Who should welcome whom?

EDITORIAL (September 15 2010): The words spoken from mouth are like arrows shot from the bows that never return. Therefore the advice that one should be careful in the choice of words to express one’s thoughts. A case in point is Prime Minister Gilani’s remark at a media encounter in Multan on Monday to the effect that should Pervez Musharraf decide to return, he would be ‘warmly welcomed’ by the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

On the face of it, the prime minister’s laconic expression tends to suggest that the former president’s arrival would offer Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry an opportunity to settle some old scores with him. If such an expression attributing a kind of personalised grouse would attract the contempt of court notice, we don’t know. But we do insist that it is primarily the responsibility of the country’s chief executive, which Gilani is, to ‘welcome’ Pervez Musharraf on his purported return to Pakistan.

The latter has been found guilty of high treason by the Supreme Court, and the executive authority is duty-bound to apply Article 6 of the constitution by filing a complaint under High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973 against the former president. The ball is now in Gilani’s court and he’s got to play it – even if Prime Minister Gilani had looked the other way when Pervez Musharraf was given a royal send-off.

And that game has already begun. Pervez Musharraf has announced his return ‘to be able to participate in the 2013 general election’, from the platform of the yet-to-be-registered All Pakistan Muslim League, the party he would launch in London next month. But for the present government’s spectacular failures, he was a forgotten person even if he had 200,000 Facebook supporters and his wannabe governors and ministers would occasionally flaunt rosy prospects of his return to hero’s welcome from the self-imposed exile.

In fact, the former First Lady, Sehba Musharraf, is already in Islamabad at their farmhouse in Chak Shehzad. But in case Musharraf has to reside there, he would be requiring massive security cover, for his enemies far outnumber his friends in Pakistan. He is also wanted in a number of court cases. While he is “two hundred percent ready” to stand in the election, he hasn’t yet made up his mind whether he would like to be president again or an all-powerful prime minister under the 18th Amendment.

Both the Prime Minister Gilani’s quip and ex-president Musharraf’s bombast amply suggest that our ordeal as a ‘failing’ nation wouldn’t be over any time soon. As if Gilani government’s non-compliance with many of the Supreme Court’s recent judgements was not enough to weaken judiciary, he would like to see superior courts getting involved in pursuing vendettas and settling old scores. In fact, it is he who should accord the so-called rousing welcome to Pervez Musharraf by seeking his extradition, following the institution of a treason case against him.

The ex-president is wanted in Pakistani courts in a number of cases and unless the courts give him a clean chit, he is accused and remains on the wanted list. And, as for Pervez Musharraf, one would hope that having ruled this country for nine years and having consigned it to the abyss of political instability and ubiquitous threat of terrorism, he should spare it further tinkering.

What is that he wants to do now which he could not when he was the undisputed helmsman. Not that both the above-mentioned episodes are too frivolous and have no impact on people and politics. But they do emit unmistakable signs that our political leadership needs to embrace maturity and stop playing to the gallery. The challenges that Pakistan faces today are too enormous to brook trivial point-scoring and petty self-aggrandisement – Brecorder