Strategy for General Musharraf, Pakistan Army, Political Parties
April 11: The biggest and the most complex issue confronting Pakistan
today is how in the current convoluted and untenable political
cum constitutional situation should the Pakistan Army and General
Pervez Musharraf be provided with a face-saving “Exit Strategy”
in which no party feels defeated and no party feels threatened,
and Pakistan transitions from a dictatorship to a genuine democracy.
issue is discussed threadbare in almost all political meetings
but hardly anyone has come up with a “practical and workable
innovative idea” because any solution which does not provide
the Army, General Musharraf and his colleagues, a safe and dependable
exit will not be acceptable to the Army and the deadlock will
Most of the mainstream political
parties demand a free and fair general election to solve the problem.
That is the ultimate solution but that does not provide General
Musharraf and the Army enough confidence to take the risk as they
believe, and rightly so, that their hand-crafted house of cards
will just collapse leaving them vulnerable to all kinds of threats
The political parties feel that
free and fair elections will give them their rightful share in
power but they also know that it is not easy to force the corrupt
ruling clique to let go their hold on power, just because some
parties are demanding that. Pakistan’s history proves that
no autocrat or dictator ever left power on his own and had to
be either booted out by street pressure or his own Army colleagues
stabbed him in the back or he just vanished into thin air like
General Zia ul Haq.
Either of these eventualities
is possible, but not probable in the current scenario. The street
is divided and politicians are unable to muster enough strength
to force their demands. Army colleagues of General Musharraf are
behind him, at least until they see a real challenge to his authority
from outside the institution. Musharraf is taking extra-ordinary
measures to avoid a Bahawalpur type exit.
he knows that his political structure is crumbling from within
and as the next promised general election draws closer, unless
a quick resolution of the crisis is achieved, pressures to manipulate
the whole process will mount and correspondingly manipulation
will become more difficult by the day. If Musharraf feels that
things have become unmanageable, he may think of imposing direct
Martial Law but that would be hard to market in the US and the
West and domestically it would further alienate him, even from
his present collaborators. The facade of democracy will also be
So what could be a possible and
practical way for a smooth transfer of power in which Musharraf
himself does not feel threatened, even though he may have to take
off his military uniform and appoint a new Chief of Army Staff
while remaining the President and Supreme Commander of the Armed
the ground realities and the bottom line positions of each party
from which it may be hard to deviate. All parties obviously have
fundamental objections to these positions of the others:
General Musharraf is the all-powerful President and Army Chief
and wants to remain so even after the next General Elections.
- Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif think they
enjoy a much wider support base and hence in a free and fair election
they will re-emerge as the contenders to power. Hence they are
reluctant to concede anything to General Musharraf in the long
- Musharraf is unwilling to quit his Army post because he fears,
and has said so many a times, that by doing so he would be weakened
and the threat of a new military coup would emerge with a new
power player coming into the equation.
- The religious parties led by MMA believe that the status quo
is helping them gain quick ground among the embittered, disillusioned
and hard pressed masses and so they would like to prolong it.
- The collaborators of Musharraf know that until he was around
and powerful, they would be able to keep their house together
but the moment he is weakened, their house of cards will collapse.
- The Corps Commanders and members of the Musharraf junta believe
they are helpless unless outside forces make a real dent in his
authority providing them with some opening to put pressure. Otherwise
they have to go along with anything and everything the General
says and does.
- All these parties understand that since 2007 is approaching
fast something has to be done quickly to consolidate their own
position, outwit the others and play their cards to their best
these conflicting and opposing interests and strategies, the national
political scene looks like a fish market with everybody scrambling
behind closed doors but nothing understandable and logical happening
publicly except confusing moves, contradictory statements, empty
threats, meaningless fights on non-issues and reiteration of stated
positions to keep the lid from blowing.
this scenario a few innovative thinkers in Washington, London
and Pakistan have come up with a solution which I have been asked
to articulate as a proposal and present as a “trial balloon”
for everyone to consider, discuss and refine as the Exit Strategy
for Pakistan Army (ESPA) from this messy situation.
salient features of ESPA are as follows:
It provides a safe passage to General Musharraf to quit his Army
Post, appoint a new Army Chief but without facing the threat of
- It provides the political parties a chance to get a free and
fair election under a “civilian” or an ex-army President.
