How was the President of Pakistan

"King of controversy" - this is how the influential Pakistani news magazine 'The Herald' recently wrote a critical short biography on the inauguration of the new president on January 1st of this year. In fact, there has probably never been such a controversial figure in the post of head of state of Pakistan in the 50-year history of the country. Because the reputation and curriculum vitae of the victorious surprise candidate, the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the resignation of the previous incumbent Farooq Leghari in November 1997 in a solitary resolution disregarding all ambitious aspirants and to the complete amazement even close party friends with the ticket of the ruling party 'Pakistan Muslim League' ( PML) smuggled through the presidential election shouldn't be read as a recommendation. In retirement, the arch-conservative constitutional judge has the dubious reputation of being a misogynist and hardened opponent of religious minorities. For example, it is said that Tarar was an active member of an anti-state militant Islamic group in his youth and stabbed members of the Ahmadiyya religious community. Above all, however, prominent Pakistani human rights activists and intellectuals plagued by foreboding have never tire of recalling some highly controversial judgments for which Tarar had to answer during his years as a judge of the Supreme Court.

Since the new first citizen of the Islamic Republic plays a key role in his office, which is still endowed with considerable powers, in the political arena of Pakistan, a look at the details of this biography offers illuminating clues for the further political development in the country. This is above all in view of the constitutional reform, which is currently in the preparatory phase, which amounts to the castration of all power-relevant competences of the president in favor of a corresponding upgrading of the prime minister. The further fate of Pakistan's democracy also depends to a large extent on whether or not the current patron-minions relationship between the current protagonists in these posts turns into a healthy dualism or not. It is obvious that it depends above all on the character and personality of Rafiq Tarar:

The now 68-year-old was born on November 2, 1929 in a village called Pirkot in the Punjab district of Wazirabad (the fact that Tarar's cradle was in Punjab, which is often referred to as the ruling province of Pakistan, was seen by many commentators as a sign that the Punjabi Nawaz Sharif in everything on constitutional issues The zeal for reform that has been shown will not shake the factual supremacy of the most populous province. In the run-up to the election of candidates, non-Punjab top politicians made demands for ethnically based proportional representation by the head of government with his personnel decision at least a clear rejection). From the family background, with a view to the new president's fundamental beliefs and values, it is significant that the Tarar clan is deeply rooted in the popular Islamic shrine culture typical of rural Pakistan. Because as so-called Pirs, the heads of the Tarars families traditionally take religious leadership tasks in their home region. In keeping with family tradition, the young Rafiq Tarar first attended the Islamic school there in the Punjab district town of Gujranwala before completing a two-year course at the Islamia College Gujranwala, which he successfully completed in 1949 with a "Bachelor of Science" degree. From this time on, the young graduate was involved for several years in a militant, radical Islamic splinter party called 'Majlis-e-Ahrar', which at the time had pan-Islamic objectives against the founding of Pakistan and repeatedly insulted the founder of the country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah "Kafir-i-Azam" (Great Unbeliever), alluding to his honorary title "Quaid-i-Azam" (Great Leader), caused a sensation. Rafiq Tarar later joined the no less radical 'Tehrik-i-Khatam-i-Nabuwat', where he quickly advanced to leadership positions. The aforementioned violent confrontations with members of the Ahmadiyya denomination, which Orthodox Muslims regarded as heretical, also took place during this period. It is known that Tarar was once badly wounded by a knife in the abdominal area.

His further professional career was much more civilized: After completing a postgraduate course at the renowned Pakistani law school of the "Punjab University Law College" in the provincial capital of Lahore, Tarar passed the state law examination in 1951 and then practiced as a lawyer in Gujranwala for four years. In 1955 he moved to Lahore, where he was admitted to the High Court, the highest provincial court, as a criminal defense lawyer. However, he was denied any successful experiences with publicity, so that in 1966 he seized the opportunity to pursue a career as a judge. Over the next 20 years, the ambitious lawyer slowly but steadily climbed the usual career ladder of his class. This ascent took place completely unobtrusively and without any breaks. He never made a secret of his open dislike of the Bhuttos. This detail is all the more astonishing when you consider that Tarar owes his most important promotions to the Bhuttos of all people. For example, the former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brought Rafiq Tarar to the High Court in Lahore as a judge in 1974, while in 1989 his daughter Benazir appointed him chairman of this chamber during the first term of office. In this capacity, after the dismissal of the Bhutto government by the then president in 1990, he moved into the public spotlight for the first time with a controversial and politically explosive judgment. Because it was he who at the time put down an appeal against the impeachment brought by Benazir Bhutto with conspicuous failure to observe a corresponding precedent. The obviously politically motivated verdict was promptly rewarded in January 1991 by the new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with an appointment as constitutional judge at the Supreme Court in Islamabad. This finally solidified the already existing close ties to the Sharif clan. Tarar has been in close contact with the father of Nawaz Sharif in particular for many years. It is therefore hardly surprising that Tarar always acted as a loyal friend of the family of his current supporters in his new office. In 1993 he was instrumental in a spectacular ruling by the Constitutional Court, which temporarily reversed the previous dismissal of the Sharif government by the president. Only the intervention of the army, which at the time forced the president and prime minister to resign twice, finally sealed the end of Nawaz Sharif's first term in office.

