Guest post by Hassan Baig
Hassan analyzes the realistic implication of the open letter written by Aitzaz Ahsan to the Pakistan Bar Council on Dec 5
Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan is a leader in his own right. A populist leader even. Moreover, his read of the political spectrum and all developing eventualities is sensible and practical.
But perhaps not practical enough.
Ms. Benazir Bhutto is widely believed to be averse to the idea of the reinstatement of the deposed judges. In fact, she has gone as far as publicly chiding the lawyer community (and probably Barrister Ahsan in particular) to form their own political party if they so wish. This stand is understandable when seen under the light of the economics of it: the political and self-preservation costs to Ms. Bhutto of a reopening of her files by independent-minded judges are far greater than the costs of loss (if any) of the PPP’s public appeal as a result of her endorsement of the establishment’s agenda. Ms. Bhutto would never underwrite an option which pays dividends only in moral rectitude and not in monetary and/or realpolitik terms.
For someone so ethically-decided, it is abnormal how PPP loyalists endure in their support for Ms. Bhutto. It is almost as if her metamorphosis from her debut in 1988 to the skilful opportunism management she practices today has been completely lost on these supporters. Some quarters insist that Ms. Bhutto’s support is a product of her hereditary right that many support her with blind conviction borne of the psychological guilt of inaction engendered among the loyalists when her father was hanged till death without much ado. This is perhaps a major ingredient for Ms. Bhutto’s political adhesiveness, but probably not the only one. There’s also that promise only to political heavyweights albeit of garnering a high Internal Rate of Returni via backing the PPP project. And on some level, there’s probably ideological mesmerism involved too – at least for those few who are still motivated by overarching principles instead of material agencies.
Somewhere in there exists the esoteric reason for Barrister Ahsan’s continued support of Ms. Bhutto. And compelling as it may be, it is no illusion that his reason is not sustainable any longer.
I am of the view that among all lawyers, Barrister Ahsan commands the most clout; the biggest people constituency. Hon’ble Chief Justice (Ex.) Chaudhry may have been the face of the judicial movement for quite some time now; it is Barrister Ahsan who is the real mover and shaker for he is intellectually well-endowed, politically well-resourced and publicly well-spoken. He may not be perfect, yet he possesses all the seminal elements.
So then is it not tragic that the judiciary’s biggest asset is being so ruthlessly blunted?
And no this rhetorical question does not hint at his incarceration, for such incarceration does not debilitate, it politically hones. By incapacitating his mobility President Musharraf had made the same tactical mistake many-an-autocrat is prone to making birthing increased public effervescence via applying the fundamentally flawed paradigm that populists are less trouble in jail than they are when free. For Barrister Ahsan, the opportunity was there for the taking.
Yet here we are, reading an open letter of recommendations from the Barrister. More of a plea than marching orders. Points to consider rather than an agenda to follow. The movement has been effectively sidelined whether we concede it or not. It is slowly waning with time and will be nothing more than a romantic memory in the coming future.
I am confident that Barrister Ahsan knows the real reasons for this sabotage.
He probably realizes how that one political party he had pledged allegiance to betrayed him in one of the darkest hours of Pakistan’s history by denying his cause of the political patronage it needed and truly deserved. And perhaps he also realizes how his continuing connection with that party ties his hands behind his back by making him a singular, weak voice of righteous justice amid an assemblage of opportunists intent on getting a chance at Pakistan’s now-improved coffers of wealth. And lastly, maybe he also understands that no one will label him a deserter for cutting connections with this party, this Washingtonian charade. And if he doesn’t, then now would be a good time. Untie your hands Barrister Ahsan and show some entrepreneurial spirit.
For time is of the essence and open letters alone generally do not alter the course of history.