Completes Six Years of Flip Flops, Impetuous Actions
October 12: Today, General Musharraf completed six years of his
rule. It has been a period of flip-flops, tall promises, low delivery,
and impetuous actions. To many eyes, the tenure represents a period
in which the President has emerged as the State unto himself.
entering his 7th year Musharraf has become the third longest serving
military ruler of Pakistan. The first two places belong to Field
Marshal Ayub Khan (1958-69) and General Ziaul Haq (1977-88). Z.
A. Bhutto was the only civilian who could get a tenure of five
years is a long time for a ruler to make his mark, either way.
In civilized societies, governments go to polls every three, four
or five years and contest them on the basis of their own performance
rather than on the record of their predecessors. So, it is time
for Musharraf and his government functionaries to stop talking
about the State of Pakistan on October 12, 1999 and start counting
their own chickens, if they have hatched any.
last six years have been a period tall on promises and short on
delivery. Of flip-flops. Of abrasive decision-making and impetuous
actions. All these six years, one felt like being on a roller
else could one feel, if one were a citizen of a country whose
president is in the habit of taking long-term decisions like ‘engaging’
Israel on the basis of fleeting TV images. President Musharraf
was quoted in newspapers last month saying that when he saw on
his TV screen the pictures of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, he
thought of catching the fleeting moment and turning it into an
advantage for Pakistan. So he called his Foreign Minister Khurshid
Kasuri and asked him to contact Israel. Then the two decided to
use Turkey for the purpose. Tel Aviv responded quickly with five
dates and Musharraf decided on the very first date for the meeting
in Istanbul. Can there be a more undergraduate reason than this
for engaging Israel?
the last six years President Musharraf has emerged as the state
unto himself. At least he himself seems to have already stopped
making a distinction between his person and Pakistan. Last month,
at a women’s convention in New York he declared emphatically
that those who opposed him were the enemies of Pakistan.
uniform and American crutches seemingly guarantee the viability
of this state. And he seems to draw the ideological inspiration
for the state from Washington’s post-9/11 war against “Islamic
the other day while addressing the passing-out parade of 112 PMA
Long Course and Integrated Course-31, the president claimed that
Pakistan was a victim of both terrorism and extremism which, he
said, has “opened a new dimension of responsibility on the
Armed Forces of Pakistan — and while confronting these elements
you have to guard against their vicious propaganda of making this
battle look like one against Islam. The conflict involved is not
one of religion. It simply is one of progress, emancipation versus
backwardness and dogmatism.”
nearly 99 per cent of Pakistan’s population being Muslim,
this new ideological underpinning of the state has brought it,
that is the person of Musharraf, into direct confrontation with
Pakistanis at large. The on-going Waziristan campaign is one highly
relevant manifestation of this confrontation between the people
and the state. And this antagonistic schism between the two is
also the reason perhaps why the king’s party, instead of
risking a contest on its performance, thought it safer to steal
the just concluded three-phased local government elections in
full public glare.
is perhaps why, despite having claimed that he is the most popular
person in Pakistan, Musharraf does not dare rule the country without
his uniform nor does he fancy contesting a fair and free elections
with or without the uniform. That is also why he has not been
able to decide which big dam to construct despite having said
time and again that it’s a matter of life and death for
Pakistan. And despite his claims of taking the right decision
at the right time he has not even been able to resolve in the
two long years the lingering problem of distribution of resources
among the provinces, and between the provinces and the federation.
has given a fetching name to the new ideology of the state of
Pakistan. Enlightened Moderation, he calls it. While preaching
Enlightened Moderation, in practice he continues to court those
very elements inside the country, which represent the forces of
obscurantism. And ironically it is these very forces which he
blames for the rise of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan.
Balochistan, the king’s party is a coalition partner of
the MMA which is an alliance of all of Pakistan’s forces
of obscurantism. In the NWFP, he has helped them emerge as the
leading force and given them the provincial government. In parliament
he has used the carrot and stick approach to help the MMA capture
the slot of the leader of the opposition at the expense of moderate
fact he has divided the federation between the forces of obscurantism
and his king’s party with Punjab and Sindh going to the
latter and the NWFP and Balochistan in the hands of the former.
