The Legacy of Pervez Musharraf?

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The Legacy of Pervez Musharraf?

Postby sohail on Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:13 pm

Pervez Musharraf resigned as president of Pakistan on August 18. He had no choice for he was about to be humiliated through a historic impeachment. The pressure to reseign, as an alternate to impeachment, had become irresistible. The people of Pakistan had already rejected him and his policies on Feb 18 general elections. The people of Pakistan were sick of him because he did not see the writing on the wall, so to speak. In the end, even President George W Bush abandoned him in his last days. It was coming. His downfall had started with the removal of the chief justice in March 2007. The lawyers protested the illegal move.
The year 2007 was the worst in the Musharraf rule. He committed very serious blunders. Musharraf sacked and arrested a sitting chief justice of Pakistan. Lawyers and members of civil society protested as never before in history. Musharraf lost a legal battle in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on July 20, 2007 and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was restored. He never overcame the humiliation of the legal defeat. Musharraf made a deal with exiled opposition leader Benazir Bhutto with the help of US and UK. Musharraf agreed to take off his Army uniform and hold fresh elections. Benazir had returned to Pakistan in October 2007 under a deal with Musharraf. Bhutto agreed to support the war against terrorism in return for free and fair elections.

However, Benazir and Musharraf did not trust each other. Then, Musharraf imposed emergency in Pakistan on November 3, 2007 mainly against the Supreme Court. The media was also restricted. Later, the death of Benazir last December caused a great problem for Musharraf’s rule. Earlier, Benazir was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi. This assassination was a blow to Musharraf. He lost his popularity in Pakistan completely. There was an outpouring of grief and public riots followed. The government just stood by and did not stop the violence. Most importantly, the Army decided to avoid Musharraf to save its own credibility. Musharraf even delayed elections for one month and intended to rig the elections, as before. However, Musharraf’s rigging plot went no where as the Army decided to stay away from the elections The new Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani then ordered the ISI, the country’s premier intelligence agency, not to support any political party in the general election. This neutrality of the Army was a big setback for Musharraf. In the February 18, 2008 general elections Musharraf’s supporters lost with huge margins. The general elections were the rejection of Musharraf but he never saw it that way. Unfortunately by now he had lost touch with reality.
The people of Pakistan wanted their government to secure the county against disorder and chaos. The Musharraf regime did not deliver on this score. Hence, its popularity deteriorated tremendously. Plus, the economic growth has not reached the poor of Pakistan. Poverty has increased and is now approaching 40% of the population. Notwithstanding the claims of Musharraf, Pakistan is certainly not shining nor is on a trajectory of sustainable and balanced economic growth. The capitalist class in Pakistan is doing well at the cost of the teeming millions of hapless Pakistanis. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. This is a formula for a tremendous explosion of popular anger and frustration. The monopolistic and rapacious tendencies of the greedy capitalist class remained largely greedy, unscrupulous and also unchecked, thanks to the indifference of Musharraf and his overly corrupt political allies. It is an astonishing fact in Pakistan that less only about 2% of citizens pay income taxes. Musharraf has been in power for nearly nine years and has failed to deliver. He has subjugated all political institutions under his own self. Musharraf has turned into a comical figure unable to understand that his time is up. Many a dictator before him has fallen into the same trap. They come into power amidst high hopes and incidentally, great public support, only to loose touch with reality in the trappings of power. Actually General Musharraf had tremendous support in his early years as he was perceived as an honest person. He is now known to have amassed great wealth through his office. Tall promises were largely not kept. His tall rhetoric was just too much in the end. Musharraf gradually lost the earlier goodwill, as he was unable to deliver, as per the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Then, the public seemed to have gotten tired of the misrule of the civilians rulers, namely Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who also did not come up to the high expectations of the people of Pakistan. In their defense, it has been long argued that they never got a chance since the Army brass was always breathing down their necks and their hands were tied. There is some merit in this argument. Indeed civilian rulers of this period (1988-199) were not allowed to rule because of Army pressures. For instance, the civilian rulers had no say in defense and foreign affairs, much to their discomfort and obvious embarrassment. Such was the Army clout then. The other argument is that they also failed to deliver. There is some merit here also. The civilian governments could have done many things significant for Pakistan. Nevertheless, the civilian rulers did not perform well in the limited scope of their given governing authority. The military did leave them to do as they wished in the social sector, for instance. Why the civilians failed in this is to speak about their own ineptitude and incapacity rather than any manipulation by the military brass as such. Obviously, the military would not have interfered in such areas as local government, governance of the social sectors, and the like. Unfortunately, it was the failure of the Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto governments to make a mark in these areas, albeit limited ones. The point is that the people of Pakistan had supported Musharraf in the early years of his rule because he had promised to clean up the mess left by the two civilian governments that had preceded him in power. This explains the tremendous support of the people for Musharraf. But, he squandered the goodwill and support of the people because of his own limitations. Musharraf was given to rhetoric, selfishness beyond imagination and gradually turned into a megalomaniac character. A tragedy for Pakistan was in the making. The country suffered from endemic corruption and bad governance, as before. There was now nothing new under the sun for the poor Pakistanis.
The development indices of Pakistan are shamefully low. The social sector is backward. Infrastructure is largely poor or non-existent. The people are suffering because of unprecedented inflation, energy crisis and food shortages. The urban areas are in pitiable shape. Service delivery is very poor or even non-existent in many such areas. The countryside is even worse. Schools and hospitals are malfunctioning. Police services are corrupt. The bureaucracy is malfunctioning. Poverty is increasing. Unemployment is high. Most importantly, the people have lost faith in Musharraf. The new political dispensation must be allowed to continue. There is no other option. Let the politicians deliver. Whether they are successful or fail let the people decide. We cannot allow army generals to rule the country, as per their own majestic dreams and understanding of what is important for Pakistan. Given the myopic view of the military brass, they are bound to failure. The military brass does not understand politics or the nature of Pakistani society. The sheer complexity of Pakistan is simply beyond their grasp. Politics is the art of compromise to which the military is neither suited by temperament nor by professional and training. Any pretense is foolishness. Musharraf prided himself as knowing Pakistan fully. He was misguided but believed otherwise. The country had suffered resultantly. It is now hoped that things will change for the better. Let the civilian order continue and even let the civilian rulers fail, if they have to. Success or failure is to be decided by the people and only be the people. After all, this is the essence of democracy. The people must be given a chance to use their collective wisdom. If the present civilian rulers do not understand their historic opportunity and responsibility then in the next general elections the people of Pakistan will surely throw out the civilian politician rascals, so to speak. The problematic transformation of power from a military rule to a civilian is on-going in Pakistan. Musharraf was a symbol of Pakistan’s past military rule. Therefore, that symbol had to be vanquished in the greater national interest of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Western friends, especially the USA, must intervene immediately to cast its tremendous influence and support to the move by the ruling coalition government to restore governance in Pakistan. The governance crisis of Pakistan is deadly serious. Given the global war on terrorism, Pakistan cannot be allowed to fail yet again. The transition to civilian rule must be completed now.