At the beginning of Benazir Bhutto's second term in office, Rafiq Tarar made a name for himself as an uncomfortable and courageous critic of the government, completely contrary to his usual habits. He even accepted that he would quickly isolate himself within the Supreme Court. The final break with the PPP politician came when he doggedly resisted the Prime Minister's request for his colleague Sajjad Ali Shah's appointment as chairman of the Supreme Court, arguing that he was the only constitutional judge to vote against the 1993 ruling. One can imagine that this objection was hardly suitable to dissuade Benazir Bhutto from her preferred candidate. The consequence: In November 1994 Tarar was sent into early retirement. The early retiree bitterly renounced his right to be passed by the assembled Supreme Court with a traditional official ceremony. He also turned down a gala dinner organized by the Constitutional Court in his honor. Then there was silence about the ex-judge for a few years. Only with occasional articles that had the demand for an Islamic justice system to content, Tarar was remembered, at least in professional circles. In the Sharif household, he also acted as a private advisor to the political dynasty on legal and religious issues. Thanks to his knowledgeable service, attempts by the Bhutto government to bring the Sharifs down by legal means were unsuccessful. This time, too, his patrons showed their appreciation: After Nawaz Sharif returned to the levers of power in the spring of 1997, Tarar entered the Senate as a politician with no experience whatsoever. With wild verbal attacks against the judiciary in general and the chairman of the constitutional court, Sajjad Ali Shah, in particular, he made a not inconsiderable contribution to defeat the hopeful of the democratic forces in Pakistan and the most prominent advocate of the separation of powers in his desperate tug-of-war with the prime minister that had lasted for months to shoot the preservation of the independence of the judiciary in a rush. In a now notorious interview by the magazine "Takbeer", Tarar even used the phrase "judicial terrorist" at the height of the constitutional crisis in a clear allusion to the person of the then still incumbent President of the Constitutional Court. This in turn is the reason why Tarar's nomination as a presidential candidate almost failed due to the objection of the electoral commission for insulting the constitutional court. Only an urgent procedure initiated by the government before the Lahore High Court paved the way for the delinquent to stand for candidacy and provisional assumption of office. The process for this has been postponed to a later date. In theory, the newly minted president would have to vacate his post again in the event of a guilty verdict. But this is not to be expected seriously, especially since the responsible judges have now acquitted Nawaz Sharif, who was accused of the same offense, despite clear evidence.

What prompted the prime minister to hoist such a controversial figure into the presidential palace has been the subject of wild speculation for weeks. While some suspect that Sharif wanted to take the wind out of the sails of the religious parties that are currently forming a powerful extra-parliamentary opposition, others interpret this as the start of a much more far-reaching and complex agenda. The latter is supported not least by the fact that with the far-reaching constitutional reform that is casting its first shadow (details on this in the news section of this edition), which is certainly inherent in the explosiveness of an enabling law that could promote Nawaz Sharif to the strong man of Pakistan, there are already concrete indications of the existence of the country such a strategy exist. Since under the current constitution, however, any attempt by a prime minister to legally expand his powers necessarily requires the blessing and signature of the president, the weakest and most opportunistic person possible is in this office who is ready at any time to subordinate the raison d'ĂȘtre to loyalty to the prime minister. an ideal cast.

Tarar's actions in the office of president will quickly show whether the man who was chosen as the "king of controversy" really goes down in history as "Pakistan's coffin nail", as the weekly newspaper 'Friday Times' viciously poisoned at the start of his office. At least the role of an executioner of democracy can be trusted by the judge, as a glance at the novice's vita has shown - if the novice does not get a taste for it, he is surprisingly empowered.