WASHINGTON DC, Aug 12, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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A file Photo of an Opposition MMA rally against Musharraf

Entire Opposition in Pakistan Joins Hands Against Musharraf

By M T Butt

ISLAMABAD, 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.

The 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 PML-N.

As 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.

A 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.

A 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 of Pakistan.

Reviewing 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.

The 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.

The 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.

“It 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.

In 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.

The 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.

While 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.

In 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 Fazlur Rehman.

While 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.

The 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.

The 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.

It 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.

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