CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

February 22, 2008

Pervez Musharraf (what had we done to deserve him?) has been the biggest disaster to hit Pakistan

Filed under: POST-ELECTIONS 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:04 am
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Retreat into folly or the dawn of wisdom?
Islamabad diary

Friday, February 22, 2008
Ayaz Amir

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” –Cromwell dismissing the Rump Parliament in April 1653

No words are more apt to our present situation. Pervez Musharraf (what had we done to deserve him?) has been the biggest disaster to hit Pakistan since that other great saviour who in his time bestrode the national scene, Gen Yahya Khan. To Yahya at least goes the credit of doing his demolition job in two and a half years. Musharraf has been at it for 3-4 times that period, his extended demolition job shaking the country to its foundations.

But is he listening? The people of Pakistan have given him and his army of flunkeys the order of the boot but he wants to soldier on. Yahya wanted to continue as president even after the loss of East Pakistan. Musharraf wants to cling to the presidency no matter how comprehensive his humiliation on Feb 18.

Bleeding hearts and assorted do-gooders, of whom there is no shortage in this country, are pleading with him to do the decent thing and quit. They might as well be pleading to the mountains. He’ll go, that’s for sure, but he’ll have to be taken to the exit door kicking and screaming. Pakistan’s self-declared ‘strongmen, cardboard affairs most of them, washed their hands off a sense of dignity a long time ago.

But let’s not bother ourselves too much about someone who is already yesterday’s person. The country has to step into the future because the past is no option at all. The call to restore the deposed justices is getting stronger. The Black Coats will not rest until that is achieved. That is the best medicine Musharraf can get. Meanwhile if he chooses to twist in the wind, let him.

But what’s with our politicos? Haven’t they learned their lessons? Why did Asif Zardari have to go calling on the American ambassador? It’s easy to say Musharraf should cultivate a sense of dignity. How about our leading political lights cultivating a sense of propriety? Musharraf’s great fault was he couldn’t think for himself and allowed our American friends to do his thinking for him. Which only goes to underscore the irony that just when the people of Pakistan are showing Musharraf the exit door, another bunch of politicos are receiving political tutorials from our American godfathers.

Come on, comrades, enough of these games. It is the people of Pakistan, not citizens of America, who have given the PPP the commanding position in these elections. Time our leaders learned to listen to their own people. Flirting with America at this time is simply the wrong signal to send. Circumstances have pushed Zardari into a position where the nation expects him to conduct himself like a statesman. Power games divorced completely from principle are the last thing the people of Pakistan want at this point.

So what should happen or, in Lenin’s evocative words (which still have a fire to them after all these years), ‘what is to be done’? No need to invoke the higher gods of mathematics to arrive at the conclusion that the PPP and the PML-N should come to a broad understanding about how jointly to shoulder the burden of restoring democracy and erecting a stable political order. Being the largest party the PPP should form the government at the centre, even if it doesn’t have a majority. The PML-N should support this government but not sit in it. The PPP should rely on PML-N support rather than on the support of dubious allies (whom there is no point in naming).

The PML-N should form the government in Punjab and the PPP should support this government but without demanding any ministries. We can thus have unity of command (remember the phrase?) both at the centre and in the largest province, Punjab. The PML-N’s natural choice for Punjab CM will be Shahbaz Sharif, although I hope this time round he relies less on the Punjab bureaucracy (one of the surest roads to hell) and more on his own party.

The PPP having won a majority in Sindh should form the government in that province, with or without drinking from the poisoned chalice of the MQM. Although I suspect it will continue with the time-tested tradition of choosing the most pliable yes-man (another Abdullah Shah) as chief minister. The ANP plus whichever party it can get on board should call the shots in the Frontier. Why not Asfandyar as CM? His party the ANP has always been a great one for resounding but vacuous rhetoric. Time it got down to the less exciting but more important task of administration.

The Q League, if it survives in any form, can try its hand at governance in Balochistan (and make a hash of it).

Sounds too complicated? It really isn’t. Provided Zardari keeps his head and doesn’t kowtow to American advice too much (the Americans having their own agenda and wanting Pakistan to remain stuck along the Afghan border), and provided Nawaz Sharif doesn’t get too desperate to augment his strength by reaching out to every Q League turncoat available in the political bazaar, there’s no reason why this extended coalition arrangement should not work.

We need the politics of peace, not the politics of confrontation, best achieved by the two parties working in tandem rather than at cross-purposes. As for Musharraf, he is best ignored. If he hasn’t the sense to plan his own exit, he leaves himself no choice except to endure a form of Chinese water torture. If he is so inclined, who is to stop him?

Zardari and Sharif should concentrate on the essential tasks of governance, but without getting into each other’s hair. A national government (which means both parties sharing cabinet positions) will be a disaster because there will be too many horses galloping in different directions, and we don’t have a Churchill or a de Gaulle to preside over one. So a minority PPP government at the centre sustained by PML-N support is the next best alternative.

National minister of comic relief can be everyone’s favourite holy father, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, tragically rejected by the voters of D I Khan (he’s made it to the National Assembly via another constituency in Bannu) but still in a position to elicit a smile whenever his name is mentioned. The MQM, Musharraf’s hottest ally, has some mental adjustment to do after the generalissimo’s discomfiture. But this should not be too difficult a task for party supremo, and undisputed king of the long-distance telephonic address, Mr Altaf Hussain, who has a reputation for political flexibility.

But what if our American friends have their way and prevail upon Zardari to keep his distance from Nawaz Sharif? The PML-N should still play it cool, forming the provincial government in Lahore and giving voice to popular aspirations at the centre, becoming the great champion of the rule of law and the restoration of the judges but without injecting any acrimony into national discourse.

The last thing we need at this juncture is a descent into the chaos of the 1990s. Let both parties display maturity although it still must be said that the greater responsibility devolves on the PPP because it is in most danger of being yanked around by the Americans.

We must learn to think for ourselves. The Americans are in a mess themselves and their great agenda for Pakistan is that we should remain part of their mess, which is their idea of how best to conduct ‘the war on terror’. Pakistan’s political leadership is on trial and the next few days will show whether it has learned from its experiences and mistakes at all or, as a nation, we are destined to keep repeating the follies of the past.

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1 Comment »

  1. The suggestions of Mr. Ayaz Amir deserve serious consideration. The people of Pakistan have shown political wisdom beyond expectations. It would be the best option for the PPP and PML(N) to jointly form a government at the center and then press their demands for the restoration of the juduciary, a U.N. probe into the tragic assassination of Benazir etc. as soon as the new government comes into office. It would be almost impossible for Musharraf to resist; he could not dismiss the government under 58(2)(b) so soon after elections. It is true that we are at a defining moment and it is now for the politicians to prove their mettle. The people expect both Zardari and Nawaz not to reach out to the parties of the last government In fact as more comes to light about the conduct of the elections it is almost certain that the ‘mandate’ the former ruling parties have acquired was a stolen mandate. It is time that they are put in their proper place.

    Comment by Naushad Shafkat — February 22, 2008 @ 5:08 pm | Reply


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