The Lawyers' Movement has a sad parallel in 1977's
Tehrik-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa (TNM) that gave the country a martial law
and destroyed its cultural and social values
By Waqar Gillani
If a comparison was drawn between 1977's Tehrik-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa and the current Lawyers' Movement, it would appear that the latter is not sponsored by the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence). Though, certain quarters of the government deny that fact.
Tehrik-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa started coming up at a time when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed power as the country's first civilian martial law administrator. This resulted in the formation of the TNM by the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) and, finally, paved the way for General Zia ul Haq's military rule which ended with his mysterious death in a plane crash in 1988. The movement practically started when ZAB imposed governor's rule in Balochistan, sidelining the majority party -- National Awami Party (NAP). This action invited the NAP-led coalition government in NWFP which stepped down in protest and started a movement against Bhutto.
Following the movement, ZAB imposed section 144 of Criminal Procedural Code (CrPC) across Pakistan, suspending the fundamental rights of speech and assembly. The movement, which had gained momentum in 1974, forced the ZAB government to announce early general elections in Feb 1977. The alleged massively-rigged 1977 elections again gave majority to ZAB and TNM flourished under the banner of PNA with the majority of right-wing parties supporting it. Though ZAB announced to accept many of PNA's demands through a pact, he delayed signing it. This finally caused ZAB's ouster by his handpicked chief of army staff.
The Lawyers' Movement started with protests against the sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf. All political parties opposed the decision except, of course Musharraf's ally, Pakistan Muslim League-Q. Even though PPP withdrew its support from the Lawyers' Movement in its initial stages, it failed to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry and some of the deposed judges after it formed government in the Centre. PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari repeatedly promised to restore judges while twice signing agreements with its biggest coalition partner PML-N. This incepted the conflict between the two major parties.
In February, following the electoral disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, the PPP government imposed Governor's rule in Punjab since Shahbaz Sharif couldn't continue working as chief minister.
Sharif's disqualification was probably the last blow to the coalition after which the PML-N strongly started to oppose the PPP government, particularly criticising Asif Zardari. The court's decision also inflated PML-N's demand to restore judiciary. Later last week, Section 144 was imposed in Punjab -- seen by some as a means to curtail the Long March. PPP is looking towards forming its government in Punjab with the PML-Q, ignoring the majority party, the PML-N. The situation forebodes disaster unless the situation is handled well and in the shortest possible time.
Husain Naqi, former editor The News, while drawing a comparison of the two aforementioned movements, told TNS that the 1977 movement was sponsored by ISI against democracy unlike the current movement which was pro-democracy.
He said that the PPP and the PML-N was the best combination which had come into being after the 2008 elections. But this, he argues, is not acceptable to the Establishment.
Naqi said that Zardari was playing into the hands of the Establishment and damaging the system by deviating from his political commitments.
Khawar Naeem Hashmi, senior journalist and bureau chief Geo TV, Lahore, said there were chances that some rogue elements in ISI and the Establishment were supporting the current Lawyers' Movement. "The ultimate beneficiary of this movement seems to be none other than Taliban itself, because Nawaz will again be left empty handed," he told TNS.
Hashmi also said that the possible role of Saudi Arabia as an ally of Sharifs and the opponent of America should not be ignored. "The support to Taliban will not be acceptable to the US which will be compelled to negotiate with the Saudis."
It is unlikely that the outcome of the Lawyers' Movement will be favourable to the masses. The nation, according to Hashmi, is still faced with the consequences of the 1977 movement which gave the country a long martial law and destroyed its cultural and social values.
"Following Benazir's assassination, Zardari assumed power on the condition that he will restore the judges, including the deposed chief justice. I fear whoever will replace Zardari will only strengthen his power by backing Taliban.
"Certain elements in the establishment will also benefit," he added, "It is high time Zardari took some hard but popular decisions which are against his interests. If he takes wise decisions it will increase his popularity graph anyway."
Noted human rights activist Hina Jilani also spoke to TNS on the issue and said that the Lawyers' Movement was not funded by ISI. She believed the Movement reflected the popular desire for change. It "is not for Nawaz Sharif but for change in the system."