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The Establishment’s B team: the PPP

By Samad Khurram and Aqil Sajjad

PPP sympathisers complain about the mysterious “Establishment” and their alleged role in destroying democracy in Pakistan for decades now. The Establishment, as defined by them, is a collection of dark, mystifying hands that apparently have many vested interests in upholding the status quo. This inexplicable group comprises rich army officers, the intelligence agencies and foreign hands who scheme together for their own economic and geo-strategic interests. To support this argument, examples of the Mullah-Military Alliance from the 1980s are repeated. The Establishment supposedly destroys institutions, murders politicians, blackmails judges and leaders, and sustains the Military Inc.

One major threat to the Establishment’s hold would be an independent judiciary – a judiciary that will not bow down to pressure, sticks or carrots. Historically, many verdicts of our courts were not independent but extorted by threats and intimidation. Judges had regularly fallen victim to blackmail and “sex tapes” and received dictations from the Establishment. Judges who were bold enough not to obey the whims of the Establishment were conveniently removed.

Things changed considerably when Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry took charge and reoriented the judiciary’s direction in favour of the people. He was becoming increasingly independent and was beginning to check the excesses of the establishment. Among the most noted examples in this regard were the attempted loot privatisation of the Steel Mills well below their real worth and the case of the missing people illegally abducted and detained by the intelligence agencies.

As he became a growing threat to the Establishment, Iftikhar Chaudhry was summoned to General Musharraf’s camp office in the presence of serving military officers and the infamous Brig (r) Ejaz Shah on March 9, 2007. When he refused to resign, the nation stood up in his defence. This was unprecedented in the history of Pakistan and soon Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry became a national hero, arguably the most popular Pakistani alive today.

After his reinstatement with the support of lawyers, students and civil society the judiciary was able to exercise its powers with increasing independence. Naturally, the Establishment could not allow such a judiciary to flourish, as their dirty games could now be brought to justice before an independent tribunal.

Pervez Musharraf struck back with his Nov 3 martial law and 60 judges refused to recognise it as legitimate. New cronies were appointed in the place of those who refused to bow down and the judiciary was tamed once again.

The results of the Feb 18 elections, however, have presented the PPP and PML-N with a golden opportunity to undo the illegal actions of Nov 3 and restore the real judiciary. Unfortunately, while the PML-N has maintained a clear stance in favour of restoring the judiciary, the PPP has been acting as the “B team” of the Establishment.

It is commonly believed that the NRO prevented the PPP from including the widely popular demand for restoration of the judges in its manifesto. The IRI polls of November suggested that an overwhelming majority (73 per cent) of Pakistanis opposed the PCO judges and Musharraf’s re-election (72 per cent). In addition, 61 per cent of Pakistanis and more than half of PPP voters opposed a Musharraf-Bhutto deal in November 2007. By going against popular opinion and supporting an unconstitutional and widely hated president, the PPP was starting its political decline.

Public sentiment swayed towards the PPP after the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto. IRI’s January polls suggested that 50 per cent of Pakistan would vote for the PPP in the elections, up from 30 per cent in November. When the PPP refused to take a clear position for the restoration of the judiciary, its success was reduced to 31 per cent of the total votes in the country and 35 per cent of National Assembly seats. Many people still voted for the PPP in the hope that the absence of an unequivocal stance was only a reflection of different priorities and not as part of the Musharraf-Bhutto deal. The PML-N, on the other hand, gained 5 per cent more seats than earlier calculated — a reward from the people of Pakistan for clearly declaring a no-compromise policy on the restoration of the heroes of Pakistan.

The stance for the restoration of the judges is not only popular but also in the greater interests of Pakistan. By restoring all judges who refused to take oath under the Nov 3 PCO, the judiciary would be cleared of those who could be bought or blackmailed. The judges would only be those who had refused to obey the Establishment’s instructions and stood for principles over positions or money. If the PPP plans to bring to justice the killers of Benazir Bhutto, this independent judiciary will be its best hope for the punishment of the culprits.

