February 3, 2008


Filed under: MILITARY RULE — civilsocietypakistan @ 12:34 am
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FEBRUARY 03, 2008

The demand that President Pervez Musharraf should resign, now being made in a rising tempo by a cross section of the society is to some extent misplaced. This is so for the simple reason that simply resigning would be the easier way out and would mean that a lot of what needs to be undone by the president would remain as it is. Some well known religious scholars are the latest public figures to join the resignation bandwagon following a similar demand made by retired military officers, some of them till recently close associates of the president. The major political parties have for long insisted that no elections under him can be accepted as free, fair and transparent. Washington has also changed its tune and senior officials now say the US policy is no longer tied to an individual but to the people of Pakistan and they will work with any party or leader who wins the Feb elections. A close aide of the president has very candidly conceded that if the elections go against Mr Musharraf he may quit. This indication has been repeatedly given by the president himself in different ways, although his logic has been less convincing as he says he would quit only when he feels he has become unpopular and only he would determine if and when that may happen.

The resignation demand is misplaced because Mr Musharraf still has a small window of opportunity to correct the course of many things while he stays as the head of state. It is no overstatement that for most of the severe crises the country is facing: the judiciary crisis, power shortages, wheat and atta scandals, gas, CNG, suicide bombings, law and order, media curbs etc., he is seen as the man responsible although whenever he talks about these issues he puts the blame on someone else, never admitting his own role. It is also true that the man who should actually have been hauled up for most of these governance issues, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, has quietly left the country and detached himself from the scene, leaving Mr Musharraf to face the music. So in such a situation, walking away from the scene, like Mr Aziz, would not be the best option for Mr Musharraf and the country. He has been running the show for almost 10 years, as COAS and then as president and if he realizes what is wrong, he can be the best person to redress the wrongs.

The biggest crisis he faces is the credibility gap and the deep-rooted perception that whatever he does is to perpetuate his own rule. Last year’s March 9 blunder, all subsequent actions to maul and clobber the constitution, assault on the media, detention of superior court judges and their families, were all seen as acts of self-preservation. Let Mr Musharraf begin by removing this perception. He should announce that as soon as the newly elected parliament can elect a new president, he will quit. But before that he should also undo all the constitutional abuses, restore the free judiciary and the judges, change the partisan caretaker setup in the centre and the provinces, appoint a credible and genuine election commissioner, suspend all the nefarious administrative influences like nazims and blue-eyed officers who can subvert a free and fair election. In other words, he should preside over the transition in a dignified and respectable way. Once the job is done, he could pass into history as a man vindicated and honoured. The alternative that he has in mind, of quitting if he becomes unpopular, is the easier way out. He should find out why he is unpopular and do something about it. He should think of Pakistan first, as he so often says.


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