May 31, 2008

Never say never EDITORIAL

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:16 am
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MAY 31, 2008

Even as a whirlwind of rumours swirls around him, President Musharraf seems to have taken Pakistan into a breathtaking grasp that he is unwilling to relinquish. The fact that this grasp is rapidly strangulating the country and draining it of what life it still has left seems not to have struck the man who speaks so often of acting in the national interest. There can be no doubt at present that this interest demands that Musharraf quit. Indeed, in many ways it seems he has been left with no alternative but to do so � but still he continues to cling on to power. It is now apparent that key institutions in the country are no longer willing to back him, both Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif have lashed out against him, there is a very real threat of impeachment even if the PPP remains diplomatically reluctant to use these words, and by staying on the president is contributing to the sense of instability and uncertainty that he claims he is anxious to correct. The suggestions from the presidential camp that he will resign only when events in the country are less turbulent make no sense. The fact is that the storm can be soothed only after Musharraf departs. It will grow only fiercer if he stays.

Multiple forces in the country are now arrayed against the president. They include the major political parties, the lawyers who have threatened a protest outside the Army House that the president still occupies and even ex-servicemen who have asked him to vacate these quarters. Whereas it is unwise to conjecture about events that took place at a closed door meeting, the flurry of news reports regarding the encounter between the president and the COAS, suggest that it went beyond a discussion on routine matters. The presidential spokesman, in a particularly vehement denial, has attacked sections of the media putting forward these accounts.

The impact of the sense of unease has been visible in falling stock markets. There has also been a persisting paralysis in governance. This will come to an end only once political calm is restored, and, given the way things stand now, this can be possible only once the president leaves the scene enabling murky waters to be cleared out and opening the way for the elected government to get on with the many tasks that urgently await it.

It is now obvious that the president’s refusal to resign is intended only to serve his own interests. The former commando, who describes himself as a stubborn man, is also, quite evidently, an exceedingly selfish one. Even though every day that he remains in office brings new problems and exacerbates the crisis the country is mired in, he is still unwilling to act for the sake of the nation and step down. Indeed, in an almost insane paradox, he insists that by staying he is serving people � even though they have made it obvious they no longer want his services.

It is unclear who is, at present, advising Mr Musharraf. Reports say he is surrounded by a small band of so-called friends who have persuaded him not to step down. Others say he still retains US support, though this, quite obviously, is flagging. All those who hold Musharraf’s ears would be doing him a great service by making it clear to him that he has almost no option but to resign. They may try to persuade him to see what lesson the recent happenings in Nepal teach those willing to learn. A failure to do so would be immensely damaging both for his own interests and those of a nation which continues to wait for the man who has dominated Pakistan for nearly nine years to finally call it a day.


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