Unfortunately, instead of standing up for such a judiciary, the PPP is deliberately confusing a straightforward issue when all that is needed is to provide administrative support to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the other deposed judges so that they can go to their chambers and resume their duties. Legally, they are still the real judges since the Nov 3 action was a clear violation of the Constitution.

In the same way, the judges who agreed to collaborate with Pervez Musharraf in this conspiracy can and should be made dysfunctional and tried by a supreme judicial council in light of the last order by the real Supreme Court on Nov 3 barring any judge from taking oath under the new PCO. This is the constitutional position and there is no need to deliberately find excuses for retaining these PCO judges, as the PPP is doing.

The PPP’s delaying tactics and the minus-one, minus-two formulas are seriously undermining its credibility among the people of Pakistan. This is not only threatening its vote bank and creating rifts within the party, it also suggests that the PPP of today is no longer the party of Zulfikar Bhutto – a party that promised justice to all. And worse, by not purging the Nov 3 conspirators from the courts, it is implicitly welcoming similar future takeovers. If an act of the Establishment were to be taken to a court dominated by PCO-powered scions we can easily tell in whose favour they would vote.

We firmly believe that the only way for the PPP to put Pakistan on a sustainable path of democracy is to strengthen institutions and submit to the will of the real rulers — the people of Pakistan. As we had pointed out earlier, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis not only wants an immediate restoration of the deposed judges but also the dismissal of the Nov 3 PCO judges. By not doing so and aligning itself with the Establishment, the PPP is committing political suicide which, as well as affecting its votes, will leave open the way for future coups by the military establishment.

The writers are students at Harvard University and members of the Student Action Committees (SAC) of Islamabad and the US. Emails: skhurram@fas.harvard.edu & aqil_sajjad@yahoo.ca


  • Karim |

    Since I fundamentally believe that the authors of the article have only one bias, that is the well being of Pakistan, this is not a disagreement as such, or a criticism rather a comment.
    See, the problem is that ALL elect able political parties in Pakistan are the “B” team of the so called establishment. The establishment designates an “A” team out of all these “B” teams to rule at any given time and periodically when personal disputes erupt, like a coup or other form of agitation; we have seen how conveniently the new rulers are ready to work for the same masters. We are witnessing such a process at work right now. Let’s try to define the establishment, who put it there and how have they become so powerful that the political parties have become its hostages. WHO exactly is this establishment? Is it the Pakistani political dynasties, the Pakistani Industrial/Feudal mafia, the international military industrial outreach shop in Pakistan or a combination of all of the above because of tie ins.

    I thing we can all generally agree that besides a few faces there are no good guys on the Pakistani political scene. I don’t know if PPP is the most corrupted, it may or may not be, but it certainly is up there among the tops.

    The blatant and shameless US interference in the political affairs of Pakistan have reached new heights in the past 7 years complete with an “imported US citizen” prime minister and cabinet members from the party of master agitator who supposedly leads a terrorist organization, but has been granted citizenship by the RAJ, an honor yet denied to the owner of Harrods and father-in-law to be of Lady Di. Go figure!

    As for the SIASI SHAOOR of public, yes they might have over whelming voted against MUSH, but they also voted for BB’s 10% complete with Bilawal topping. However, all is not lost, hopefully if the public gets enough pissed off and would be willing to hold the politicians’ hands to the fire, who knows, even if the politicians could not lead the public, may be the public will lead the politicians.
    Keep writing, keep blogging and keep roaring!

  • Tahseen Alam Khan |

    PPP(Q) has proved that it has really become B team of the President house. Mr Zardari once said Democracy is the best revenge, it is certainly but taken from the poor public of this poor country. Zardari sahib must save the Coalition because it will be the Biggest Political Error made by him. Mian Nawaz Sharif is behaving like a mature and seasoned politician who knows that public is with him therefore keeping his stance alive, loud and clear. Judges should be restored immidietely if we have to save our Country. May Allah Bless Pakistan Stability and Strength Amin.

