President Vicente Fox, (C), gestures towards Musharraf, Below
UN Photo Ops, Legitimacy and Democracy
September 15: As General Musharraf enjoys New York's excellent
weather and extra-security from September 14 to 17, the question
of “democratic legitimacy” of his claim to power will
foreshadow his photo-ops at the UN, a summit with the Indian Prime
Minister, a hand-gliding session with President Bush, a women’s
convention, and his address to American Jewish Congress.
very fact that he is in New York brings the question of his democratic
legitimacy into bold relief, and gives the lie to his claim that
Pakistan has been put back on the democratic rails with a functioning
“democratic government” led by a “Prime Minister.”
If it is so what is he doing in New York? Why is he “standing
in for” the supposed head of government that Prime Minister
is? Shouldn’t it be the Prime Minister, according to the
Constitution, conducting the business of government? Shouldn’t
it be the Prime Minister representing the government? Will he
meet the Indian President or Indian Prime Minister?
to his claims of democracy in Pakistan, he continues to hold appointive
and elective offices simultaneously. He is sitting Army Chief
the raw force of which he brought to bear on evicting the constitutionally
and democratically elected President Rafiq Tarar on June 20, 2001.
He did it for the simple reason of swapping a worn “title”
for one that befit his July 14-16, 2001 summit in Agra, India,
with the Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.
did not want to travel to India as “Chief Executive”
-- a code name for “Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA)”
– so he had his handlers evacuate the “Aiwan-e-Sadr,”
after its occupant refused to sign on to a “voluntary resignation.”
Like John Gotti, he stood there watching the constitutional President
pack and move out. As soon as President Tarar drove out of sight,
he had the Chief Justice of Pakistan brought to the Aiwan-e-Sadr,
who, without raising an eyebrow, swore him as “President
of Pakistan.” He has since been President as well as Army
he has zero trust in either institution. As President, he fears
that the very political class he has created to populate the Quaid-i-Azam
Muslim League (QML) will democratically remove him, unless he
has his upholstered gun at the ready. It is his appointive office
of Chief of Army Staff that lets him flash that much-needed firearm,
just in case. The moment he quits the army command, it is only
a matter of guess as to who will first take a swing at him –
his comrades in arm or his political protégés?
of these contradictions, he knows well his chances in a democracy.
His knowledge was further bolstered on September 9, when he was
left with no “stitch of legitimacy” on, as the country’s
democratic opposition in a nation-wide strike put Pakistan out
of business. It was protesting Musharraf’s six-year military
dictatorship and free-for-all rigging in local council elections
held in August in which Returning Officers, according to The Nawa-i-Waqt’s
perceptive columnist, Mr Abbas Athar, charged a million rupees
a pop for rewriting Presiding Officers’ sealed results.
Returning Officers are elite members of Musharraf’s judicial
branch, who are in line to become judges of Pakistan’s Supreme
Court and High Courts.
Three features of the September
9 strike, however, stood out starkly to mortify him: First, the
democratic opposition, made up of liberal-conservative alliances,
put up an unprecedented united front, in six years of Musharraf’s
dictatorship, to give a joint strike call and make it a grand
success. Second, the trading classes, since Musharraf’s
coup in October 1999, have been sitting on the sidelines. The
opposition, for the first time, enlisted them into challenging
the military dictatorship. Allied with them were the transporters
who just as enthusiastically joined in the national chorus of
“Go Musharraf Go”.
Musharraf government, according to The Nation, Pakistan’s
centrist newspaper, bribed the National Transport Ittehad (NTI)
with a graft of 10 million rupees to “stay on the wheel.”
Those who refused to cut such a deal ended up in jail. Pakistan
where privately owned transport is limited to fewer than one percent
(1%) of the population, transporters’ strike can bring down
any government. Aware of such a talisman-effect of the off-road
transport, the government, in Karachi alone, had to hire 350 passenger
vehicles and assign as many “police officers” to run
those vehicles on city routes.
the opposition, within five days of the strike call, brought the
country to a halt – with traders staying off their businesses
and transporters standing off the road. If the opposition, despite
the government’s bribing and bullying to break up the strike,
can have a nation-wide shut down at such a short notice, it can
wreak an even bigger havoc on Musharraf’s dictatorship if
it gives future strike calls a little longer timeline with a tad
of more energy?
is these concerns that are adding to Musharraf’s edginess
that was on view in the wake of strike. The very next day of the
strike, he had a Kangaroo court issue arrest warrants for Senator
Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s husband, who
is nursing in a New York hospital after an angioplasty, for not
appearing in court!
