Musharraf’s legacy

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

 

Lahore — the heart of Pakistan and the most important city in the power orbit — is hot with rumours, wishful thinking and forecasts that July is crucial month for the politics of Pakistan. Lahori political pundits say it would decide the fate of the coalition, judges’ restoration issue and the exit of the beleaguered President.

 

But President Musharraf is under the delusion that after him there would be a deluge. As his inning is coming to end an objective brief analysis of his eight years tenure would not be untimely.

 

In the first place his take-over was in violation of the constitution. Most political observers and Nawaz Sharif could smell even in September 1999 that the coup is cooking around the corner. This led to Nawaz Sharif’s failed attempt to oust General Musharraf before he returned from the Rawan’s Lanka.

 

Musharraf revealed in his book “In the Line of Fire,” that he had made up his mind when appointed as COAS that he would not like to be fired by his boss. “I had already conveyed an indirect warning (sic) to the prime minister through several intermediaries: ‘I am not Jahangir Karamat.” My predecessor had retired quietly, and I did not want the prime minister to think he could violate the constitution so easily again.”(Page 110). Mark the word “warning.” Can a grade 22 officer warn the Prime Minister of Pakistan?

 

In the Supreme Court it was held by Musharraf’s lawyers that notification of replacement of the COAS was not issued, hence he was still in command when the forces moved in to oust Nawaz’s government. Then he spills the beans. The notification for his removal could not be issued because according to his book the Defence Secretary was whisked away by MI to MOD. “When the Defence Secretary arrived there, the three leaders of the countercoup (sic) were waiting for him. He understood at once. They told him that they had no problem with him or his brother, who was Nawaz Sharif’s minister, but requested he remains with them….. Now there was no way the defence secretary could issue the notification of my removal.” (Page 127 — emphasis mine) Interestingly, the Supreme Court while validating the take over had taken notice of the fact that there was no replacement notification.

 

Anyway he came riding the barrel of the gun. And Supreme Court’s judgments cannot stop coups and revolutions. The nation accepted him and the opportunists in the opposition hailed it notwithstanding the fact that inviting army to intervene is deadly for the growth of democratic process.

 

Like most military coups first couple of years the governance improved, barring the issue of unconstitutional parking of the government. The overall governance improved under a small technocrat cabinet.

 

Then  9/11windfall came for Musharraf. It was an opportunity to prolong the rule as once again Pakistan became a frontline state. It brought massive debt rescheduling relief with inflow of substantial loans and grants. The fiscal space provided by the rescheduling of loans and inflow of foreign assistance helped in expanding the development budget. Consequently the country had a sustained growth for four years. On the political front it gave him undisputed powers to muffle the political parties.

 

But the bargain was tough. He had to accept the US conditions and turn against the army’s baptized children — Taliban. Those who blame him for taking this U-turn are living in a fool’s paradise. They have no clue that there was no option for Pakistan; it had to look after the interests of Pakistanis first. It couldn’t have continued to support a government which had no respect for international law and was proudly breeding international terrorists. There is no dearth of brave and sentimental talk. Serious diplomatic, political and economic issues are being dealt with ignorance and nationalistic jingoism.

 

Musharraf policy in this regard was right. Only problem was that it was presented as one-man towing the American’s policy instead of an elected government policy. His political partners were not convinced of this policy and were ideologically tilted toward the fundamentalists.

 

Similarly, Musharraf realised that days of low-cost Jihadi war with India are over. Now the Americans would not allow the militants’ intrusions in India anymore. He moved away from Pakistan’s historic stance on Kashmir, which was a non-starter anyway. His attempt to normalise relations with India and offer out-of-box solutions for healing the bleeding Kashmir wound was a brave moves. Again the folly here is that he did not carry the parliament with him.

 

His vacillation between his liberal anti-Taliban self and pro-Jihadi soul has alienated him. The institutional loyalty demands that he should stick to the foolish and out-dated policy of seeking strategic command over Afghanistan’s Pushtun areas. We have paid a heavy price for this policy in the form of Beirutisation of Pakistan. The changed geo-political compulsions demand that Pakistan cannot afford to let its land and resources be used against Afghanistan and India. It’s a compulsion not a choice.

 

Another blunder of Musharraf’s was holding a sham referendum. From that day onward his downfall started. He had to rely on fly-by-night politicians. He lost the moral ground that he was interested in accountability by wining and dinning with the corrupt politicians and businessmen.

 

To top it he picked a fight with the judiciary and the media. Year 2007 particularly became his watershed as he alienated himself from the liberal democratic forces of Pakistan by mauling the judiciary. He had the impudence to confess to BBC that he has violated the constitution.

 

He took a courageous stand against the Lal Masjid adventurist and FATA Taliban who wanted to dictate their foreign policy and moral and cultural code upon the people of Pakistan. Again he should have relied on the people’s support on this issue. Only MQM in Karachi and Ms. Bhutto supported this step. Ms. Bhutto was killed because of neglected security. She was the only towering leader who could have taken this courageous stand in Pakistan.

 

The elections have written in bold letter on the wall that President Musharraf should bow out, before history disgraces him. We have seen them all — the good, the bad and the ugly faces of rulers. The sooner a person departs the more his good deeds are remembered. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

 

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