Is Musharaff all that bad?
It’s being said that Pakistan is in a terrible shape, worse than it ever was. That there is anarchy and there is a threat of civil war. I have never been an ardent follower of Pakistani politics but I thought I would try to find out where exactly Pakistan was before Mush took over. Has General Pervez Musharaff really brought Pakistan to the brink?
As this bbc article says, before his overthrow in a military coup in 1999 by Musharaff, Nawaz Sharif had been accused of corruption and also of fiddling with the constitution. He had problems with the judiciary too, same as Musharraf:
He controversially reversed a constitutional amendment which took away the president’s powers to dismiss the prime minister. A power struggle with the judiciary also gripped the country after Mr. Sharif fell out with the then Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah.
So I think it should have been expected that, who has never pretended to be an elected ruler will do worse.
Benazir Bhutto, who was PM before Sharif has been accused of corruption and in fact the charges against her have been proven in Pakistani courts. Bhutto also did not live up to her election promises, amongst those the repeal of the Hudood and Zina ordinances. Well, she lost the elections to Sharif…and paid for her misdeeds to some extent.
This might seem as if I am on the side of Mushurraf and that I believe that he is neither better nor worse than Bhutto or Sharif.
Not really. Because whether Bhutto or Sharif are ideal leaders or not is quite besides the point. The point is that they were elected. Sure, they were probably all those things that they accused of…but they did get to where they were by the democratic process.
But surely this is obvious?
It is to me and probably to you too. But I remember clearly the day when Musharaff took over, way back in 1999. I remember seeing images of people celebrating on the streets of Pakistan. I thought for a while that this must be orchestrated but then Imran Khan was interviewed by an Indian TV channel and he said he was happy that Musharaff was taking over! Imran did in fact support Musharaff, although he is an ardent critic now. I could never understand this, but soon I realised that a lot of educated people were supporting Musharaff. Even though Nawaj Sharif had subverted the democratic processes, to my mind (and to the world too) martial law was worse. But not everyone in Pakistan thought so. As it says here:
For many, particularly the outsiders, a military take over would be questionable and undemocratic, but for Pakistanis who have been groaning under the hardships inflicted on them by the corrupt and mismanaged administration, it is certainly a relief.
There were other supporters of the takeover by Musharaff – a section of the media:
Pakistani papers scrutinizing General Musharraf’s address to the nation last Sunday concluded that there was “much to be welcomed” since, in the words of Karachi’s centrist News, “he touched on precisely the issues that had been agitating the people.” That said, however, the News and many others wondered whether Pakistan was in for a “prolonged period of military rule” since the general’s remarks had fallen short of spelling out a precise time frame for a return to “true democracy.”
Two monstrously humbuggish groups pontificated about the dismissal of the rampantly corrupt Sharif regime: they are the European Union and the Commonwealth. Never reluctant to take on soft targets, both demanded immediate ‘restoration’ of democracy in Pakistan. They don’t know what they are talking about, because there was no democracy…. Pakistan was not democratic; it is being placed on the course to democracy, and the critics should shut up until there is something to really criticize.
Well, now there is something to criticize. The military genie who has been released won’t get back into the bottle…
To me at least this shows how important it is to see one’s country from an outsider’s point of view. That view may be biased or wrong, but one should not dismiss the criticism summarily. The fact that a section of the media supported Mush in the belief that he would restore democracy is something I fail to understand.
Where India is concerned we have our politicians whom I never hesitate to criticize but anyday I prefer a corrupt politician or an inept one over a military dictator because I can look forward to a time when the electorate gets it right…even if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime!
(Picture from the bbc)