As the question of democratic
legitimacy hangs heavy on him, Musharraf becomes even more nervous.
Having completely lost it at home, he is now flailing about to
seek it overseas. He always parrots the need for polishing “Pakistan’s
image abroad,” by which he means his own reinvention as
a “statesman.” To help his attempts at his imagined
reincarnation, he has hired a bevy of image-makers – both
from Britain and the US – with the help of state coffers
to get an “extreme makeover” from a third-rate dictator
to a “first-rate statesman.” His British consultants
handed him the nostrum of a “soft Pakistan abroad”
(and “hard Pakistan at home”) that he is combining
with Dr. Kissinger’s tonic of “enlightened moderation”
to set out for a long journey to “statesmanship.”
address at the United Nations’ General Assembly, his summit
with the Indian Prime Minister, his grip and grin session with
President Bush, his speech at a women’s convention, and
his talk at the Jewish Congress are all choreographed to make
him attractive to prospective overseas buyers. His symbolic packaging,
however, is too threadbare to hide his substantial being to the
contrary. He, for instance, has done nothing for the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) for which he is attending the UN General
the contrary, Pakistan’s economy, on his watch, has become
one to resemble that of New Orleans’s: all entertainment
and tourism that was swept away, perhaps forever, with a tidal
wave unleashed by Hurricane Katrina. Pakistan, like New Orleans,
is awash with cash without any economy to speak of. The cash that
is flowing from the war on terror is keeping him and his cronies
firmly grounded, while two-thirds (65%) of Pakistan live on $2
for his summit with the Indian Prime Minister, he brags that he
and Man Mohan Singh will have the Kashmir dispute resolved before
“we both are out of office!” This timeline is deceptively
simple. We all know when Prime Minister Singh will leave office,
but does anyone know when will Musharraf’s term be up? So,
let Kashmiris be not carried away by his bravado.
next best bet is President Bush, who is, however, on the defensive
for his slow response to the recovery effort in New Orleans. What’s
more, Hurricane Katrina has exposed certain weak links in homeland
security, because of overseas commitment to the war on terror
that is largely benefiting double-crossers such as Musharraf,
while Americans are paying for it their with blood and treasure.
So, he will expect some “frank conversation” when
he will walk into President Bush’s chamber.
all, his speech at a women’s convention will have an Orwellian
effect. This tribune of women’s rights is the same “man”
who kept Mukhtaran Mai, a rape victim, from leaving the country
for fear of bringing it “bad name.” In Dr. Shazia
Khalid’s case, another rape victim, he stood by the rapist
to this day.
went so far as to refuse The New York Times’ Nicholas
Kristof’s entry into Pakistan for his unadorned reporting
on rape victims. When, recently, his police officers raped Sonia
Naz, a resident of Faisalabad, in a makeshift police lockup, the
horrific details of which chilled anyone who dared read her story.
Supreme Court, the “Prime Minister,” the “Chief
Minister,” and everyone who was anyone ordered an inquiry
into the accusations. It was Musharraf who kept mum (“soft
image abroad;” “hard image at home”). On his
watch, Pakistan has become the most unsafe place for women. Yet
he has the gall to speak about “violence against women.”
the same token,” he will seek his “statesmanship”
by addressing the American Jewish Congress in New York. Before
leaving Pakistan, he told the Associated Press of Pakistan that
his dialogue with American Jewry would open the door “to
the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”
his past is any guide, he used dialogue with India and the war
on terror to deflect attention from the growing democratic challenge
to his military dictatorship. Now that the years of dialogue with
the Indians and the war on terror are losing world attention,
he is in need of another “attention grabber” that
his address to American Jewish Congress is hoped to become. Remember,
Musharraf is neither pro-West, nor pro-Islam, nor pro-Pakistan.
He is just pro-Musharraf!