Rani Singh

Power broking in Park Lane

Power broking in Park Lane
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Some of Musharraf’s domestic problems arise from his attitude to the judiciary. There's widespread anger over his suspension of Pakistan’s top judge, the first time such an event has happened in the 50–year history of the Supreme Court.

When the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, was released from detention a couple of days ago, no sooner had Coffee House reported it than – bang! Revolving door! Ahsan was re-detained. This is only going to incense the legal fraternity even more than before, and could well come back to bite Musharraf in the proverbial over the next few weeks. 

On UK shores, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, head of the PML (Q) - also known as the “king party” - which supports Musharraf, was in London this week. He had a meeting on Friday evening with Altaf Hussein, leader of the MQM, who lives here in exile. 

What added colour to their meeting was the news that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s brother, son and two nephews were humiliatingly detained at Gatwick under anti-terror laws, and the son and nephews were strip-searched. The FCO has since issued a statement of regret.

Musharraf, too, met with Altaf Hussein when the former was in London last week.  The meeting place was the Dorchester; the perfect setting for Musharraf to stage a charm offensive aimed at kindling ethnic bonds.

Unlike in the British scene, ethnicity plays a major part in Pakistani politics. Where you come from and who you are matters much more than what you say and how you behave. Sovereignty is shared between the feudal landlords and the military. It is the rationale behind personality politics.

Both Musharraf and Hussein are Mohajirs, a group which were not regarded as proper Pakistanis when they first came to Pakistan.  Unlike the powerful Punjabis, they were never referred to as 'sons of the soil'. Though many of them are literate and professional, they faced discrimination, and thus formed a political cluster - the MQM - to represent their interests. The movement is now over 30 million strong, and can be supportive of Musharraf.

The wily President is castling; he will be anxious to shore up as much support as he can. Hussein could be an important ally.