The Pakistan president is true to his word. By lifting the emergency, and that too a day before the scheduled hour, Pervez Musharraf has stuck to the two-point programme he had publicly set for himself to return Pakistan to ‘normalcy’. He has already fulfilled the first part of the promise by announcing the January elections when Pakistan was only days into the emergency. The president, however, is also true to his character. He could not have allowed the reinstatement of the personal freedom of Pakistan’s citizens to impinge on his own. Hence both the judiciary and the media, guarantors of this fundamental right, continue to be on leash. A slight tinkering with the constitution before it was revived has ensured that the president can have an unalloyed enjoyment of his freedoms. Deletion of some crucial clauses in the constitution has made the changes in the judiciary and the president’s own election incontestable. Irritants, like the former chief justice, kept under house arrest, are away from the public eye. And the discriminatory amnesty granted to Benazir Bhutto together with the bar on Nawaz Sharif’s candidature and the deft manipulations at the local level could be safely depended upon to fracture the anti-Musharraf vote and earn enough support for the president-backed Pakistan Muslim League to keep the president in power for some time.
In other words, there is no reason to suspect that Mr Musharraf has been uncharacteristically magnanimous in calling to an end the emergency he imposed a little over a month ago. What necessitated this placatory gesture is as much the desire to impress the international audience as the domestic. Within Pakistan an overwhelming percentage of people have made it clear in a recent poll that they no longer want Mr Musharraf in power. The president could not pretend to be unaware of this popular revulsion. The opposition too has been forced to play its cards keeping in mind this public opinion. Ms Bhutto has distanced herself from her unholy alliance with the president, and Mr Sharif has found it impossible not to heed the voice of the 33-group All Parties Democratic Movement that continues its struggle for the return of democracy. A cursory measure like ending the emergency or a sleight of hand in the hustings that will return one or the other faction of Pakistan’s old ruling elite is unlikely to suppress the urge for a tangible political change.