- It enables Musharraf to stay on as the country’s President
after the next General Elections for another term, but under legitimate
constitutional authority and mandate.
- It provides for basic judicial and administrative reforms which
would enable creating a credible and transparent system for smooth
transfer of power to duly elected representatives of the people.
- It brings genuine democracy and distances the Army from politics
ESPA’s key component is
to resolve the first issue of how to enable Musharraf to take
off his uniform without facing the threat of a coup by his new
COAS. The proposed solution is as follows:
The threat of a coup comes from the 111 Brigade and the Rawalpindi
Corps of the Pakistan Army which controls the Islamabad-Rawalpindi
zone with men and guns. This Brigade has been used again and again
by the Army Chief to topple dictators and elected governments.
When the 111 Brigade moves, Pakistan faces a new challenge.
- ESPA proposes that the Rawalpindi Corps including the 111 Brigade
should be separated from the rest of the Army, through an amendment
in the Army Act or whatever law is applicable, to be placed under
the direct control of the President and Supreme Commander of the
Thus the new Army Chief will control 8 out of the present 9 Army
Corps. He will be able to focus on the professional capabilities
and defence preparedness of the Army on the borders and elsewhere
but not in Islamabad where there is no border security involved.
- Since the President and Supreme Commander of the Army would
directly control the Rawalpindi Corps, no other outside troops
could come to stage a coup, and if they do so, it would be almost
impossible with the Rawalpindi Corps defending Islamabad and the
- In return for this crucial concession to General Musharraf,
the political parties should be given the guarantee of free and
Since words of either side are not to be trusted in this high-stake
game, the President has to demonstrate that elections would be
free by holding the Local Bodies Elections on a completely free
and fair basis, allowing all parties to participate and without
the Establishment, the Army and the Agencies taking sides. This
trial run for elections would form the basis for the General Elections.
- Once trust is established between the two sides, an independent
Election Commission be set up and intense discussions be held
to revamp the Supreme Court of Pakistan by appointing persons
of impeccable and undisputed integrity to the Bench for the next
Current Judges on which all parties have confidence may be retained
but others told to go home. The new Supreme Court should revisit
all the controversial constitutional judgments of the past which
were believed to have been taken under any pressure or under duress.
The Doctrine of Necessity, thus, needs to be revisited and thrown
out of the system and whatever judicial wrong was done in the
past, including hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, should be corrected,
at least for the record.
- If General Musharraf agrees to these terms, he should be promised
a fresh Presidential Term as a civilian President, duly elected
by the Parliament, with the powers to control the Rawalpindi Corps.
Every new President thereon should have the same power, whether
he be a civilian or an ex-army man.
The General Headquarters of the Army should be moved away from
Islamabad to Kharian or anywhere else.
- The President and the newly elected Parliament should revisit
the Constitution and further balance the powers between the President
and the Prime Minister, specially making it difficult for the
President to use Article 58(2)(B) powers wrongfully or with malicious
intent. If the Supreme Court restores any dismissed Government
or Parliament, the President should under the Constitution be
made to resign.
main objection to ESPA, during our discussions, was that the proposals
split the Pakistan Army and would not be acceptable to the Generals.
It may be so, but some of us believe that since this solution
is Musharraf-specific and since in this situation Musharraf himself
is the big issue, he is the one who has to decide whether this
plan will work for him and provide him the "Safe Passage"
that he is looking for.
If Musharraf thinks it can work
and he would be comfortable, other Generals and members of his
junta do not matter.
is in very brief words the gist of ESPA and how the Army, the
politicians and the country can break this logjam and move on
to a respectable future.
These are raw thoughts as of now.
They have to be discussed and refined and if finally on this pattern
some solution is worked out, ESPA would have succeeded.
until another alternative is suggested, Pakistan will keep on
drifting under the weight of its messy polity of self interest
and deceit and no one knows where the cord may snap and for whom.