Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Musharraf in Trouble: Some Pakistani views

The June 22-28 [Vol. XIX, No. 18] issue of The Friday Times has several articles that seriously consider whether Musharraf can remain in charge of Pakistan. I appreciate the weekly because it has a history of confronting the government, and has some times been roughed up for that reason. In three separate articles Musharraf’s situation is examined here, and all three intimate that his days are numbered. Bad news for the Bush administration, at least as they see it. I wonder, however, if the Bush administration really wants a government that has virtually no credibility with the Pakistani people – and in fact no credibility with even the American government, since the Americans have repeatedly stated that Pakistan is doing too little the control the Islamists in the Tribal Areas, especially in Waziristan. Because this periodical is not available without a subscription [which is actually minimal] I here quote from all the articles, recommending that it is worth the cost to subscribe to the web edition.

Decisive move in the offing by Najam Sethi

General Musharraf is compelled to seriously ponder a dissolution of parliament soon and early general elections, around September-October. … Free and fair general elections would probably fail to restore the PMLQ to power and upset General Musharraf’s apple cart. But it won’t be easy to rig them to obtain “suitable results” in today’s charged environment … So the only workable option is to try and put the pending SC judgment on the CJP on hold while firming up an alliance/understanding with the PPP before the general elections which guarantees General Musharraf the presidency in exchange for sharing power with Ms Bhutto after the elections. …[G]iven the constitutional necessity of relinquishing charge as army chief before end 2007, he can resolve the uniform issue “constitutionally” only by getting parliament to amend the law that enables him to be both president and army chief at the same time. … [W]hy doesn’t President Musharraf get the current parliament in which he has a majority to elect him president again and also amend the law enabling him to retain his job as army chief? … [But] Any attempt to railroad the current parliament today is likely to fuel anti-government protests outside parliament and compel the opposition parties inside parliament to resign and boycott the general elections. Worse, if Justice Chaudhry is restored, all these plans would go up in a puff of smoke. Therefore General Musharraf has to pull himself out of the quicksand before the CJP is restored. …[A]n appropriate deal with Ms Bhutto and a necessary understanding with the Supreme Court is so critical in these times.
One way or the other, we should expect a decisive move from General Musharraf soon.


Post-transition advisory by Khaled Ahmed

Musharraf will be removed because he has been defeated in his attempts to 'liberalise' or 'secularise' the state. … Everybody is pushing for the ‘big change’ in Pakistan. It is not like anything in the past. … In the past there was always somebody who was not against the army. That meant that the party that took on the army was stabbed in the back by another party. The phrase ‘security risk’ was common currency in the civilian discourse. This time no one is on the side of the army, strangely not even the ruling PMLQ.
Has the time therefore come to say goodbye to the dominance of the army in Pakistan? … What we want is a change in the status of the army. We want the army to be like the Indian army – apolitical, professional and non-interfering. …We might add the United States to the ‘other’ of India [as an enemy] and inflict on ourselves the task of a further militarisation of the state. The post-Musharraf period will thus be characterised by a residual India-driven nationalism sharpened by a more acerbic anti-American nationalism. … In the post-Musharraf phase the army will switch to a slight variation in the ideology of the state. To gain the right to intervene as arbiter it will borrow from the consensual passions aroused by the anti-Musharraf agitation. It will be like a conditioned reflex to revert to its real heroes, Generals Hamid Gul and Aslam Beg, the former seated next to Mr Nawaz Sharif in a recent meeting. Since Pakistan lacks the intellectual resource to get out of its India-driven nationalism, the army’s magisterial hold may actually strengthen.
The anti-Musharraf campaign in Pakistan is thought to be a liberal one. This is a misreading of the nation-wide protest against Musharraf’s cashiering of the chief justice of Pakistan. The discourse in Pakistan is still dominantly fundamentalist-Islamist. … Musharraf will be removed because he has been defeated in his attempts to ‘liberalise’ or ‘secularise’ the state.

A democratic ‘moment’? by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa

One thing is clear from a study of Pakistani politics and the military: no substantive change can happen unless there is a change in the leadership of the country. … There are two possible scenarios of what might happen. One is that ‘managed’ elections are held and a civilian government put into place, the stress on managed being important. … There will be a coalition government … Such a coalition will result in two possibilities: first, the country will dive into another battle between the seemingly secular, pro-West forces and anti-West ones (in reality, all parties are highly conservative and non-secular but the battle will be on a pro- versus anti-West agenda); second, a conflict which might ensue after the elections will further complicate an already bad situation and create greater problems of political stability for whoever forms the government.
It must be remembered that more than seven years of military rule have eroded the capacity of civilian institutions to perform. Combined with this incapacity will be the eagerness of the followers of different political parties to ask for rewards. Pakistan’s political system is patronage-based and followers demand rewards. This will happen post-election also. … Another possible scenario, given the nature of the movement that ousted Musharraf, is that the next government will be put on the spot by the seemingly alert civil society since people will reject authoritarianism in both civilian and military garbs.
But this may not happen. Pakistan is seeing a crucial ‘democratic moment’ that could easily be lost or will pass after some cosmetic changes. … What is most certain is the fact that the post-Musharraf scenario does not necessarily mean any substantial reduction in the influence of the army. … The judiciary will also be unable to play the role it played after the reference against the chief justice. The crisis was tiring and the judiciary might want to play it safe, as in the past. Future judges might not want to take on the military …This is certainly a pessimistic picture and may hopefully prove incorrect. But one thing is clear from a study of Pakistani politics and the military: no substantive change can happen unless there is a change in the leadership of the country. The control of the elite cannot produce better results than what we witnessed during Musharraf’s period.

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