  • Karim |

    Need to have some sort of Lie/Corruption/Deception scale. A guage of some sort where these politicians could be compared and unmasked, who knows may be a pilot for a TV show..Who Is The Liar Of Them All.. How about that TEETH?

  • Tahseen Alam Khan |

    Aur Sab bhul gaye harf-e-sadaqat likhna
    Rah gayaa kaam hamara hi baghavat likhna

  • shah |

    This is a vicious circle and we should aspire to liberate us.This nasty establishment always conspire to maintain status quo. What is this status quo. This is nothing else than corruption,plundering of public money collected by crushed bones of ordinary people and watching the interests of their masters. Who are the masters of this mighty establishment. Of course western powers which are in fact establishment. They exploit the the developing nations devourind their resources.Some developing nations have emancipated themselves from their jaws, for instance, China, malasia and Iran.Iran is now in a position to export 1100 MW enemies to us despite all economic sanction imposed by USA.
    Dear friends, this establishment represents elite class consisting of landlords, industrialists, bureaucracy.People like you and me are never allowed access to this privileged class. We are termed as rebellious and are failed in interview of CSS etc. Friends! if any one of us succeeded in skipping their hawk eyes, he is never promoted unless he adopts their league.
    Dear friends, Deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Ch. was one of us and he aspire to challenge the whimsical authority of establishment which ,in retaliation , conspired against him and asked him to quit but underestimated his courage and he refused to subdue despite all threats, manhandling, and allurements where upon he was expelled from his office and put under arrest. It is first time in our history that a man from middle class aspired to say no to establishment. It is matter of now or never to emancipate us from the clutches of establishment. It would be just a beginning and this is the mendate given by nation to PPP and PMLN. If they don’t fulfill the same then they are of course B team of establishment.

  • Silence |

    Establishment is handing over all political parties to criminals, first MQM was handed over to criminals and bhatta groups and now PPP is being gifted to criminals like Zardari, Haqani and Rehman Malik.

    This is bad in a sense that people who vated for PPP (including me) are disappointed and good in a sence that we are moving towards a final round of people versus establishment (US agents).

    Situation seems to be turning like Iranian revolution, looks like a US plan to invade Pakistan using Musharaf and Zardari. On otherside as people are fedup, we can see some fundamental changes (IF) and thats BIG IF people of Pakistan win against American agents.

  • Karim |

    Okay folks, I say enough of this crap. We demand new elections and this time no pretences. Here is my list
    ????????? ???
    ????? ???? ????
    ?????? ????????
    ???? ???? ???????? (in waiting)
    ???? ???????

    ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?????? he will need an advisor on ways, means and etiquettes (very important)
    ????? ??? ????? ???? ???? ???? ????
    (???? ???? ?? ?????????? ?? ??? ??? ??? ????? ??? ???)

  • Karim |

    Did you guess?
    Negroponte Sadar
    Boucher Wazir Azam
    Zardari Khansama
    Nawaz Khansama (in waiting)
    Mush Chowkidar
    Wasi Zafar (whole cabinet) he will need an advisor on ways, means and etiquettes (very important)
    Haqqani and Rehman roaming ambassadors (I think we could do away with the embassies)

  • Shabbar |

    Faraz Sehnay Chaman main bahar ka mausam
    Na Faiz daikh sakay thay na hum hee daikhain gay.

  • Tahseen Alam Khan |

    The way our rulers are running this poor Country we may see an add very soon “A 3rd World Country for Sale”.

  • Tahseen Alam Khan |

    Zardari sb, Farooqi sb, Malik sb, Shamas Sb, you people were saints therefore this contry needs your experties we have no body to rely upon. Democracy was dying without you Pakistan has missed your humble supervision for the last so many years so do not waste time and start your jobs. We have found ultimate replacement for the Great Chaudharies we would not be missing them much.