WASHINGTON DC, June 27, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Time for Opposition to Stop Vacillating on How to Deal With Musharraf

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

LONDON, June 27: Military rulers have, since Pakistan became an independent state, preferred to survive through the Goebbellian art of imposing lies on the Pakistani people and adopting an ostrich-like mind set to deceive themselves.

Since they believe that power flows from the barrel of the gun, they look for legitimacy abroad with their foreign masters rather than their own people. Without having that stature, they have a tendency to masquerade as Asian De Gaulles. However, at the end of the road, it is Pakistan and its people that have suffered.

Remember General Yahya's Pakistan was described by the Western media as a country run by pimps and prostitutes. Pakistan envisaged by its founding fathers as a secular, progressive democracy was plunged into an inferno of Talibanisation, heroin and Kalashnikov cultures by General Zia. It continues to reap the bitter harvest of the seeds of sectarianism and ethnicity sowed by him.

In our times of the great conqueror General Perez Musharraf, Pakistan has acquired a three-dimensional image of Yahya Khan-1 (YK1), worst of the evils that Zia had bequeathed to the nation as his surviving legacy and combination of the two plus his own contribution that has made Pakistan the epicenter of global terrorism, most militarized state, criminalized the entire society, put it in the grip of land grabbers' mafia with generals, their kith and kin leading them all.

Thomas Hobbes's description suits Musharraf's Pakistan. He has rendered life of our men and women, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Never before in the history of Pakistan so many rapes of innocent women were committed every day, never before law courts and law-enforcing agencies were either so helpless or in connivance with the criminals as now.

Never before so many jobless people sought refuge from their miseries in suicides as under Musharraf's Pakistan. To rub salt into nation's injuries, he calls his bloody, ruthless and lawless reign as "enlightened moderation."

Due to successive military rulers and their anti-people policies Pakistan has acquired a vicious global image. Whatever be Musharraf's claims its very existence is suspect for its continued patronage to terrorism, involvement in proliferation of nuclear arms, drug trade and distortion of Mr Jinnah's secularly democratic Pakistan into a hydra-headed monster that tolerates no dissent, has no room for liberalism and where even there is no premium on peaceful co-existence among various communities.

Minorities and women have to live in fear of oppressive and selective state application of laws pertaining to blasphemy and male victimization of female population.

Indeed, image-wise Pakistan has come to such a deplorable pass that it is even bothering the man who would not be able to wash off his own sins with entire perfumery of the world.

Known among the chattering classes for his amusing life style as YK2, Pakistan's generalissimo is desperate in giving a 'soft' image to Pakistan not by improving the quality of life for its people but by denying them international exposure. If he could have his ways, he would have preferred to erect an iron curtain around the country.

Since he cannot have that, he has chosen as a first measure, to stop travel abroad especially to the United States, of that brave lady Mukhtaran Bibi, a victim of gang rape and later government kidnapping, ban on travel abroad and other usual harassments. Musharraf, representing a perverted mind set, in the words of Nicholas D. Kristof, is rather defensive about Pakistan's image. He shows preference to cover up brutality rather than taking concrete and effective measures to uproot it.

Surely, the question of Pakistan's image and as a consequence of it treatment of Pakistanis as suspects the very moment they step out side their country is a constant source of irritancy and worry to those who still take pride in the higher ideals of liberalism and egalitarianism for which it had come into being.

It is a considered view of the Pakistani liberal intellectuals and academics that a ban on travel of victims of gang rape does not offer a solution for image-improvement. Time has come for the nation and the military establishment to get to the bottom of the problem. Our image as a worst
truant in the community of nations is not only because of growing number of rapes but because of our failure to respond to such horrific crimes in a manner that would minimize them.

And for that, we will have to resolve the much larger question about our existence itself. Pakistan is bursting at its seams because its ruling elite especially from amongst the over bearing, oppressive and possessive military establishment, have betrayed the democratic and secular ideals that the country was created for.

I am sure a truthful Mukhtaran Mai, if allowed to go abroad, would be a better representative of Pakistan than General Pervez Musharraf who has done immense harm by disclosing it to the foreign media in Australia that it was he who had ordered to ban travel abroad for Mukhtaran Mai since he feared she would foul mouth Pakistan and further tarnish the country's image, particularly in the United States from where he receives most of his support to perpetuate his illegitimate hold on power.

Musharraf needs to be told that it is not Mukhtaran Mai who would bring notoriety to Pakistan but it is he who has done the most damage to the country's image abroad by denying its people their democratic rights, by clandestinely supporting terrorists and by letting them use Pakistan as epicenter of global terrorism.

