A grand showdown between the government and the lawyers along with the opposition parties is just around the corner as the lawyers pull up their socks for the long march and the Sharif brothers rehearse their freestyle rhetoric in fiery speeches, whilst calling for a rebellion. The two brothers after having been 'betrayed' and stabbed in the back by President Asif Zardari have now launched an all-out assault against the president. However, it was not so up until the Supreme Court's decision to declare them ineligible for contesting elections. That seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. The Sharif brothers are now bringing realpolitik back with a vengeance. Shahbaz Sharif has called for an all-out rebellion inviting the public to join the march to a revolution.
While the PML-N may have considerable street power and the abilities to stir up emotions, critics argue that they do not wield enough power and influence to bring the government down. But then again the PML-N is not the only party to have thrown its weight behind the lawyers' movement for an 'independent judiciary'. The principled Imran Khan too is anxious to march up to Constitution Avenue along with his APDM buddy Qazi Hussain Ahmed from the Jamaat-e-Islami. So if you thought this year's long march will be no different than last year's, then think again. This year's long march and dharna are more power-packed and promises a lot more than last time, certainly something you wouldn't want to miss out on. More vociferous lawyers and civil society members, shouting at the top of their lungs, more rhetoric from Nawaz Sharif and Ali Ahmed Kurd and of course more hip-shaking rhymes from veteran Aitzaz Ahsan.
And if the sit-in goes well there may be some action too! Apart from the event itself, the various fallouts as a result of the dharna will be even more interesting to witness given the possibilities being discussed in the media. The wildest being that President Zardari bows down to the pressure and restores Iftikhar Chaudhry as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. While the former outcome may be Nawaz Sharif's dream come true, the more probable one involves the penguins and the brethren being driven away by the police and the rangers, which will inevitably lead to violence. The third outcome involves the Sharif brothers' wildest dream coming true, i.e. the long march and the Dharna succeed in either toppling or weakening the government so that demands for mid-term elections emerge.
Given the possible fallouts one would certainly not want to miss out on something this grand. The media will be all over it broadcasting every second 'live', but that doesn't come anywhere close to the real anything. And that's probably the best reason to join the march because this whole movement has little to do with an independent judiciary. The arguments being put forth by the lawyers and the Sharif brothers are weak in essence. The lawyers have reservations against the judges that have taken oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). They call them 'fake judges' when in fact Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was one of the first judges to take oath under the PCO in January 2000. However, the lawyers insist on letting the bygones be bygones and demand that the judiciary be restored as it was on November 2, 2007.
The question is that if they want to purge the courts of PCO judges then why must Iftikhar Chaudhry be any exception? Besides, one must realise that this whole movement has been deeply politicised to an irreversible extent and that seriously undermines the impartiality of Iftikhar Chaudhry, if he is restored as the chief justice.
The lawyers' community and the Sharif brothers have taken it upon themselves to filter good judges from bad ones, independent judges from partisans. One cannot help but ask who they are to judge who is impartial and who is not. In effect the Sharif brothers want to discredit and expel all the judges who accepted the second PCO whilst letting the oath takers of the first PCO off the hook. What could be more biased? Why the double standards? If they deem the PCO to be the deciding factor when it comes to reinstatement then why not demand the restoration of former chief justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui instead of Iftikhar Chaudhry? After all Siddiqui was in fact the last chief justice to have taken oath under the 1973 constitution. Also, on May 13, 2000, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was one of the 12 Supreme Court judges who validated the military coup of General Pervez Musharraf. They ruled that the removal of the elected government of Nawaz Sharif was legal on the basis of the 'doctrine of necessity'. What then is the point of touting him as the beacon of an independent judiciary?
Last but not least, one wonders why Nawaz Sharif is championing the cause of an independent judiciary when his party scaled the walls of the Supreme Court of Pakistan forcing the then chief justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, to resign. Has Sharif repented for his sins in Makkah and promised to make amends? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ruled in favour of allowing the Sharif brothers to return from exile.
Pakistani politics has a history whereby those in power have handpicked their own chief justices to their liking. How do we know if Nawaz Sharif really wants an independent judiciary and not just a favourable and compliant judiciary that will go after the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) whereby all cases against Asif Zardari were dropped and he was allowed to run for office?
The unanswered questions and the obvious signs make it clear that there are significant grey areas to the lawyers' movement that undermine the genuineness of the movement. So, if you feel like witnessing yet another exciting episode of political drama, possibly some action and just maybe history in the making then go ahead, hit the road and join the lawyers' gang. At least you'll be doing it for all the right reasons!