And if you take a closer look at those who lead the king’s
party, you will find them more of a watered-down version of the
MMA leadership than champions of Musharraf’s Enlightened
the advent of Musharraf’s military rule, these forces of
obscurantism while being promoted and pampered by his institution
(to be used when needed as its political arm on the streets of
Pakistan or as a militant extensions in Afghanistan and Indian
Kashmir) had, however, found it almost impossible to acquire any
political significance inside elected parliaments. But since his
coming into power he has used these forces to deny moderate forces
their genuine political space in these elected houses.
he is the uniformed president of Pakistan because these very forces
of obscurantism had helped him to become one by voting for the
17th amendment. Ironically, these forces of obscurantism are today
shouting loud against his uniform claiming that he has gone back
on his promise to take it off by December 31, 2004. The rhetoric
of the two against each other has become so vicious and loud that
one is easily misled into believing that Musharraf’s real
opponents are not the moderate parties which are demanding immediate
return of the armed forces to the barracks followed by fair and
free elections under an independent and permanent election commission,
but the MMA which is sharing power with him and which would lose
all if such elections are held any time soon.
month, while talking to journalists in New York, he told a reporter
who thought the Indo-Pak peace process was making no headway on
the Kashmir issue, that he would not like to divulge at ‘this
juncture’ the details of what has already been achieved
on this score.
that is alright if he had shared these details with the elected
parliament and taken the opposition into confidence on the issue.
But going by the way he treats parliament and genuine opposition,
one can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that he has
not done this. In fact, it is he who has been calling the shots
all these years on all the important and unimportant matters concerning
Pakistan without consulting parliament or the cabinet.
on the issue of Pakistan’s image, he is the one who seems
more worried and is seen making visible efforts to give the image
a favorable spin. It is this single-minded image-making mission
of his which landed him in trouble in New York. And instead of
winning over the not-so-friendly US media he has, with one faux
pas, turned it into a vicious foe. One of the official justifications
for engaging Israel, shaking hands with Ariel Sharon (even European
leaders do not like to be seen publicly in his company or shaking
hands with him because of his bloody record) and opening one’s
heart to the World Jewish Congress is that it would help divert
the Israeli lobby-controlled US media’s attention from Pakistan
— and the negative stories coming out of it. This has not
happened. And well after the rape flap, that is, on October 1,
the Washington Post wrote a hard-hitting editorial against
Musharraf in which he was called a liar and stupid.
other official reason given for engaging Israel is to neutralize
the advantage India had achieved by recognizing Israel long way
back in 1992. This is nothing but self-delusion. And the claim
that Pakistan would now be in a position to contribute to the
Middle East peace process is all a flight of Islamabad’s
imagination. As a rich country’s diplomat put it recently,
Pakistan is not even a bit player in the Middle East theatre.
Israel has no intention of leaving the West Bank. It is resettling
those removed from Gaza in the West Bank to change the demography
of the West Bank in favor of Israelis so that it can create one
more ‘new reality’ there.
peace process in South Asia is proceeding in the right direction
and at the right pace. But it would save the nation a lot of future
embarrassment if Musharraf and his foreign office stopped reiterating
the impossible, that is, ‘we would never accept the LoC
as the final solution’. We have already done it by agreeing
to make the LoC softer for the Kashmiris, but as hard as a permanent
border for Pakistanis and the Indians. And they should also now
stop insisting publicly that the progress on two-way trade, investment
and transit facility should be made in tandem with progress on
Kashmir because the two countries are today trading more actively
than ever, the Indians have started investing in Pakistan through
the UAE and the proposed open skies agreement between the two
countries would render our objections to transit obsolete to a
in the last six years has changed the meanings of democracy, parliamentary
system of government, press freedom and the rule of law. For him
a democratic government means a government of the uniform, by
the uniform and for the uniform.
his dictionary the parliamentary system of government means a
government in which the president takes all the decisions while
parliament debates irrelevancies.
freedom in the absence of an independent judiciary and a strong
parliament is meaningless. The freedom of information law is a
misnomer. It is so restrictive that it should be named the denial
of information law. The press is certainly free to express all
kinds of opinion and harshest of criticism, but is not free to
publish facts and true information.
Dubai-based independent TV channels, which are totally dependent
on local cable operators, are being reined in through PEMRA laws,
which empower police to switch off the cable on any flimsy reason.
The press with the exception of a couple of newspapers has been
so manipulated that its independence and freedom have become a
farce. A couple of months back the SHO of an Islamabad Police
Station issued notices to all the newspapers of the capital that
if they published hate material they would be proceeded against
under some obscure law.
the newspapers protested to the Information Ministry, the notice
was withdrawn. But along with it the newspapers were ordered not
to publish the story of the incident. Every one, with one exception,
rule of law for Musharraf means strict enforcement of laws that
he promulgates from time to time. When he wanted a five-year term
for the chief and members of the Federal Public Service Commission
(FPSC) he gave it to them through an ordinance. But when they
started objecting to out-of-turn promotions with no regard to
merit and to unwarranted extensions in the service of contractual
officers, Musharraf changed the law itself to curtail their tenure
to three years.
president has been using his powers to make laws to create new
realities like Israel does in the occupied territories. And all
these new realities favor him while undermining the interests
of those who oppose him. He has changed Article 63 of the Constitution
in such a way that it makes it illegal for Benazir Bhutto to contest
elections or lead her party.
he issued an ordinance, which barred a third term for prime ministers.