What a sorry figure Pakistan was reduced to in Auckland when its commando president did not have the courage to face the media and had to cancel his pre-scheduled interviews at the last minute. The interviews were scheduled for Radio New Zealand's 'Nine to Noon' and the TV One program 'Agenda'.

How embarrassing it was for Pakistan when 'Agenda' producer Richard Harman later disclosed to his media colleagues that no explanation was given for the cancellation of the interview. However, a New Zealand Foreign Affairs spokesman claimed that the decision to cancel the interviews was made by Pakistani authorities

Other media questions planned were related to restoration of genuine democracy through free and transparent elections and return of Pakistan's only leader of international standing Ms Benazir Bhutto. "They were all ready with grinded knives to make mince meat of his claim of being the champion of enlightened moderation in Pakistan where he was running the affairs of the state with a whip," disclosed an Auckland media source.

Despite Mukhtaran Mai's solemn commitment that she would be the last person to foul mouth Pakistan abroad especially in the United States where she is invited by several NGOs, the fate of her travel abroad remains a question mark.

As against Musharraf's contention that her visit will further tarnish Pakistan's image, pamphlets are doing the rounds in Islamabad that many thousand of such rape cases cannot harm as much of country's image as the rape of Pakistan's constitution by the General which entitles him to be tried for treason and be given death sentence.

"Musharraf being a hard nut to crack, would not listen to de marches such as made by Condy Rice once he has taken up a stand. He knows that notwithstanding her distaste of his actions, Bush would ensure that she gets to keep her mouth shut since his relations with the general are much more intimate and many Mukhtaran Mais can be sacrificed to keep him happy", disclosed a source from the Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad.

While we do not know yet whether Mukhtaran Mai will be allowed to travel abroad or not, Musharraf junta continues to be at it on the domestic political front. Its wired pen pushers are busy spinning the yarn about the possibilities of it arriving at a deal with PPP.

PPP, however, has dismissed the planted stories of fresh contacts with the government as regime's persistent disinformation campaign. According to PPP no fresh contacts had taken place between the PPP and the regime after talks broke down when the regime made an aborted attempt to take over the leadership of the party from Benazir Bhutto.

Senator Farhatullah Babar expressed these views in response to the press reports that the government had made some fresh proposals to the PPP. There had been no further contacts after PPP had rejected regime's proposal for abdication of party leadership by Ms Bhutto besides not returning the country even after the next general elections and to accept the 17th constitutional amendments.

Analysts are absolutely right in believing that Musharraf's primary objective is to eliminate Ms Bhutto's leadership one way or the other, through political means or by persecution. There has been no let up in this twin-strategy and the victimization of the party and its leaders continues much more venomously and rigorously than ever before.

As a consequence of this approach regime's lawyers in Geneva are insisting that ex-Senator Asif Ali Zardari personally appear before the investigators next month knowing full well that doctors have advised him complete rest and travel and stress can endanger his life.

The manner in which Zahid Bhurgury MPA Sindh was arrested, hooded and handcuffed and other PPP parliamentarians harassed shows to what extent Musharraf can distort and disfigure his so-called "enlightened moderation."

Notwithstanding the fact Musharraf's Western mentors knowing well that his days are numbered and that they would like to see democracy return through transparent elections while he is still there to save Pakistan an upheaval of internal turmoil and take over by the extremists, they have been trying to promote the need for some sort of understanding between political forces and the regime.

However, it is obvious that these overtures cannot succeed in the conditions of hostility pursued by the regime. "Such reports are fed by the regime to confuse the people and cause a division in the ranks of ARD," says PPP Spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar. He said that neither Ms Bhutto nor the PPP was mulling over any so-called offer to join the helpless government that had no powers to help the people of Pakistan.

According to him the establishment thinks that it can blackmail Benazir Bhutto into accepting General Musharraf and abdicating party leadership by flaunting the fabricated cases against her based on false allegations leveled by the rulers in Islamabad before authorities in Geneva that had already been disproved in Pakistan's highest court.

Besides, the regime keeps feeding stories to the press that a deal is on the anvil with the PPP. It has done this since 2000 to give the impression of lowering political tensions at home and to satisfy the concern of those who are worried that a political vacuum is adding strength to the religious parties that already owe it all to Musharraf.

In the light of vicious machinations and Musharraf's Machiavellian politics of one-step forward, two steps backward, analysts feel that time is ripening in Pakistan when the political leadership shall have to decide to have it out with Musharraf a do-or-die way.

If they waste any more time in vacillating then matters would go out of their hands and the torch will pass then into the hands of the masses who will prefer to sort it out fighting one day rather committing suicides every day for want of jobs, food for their children, medicine for the sick and respectable way of life.

The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK

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