What is Musharraf’s legacy? Musharraf ruled Pakistan for about nine years but he never was able to overcome the basic legitimacy factor. He had come into power through a bloodless coup and not through the ballot. That was his basic problem which could not be overcome. A tragic failure of historic proportions indeed. The federation has been weakened considerably because of these long spells of military rule. Resultantly, the foundations of Pakistan’s institutions have been considerably weakened. The independence of the parliament and judiciary never actually happened. The parliament served as a rubber stamp at best and the judiciary was a pliant affair also. Both were also corrupt and inefficient to say the least. The executive – read the military – ruled the roost. No one was able to challenge its supremacy. The nascent political system was destroyed yet again by Musharraf. Elections were rigged and a king’s party took over in 2002. It was only under great public pressure that general elections were held in February 2008. Musharraf was reluctant to hold elections but was forced to do so by the democratic political forces now active in Pakistan having the support of the people of Pakistan. But there is more to his legacy. On the positive side, the Musharaf era has seen decent economic growth and dramatic expansion in certain sectors like IT, banking, media and automobile manufacturing, etc. There was spectacular increase in taxation revenue from Rs 350 billion in 1999 to Rs 1,000 billion in 2007. Undeniably, the country’s economy had improved impressively as opposed to the sluggish growth during the 1990s decade. The media was freed and was opened , as never before in Pakistan’s history. Plus, a formidable nuclear establishment was built during the last few years. The education sector, at least higher education, saw dramatic development also. Though quality education was yet a pipe dream for most Pakistanis. Musharrf did empower women in Pakistan as more and more of them entered the mainstream of society. Undoubtedly, space for woman and minorities had been increased during the period. But in the end, Mushrraf had destroyed Pakistan’s major institutions which led to his resignation. His rule will be remembered for his relentless attacks on the constitution, democracy and the notion of rule of law. Thus, the overall legacy of Musharraf is that of utter failure.
Musharraf is still in Pakistan. But he will definitely realize that he is no more welcome in his homeland and eventually will leave most probably for Saudi Arabia.

