticks without any moral or political considerations.
30 political parties in the Parliament control almost half of
the Senate and National Assembly of Pakistan and are majority
parties in NWFP and Balochistan provinces. Even in Sindh the set
up would be completely debilitated if PPP, MMA and other anti-Musharraf
parties decide to join hands and quit.
is the biggest political challenge to Musharraf in his six years
as military ruler of the country and it has now become clear that
his scheme of conducting the local bodies elections on a non-party
basis in which massive manipulation would return his own candidates
to grab the powerful district Nazim slots would not succeed.
a hard hitting position, the APC demanded institution of criminal
cases against Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the Chief
Ministers of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan for subverting the
system and totally rejected the current shape of the electoral
process calling it a total fraud. It said references would be
filed against Musharraf, Aziz and Chief Ministers for violating
their own Election Code.
7-point Declaration issued by the APC hit at the very basic pillars
of Musharraf’s military rule, demanding that a new and independent
Election Commissioner be appointed, as against the present “acting”
Chief Election Commissioner who, the APC said, was acting as a
tool in the hands of the Army.
the APC was called to discuss the local bodies elections, the
massive participation and the unanimous approval of the Declaration
which announced a joint movement from one platform against the
Army, including resignations from the present Parliament, means
Musharraf has failed in all his machinations and wily schemes
to keep the political forces in disarray.
the past few months Musharraf and his agencies have been throwing
one political card after another by trying to break up political
parties and their leadership. These tricks included secret negotiations
with PPP leaders, concessions to Shahbaz Sharif and feelers that
Nawaz may also be given similar concessions, appeasing portions
of the MMA through financial and administrative lollypops in NWFP
and Balochistan and a clear attempt to break up the MMA leadership
by creating differences between Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Maulana
for some months the Opposition remained confused, finally they
understood the game and meetings between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz
Sharif in Jeddah in which a Charter of Democracy was signed, started
the unification of the Opposition ranks in which the MMA also
finally joined in. Leaders of MMA and PML-N met Benazir Bhutto
in Dubai a few weeks ago and decided to launch a joint movement
which took the shape of the APC Declaration in Islamabad on Thursday.
leaders of the Opposition Parties including Makhdoom Amin Faheem,
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Raja Zafar ul Haq,
Imran Khan and scores of others attended a crowded news conference
after the APC which reminded observers of the joint struggle launched
by the Opposition against General Zia ul Haq in the mid 80s in
which hundreds were killed and injured and Sindh was paralyzed,
crippling the Zia regime.
joint stand taken by the Opposition is also likely to weaken Musharraf
in the eyes of his western supporters as it was taken for granted
until now that there was no formidable opposition to his regime
and he was in full control of the situation.
is yet to be seen what form and shape the joint struggle of the
Opposition would take but judging from the enthusiasm and spirit
of the political workers and people who were energized when Asif
Ali Zardari returned from Dubai but who were disappointed when
PPP took a soft stand, the APC Declaration is bound to infuse
a new charge in the political spectrum.