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Goodbye Musharraf!

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries: Shakespeare

Jabid Husain

In the face of mounting political pressure, growing isolation and the certainty of impeachment,

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf inspects the honour of guard
during the farewell ceremony at the presidency in Islamabad.

Musharraf has finally resigned. He was politically finished after all the four provincial assemblies, which formed part of the electoral college for the election of the president, had expressed their lack of confidence in him as the president of the country. The importance of Musharraf's rejection by the assemblies of the four units of the Federation could not be exaggerated. After all, the President is the symbol of the unity of the Federation and a person who has lost the trust and confidence of its constituent units has no political and moral right to remain as the Head of State. The actual impeachment process which was to unfold soon in the parliament would have fulfilled the legal requirement for Musharraf's removal from the office of the president which he had illegally occupied far too long.

In fact, Musharraf should have seen the writing on the wall after the February 18 election in which the people of Pakistan rejected overwhelmingly Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), the King's Party, and his rule. But Musharraf, true to his Machiavellian character, refused to face the harsh reality, which was staring him in the face. In this flight from reality, he was undoubtedly encouraged by the coterie of his advisers belonging to the bureaucracy and the legal profession for whom their self-interest mattered more than the destiny of the nation. Equally to blame were the politicians of the PML-Q variety who continued to encourage him to stay on knowing full well that their own political future was doomed once Musharraf was out of power.

It was pathetic to see Musharraf defend his record by misrepresenting facts and by being economical with truth in his last address to the nation as the president. In fact, in the eight long years of his misrule, Musharraf systematically destroyed each and every institution of the state be it the legislature, the executive or the judiciary besides tarnishing the image and reputation of the army by making it serve his personal agenda rather than national interests. The deep involvement of the army in politics and civilian affairs under Musharraf's rule inevitably had negative consequences for professionalism in this vital security institution. The army, therefore, needed to be saved from Musharraf. Fortunately, this happened last year when under intense internal and external pressure, Musharraf was forced to take off his uniform and pass on the command of the army to General Kayani. Hopefully, the steps taken by the incumbent COAS soon after taking over the command of the army will put a definite end to its involvement in politics which has been the main source of many of the country's ills and cause of many of the disasters that the nation has faced.

Musharraf claimed in his last TV address that he had always kept the national interest above his personal interest. Nothing could be further from truth. One would like to ask him whether he was thinking of the national interest when in the face of his dismissal order he violated the constitution and his oath of honour and overthrew a democratically elected government on October 12, 1999. Was he guided by the national interest when he held a rigged referendum to perpetuate himself in power? Did the national interest prick his conscience when he forced the intelligence agencies to rig the 2002 general election and distort the democratic process in the country?

Did he suspend Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in the national interest in March last year after he had cancelled the irregular privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills which suffered from allegations of corruption and had dared to question the intelligence establishment in the cases of disappeared Pakistanis? (The tragic case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui's mysterious disappearance from Karachi five years ago along with her three young children and her equally mysterious reappearance in the US custody last month have left many questions unanswered about the possible role of Musharraf's government in her disappearance.) Was the national interest uppermost in his mind when he celebrated at a public function in Islamabad the lawlessness and the tragic killing of innocent Pakistanis in Karachi on May 12, 2007? Did the national interest bother him at all on November 3 last year when for the second time he violated the constitution and his oath, and carried out a virtual massacre of the superior judiciary to get himself re-elected as the president through a fraudulent process?

A Pakistani man takes a picture with his cellphone of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addressing the nation on the television. AFP PHOTO/Banaras KHAN

Besides the repeated violations of the constitution and the perversion of the democratic process in the country, Musharraf is responsible for having pursued deeply flawed internal and external policies which have shaken the economic foundation of the country, worsened the law and order situation, aggravated the threat of terrorism, destabilised the country politically and exposed the country to serious external security threats. In short, Musharraf's rule despite his fallacious claims to the contrary has been an unmitigated disaster for Pakistan. National interest, therefore, demanded his immediate departure from the presidency.

To save his office, Musharraf also urged everybody to follow the path of national reconciliation instead of confrontation easily forgetting his own confrontationist approach in matters of state. As the chief of the army staff, he was responsible for confrontation with the government of the day in 1999. Last year he pursued this confrontationist course against the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the rest of the superior judiciary with disastrous results for the country. Basically Musharraf's appeal for national reconciliation was aimed at enabling him to remain in power.

There was a time a few years ago when Musharraf could have taken the lead in bringing about national reconciliation by inviting all the political leaders, whether inside or out of the country, to a conference for working out a democratic framework based on national consensus. Fair and free elections could have been held thereafter for handing over power to the democratically elected government. If he had shown the courage and the wisdom to do so, he might have been remembered with kind words in the country's history despite his many transgressions. But that was way back in 2005 or even in 2006 when the nation was in dire need of such far-sightedness to escape from the growing political instability which has inevitably led to the serious economic and security crises currently engulfing the country. This scribe like many others publicly gave this advice to which Musharraf, who was flying high at the time, turned a deaf ear.

Musharraf through his conduct proved conclusively that because of his penchant for total power and his disregard of the constitution and the law, he was incompatible with political stability or the functioning of genuine democracy in Pakistan. It was, therefore, about time for him to resign considering the hopelessness of his political position and the political, economic and security damage that his continued presence in the presidency was causing to the nation. There was no room for an unrepentant usurper in a democratic order in Pakistan. His departure from the presidency will allow the nation to heave a sigh of relief and put an end to the state of suspense and uncertainty from which it was suffering. Already the economic indicators are reacting positively to Musharraf's resignation. Hopefully, this would also allow the ruling coalition to restore the judges of the Supreme and High Courts and focus on good governance with a view to overcoming the serious economic and security crises facing the nation.

This article was first published in The Nation, Pakistan. Courtesy: Asian News Network.

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