What next steps?

Firstly, the restoration of the deposed higher judiciary

Secondly, the election of new President by the electoral; college which comprises the parliament and the four provincial assemblies. The role played by PPP and Nawaz Sharif is going to be very crucial now. The earlier push for Musharraf's removal through impeachment had gained steam because of the joint efforts of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN. Earlier, Pakistan's four provincial assemblies had called for his resignation or to face impeachment. This was expected. The resolutions were non-binding. However, they had a great political value. The PPP – the lead party in the ruling coalition – had insisted that Musharraf be impeached first before the restoration of the judiciary, as demanded by the PMLN – the junior partner of the ruling coalition. The impeachment never happened as Musharraf quit on August 18. The impeachment would have certainly been a long drawn process. The parliamentary process to unseat Musharraf would also have be a great historic development in Pakistan’s beleaguered history. .

It is hoped these two parties agree to build the new coalition government. Earlier, The PPP – the lead party in the ruling coalition – had insisted that Musharraf be impeached first before the restoration of the judiciary, as demanded by the PMLN – the junior partner of the ruling coalition. Now that Musharraf is out the judiciary should be restored. How ever, the immediate restoration of the judiciary seemed problematic. This will create problems in the coalition. The lawyers’ movement was indeed historic in Pakistan. A first in the country’s history. Pakistanis can be proud of this development for sure. The restoration of the judiciary is problematic. The layers are giving the coalition time to deliver. Most probably, the lawyers will start another round of agitation when the said restoration doesn’t happen as demanded by them.
Although he certainly deserved it, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry might not be restored to his position. The PPP is not very enthusiastic about him.
Meanwhile, the Army is expected to support the election of the new president and possible restoration of the judiciary. The crucial element in this endgame of Musharraf was the stance of the Army. It seemed that he had little support among the Army brass. Earlier, the army chief had clearly indicated that he wanted the Army to stay out of politics. To his credit, General Kayani, army chief, had distanced himself from the increasingly unpopular Musharraf. He has ordered the army to stay out of politics. Period.
Pakistan was created by a political movement and the military had no role in it. Rather, it was military dictatorship of General Ayub (1958-1969) and General Yahya (1969-1971) that East Pakistan was lost and seceded into Bangladesh in December 1971. Pakistan had been dismembered because of military misrule. The Pakistan military has fought three wars against India. It has never won any war. The military has no business in ruling Pakistan. Precious and scarce resources are being diverted into the country’s defense while the people are deprived of a decent standard of living.

Earlier, the army chief had clearly indicated that he wanted the Army to stay out of politics. To his credit, General Kayani, army chief, had distanced himself from the increasingly unpopular Musharraf. He has ordered the army to stay out of politics. Period. The Army will want the election to take place immediately. It will support the development.

Musharraf resignation will obviously damage US-Pakistan relations. These relations are going to be increasingly problematic as the new civilian leadership in Pakistan will revaluate its role in the Global war on Terror in so many ways. This will affect Pakistan-Afghanistan relation obviously. Musharraf had long been an ally of the United States, which has sent Pakistan at least $10 billion in aid during his rule primarily to fight Islamic terrorism. The USA insisted on Musharraf to take strong military action in FATA to deprive Islamic militants of the sanctuary they have had been able to establish along Pakistan’s long and rugged border with Afghanistan. But the war in Afghanistan is going badly and Musharraf came under tremendous pressure to do more in the Global War on Terrorism. Military action inside Pakistan has led to hundreds of civilian dead and then led to a public outcry against the use of force inside the country. Meanwhile, terrorist incidents inside the country spread fear and feelings of great insecurity in the country’s populace. The military was relying on too much use of force as opposed to non-military options to restore security inside Pakistan itself. The military was increasingly becoming unpopular because of this situation inside Pakistan. The people of Pakistan wanted their government to secure the county against disorder and chaos. The Musharraf regime did not deliver on this score. Hence, its popularity deteriorated tremendously. Now that Musharraf is out, the US-Pakistan relation ship will be affected. It will never be that cozy as before. The civilian leadership is expected to disagree more with the USA on its conduct of the Global War on Terror. Relations will deteriorate with the USA for sure. It will never be the same as before. As regards the consequences of this resignation to the India, it shall most probably be seen as a positive development. India will continue to improve relations with Pakistan.
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