This was Benazir and Nawaz specific law as both have held the
post twice. This is when he himself has been occupying a three-year-tenure
constitutional post of the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) for
the last seven years and is likely to keep the slot as long as
he remains the all powerful president of the country, an office
with which he seems to have entered into a Catholic marriage.
the LFO, which has become part of the Constitution after the 17th
amendment, he has institutionalized the military’s political
dominance and snatched the powers of the prime minister and reposed
them in the office of the president. Then the law barring undergraduates
to contest elections while curtailing the right of many experienced,
popular and moderate parliamentarians to hold representative offices,
qualified through some court ruling, the holders of madrassa certificates
to fight elections and enter parliament with all their obscurantic
laws were liberally used to coerce and tempt moderates into joining
the king’s party and those who refused to be coerced or
tempted were sent to jail. To reduce the PPP from the single largest
party in parliament after the 2002 elections and enable the king’s
party to become the majority party, Musharraf kept suspended the
law against crossing the floor until he had won over the required
number of PPP MNAs to get a PML-Q man elected as prime minister.
law was revived as soon as prime minister Jamali’s government
was installed at the center. The same tactics were used in Sindh
where too the PPP had emerged as the single largest party. To
get MMA’s cooperation to form the king’s party-led
government in Balochistan, two former JUI ministers of the MMA
who had been convicted of corruption and forgery were released.
PPP turncoats which styled themselves as Patriots and PML-N turncoats
who joined the PML-Q were allowed, again through some legal razzle
dazzle, to register their parties under the names of PPP and PML
President to Hold Another Office Bill 2004 providing President
Musharraf the legal cover to continue as Army Chief was passed
by majority vote. And the acting President Mohammad Mian Soomro,
a king’s party man, signed the bill citing national interest
in the face of domestic and international security threats. And
before the just concluded local government elections, the government
created new districts to erode the PPP’s popular base in
Sindh and that of the PML-N’s in the Punjab to increase
the PML-Q’s chances.
all other rulers of the past, Musharraf too seemingly has a short
fuse for the opposition. So, while he keeps on terrorizing his
friends in Washington and other European capitals with the idea
that if he goes or even takes off the uniform, the forces of obscurantism
(who he claims are the government-in-waiting today) would take
over, he has by and large decimated completely all the genuine
opposition through the laws he has framed himself, with the use
of a subservient judiciary and by rigging elections.
bright spot of Musharraf’s six-year rule has been the economy.
But then one must never forget as against the last four years
when the 9/11 related manna kept flowing in from all directions,
in the 10 years preceding Musharraf’s take-over Pakistan
had become perhaps one of the most sanctioned countries in the
world after Libya. It all started with the nuclear related Pressler
amendment sanctions, imposed by the US in September 1990. The
other bilateral and multilateral donors followed up in quick succession
and by the end of 1999 the tap had completely dried up. While
this was happening the IMF kept forcing successive governments
to slash development budgets to reduce the burgeoning budgetary
deficits which kept going up because of resort to heavy and expensive
borrowing in the absence of any concessional or other assistance.
all the manna he has been getting from all over the world and
the resultant high growth rates, Musharraf has failed to control
the widening gap between the rich and the poor. His government
is practicing one of the crassest economic systems which makes
the rich richer and the poor poorer. The sea of poverty has been
expanding while the ruling elite is basking in the sunshine of
prosperity on the island of vulgar wealth.
is a sure recipe for social upheaval, which brings us to the frequently
asked question: If all is that bad, why don’t the people
agitate against the government?
the people of Pakistan did agitate in 1969, in 1971 and 1977.
But at the end of the first agitation, a new general took over.
At the end of the second one, a general kicked the majority out
of Pakistan. And at the end of third one, another general took
people don’t seem any more interested in sending one general
home to bring in a new one or let a general kick out the residual
majority. Today, if they are called to vote, no matter how blatantly
rigged the elections are, they go to the polling stations, cast
their votes and go home in silence. However, after the just concluded
local government elections, most of these voters are likely to
stay home in the elections of 2007.
writer is a senior Islamabad based journalist and Resident Editor
of Daily Dawn, Islamabad. This article first appeared in the Magazine
Section of Daily Dawn, Karachi