Is Pervez Musharraf still relevant in Pakistani politics?
By Moin Ansari
The gulf between the PPPP and the PMLN is growing. The PMLN has stayed out of the fray and not joined the PPPP. The increased belligerence of Mr. Nawaz Sharif can only be matched by the exponential increase in the public appearances of former president Pervez Musharraf. The present government is incompetent and has no credibility. The popularity ratings of Mr. Zardari are half that of Mr. Musharraf.
President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan
Pervez Musharraf has a great personality and can speak really well. His eloquence can only be matched by his self-confidence. There are no absolutes, but the general consensus is that he is incorruptible and his staff, judging by Pakistanis standards was not corrupt, or not as corrupt as Mr. Zardari or Mr. Sharif. Questions about Pervez Musharraf’s decision on joining America’s war in Afghanistan have pretty much been rebutted by the PPPPs servile acquiescence to the same diktats. Many Pakistanis seriously doubt if the PMLN government will be able to extricate Pakistan from the American bear hug that is hurtling Afghanistan and Pakistan towards a revolution. History will judge Pervez Musharraf kindly. The decade of his rule saw Pakistan progress in many areas. Defense, telecommunication and banking flourished. Agriculture survived and inflation and shortages were kept to a minimum. The astronomical success of the electrification program and the relative affluence accorded to many Pakistan led the way to shortages of food and electricity. The Chasma 2 did not come up to speed fast enough and Kalabagha nd Bhasha remained mired in controversy. The energy crisis was not planned for and in many ways agriculture should have been given more attention.
Of course Pervez Musharraf’s most heinous crime was subversion of the Pakistani constitution. He did it once and his actions were absolved by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Pakistani parliament, the people of Pakistan and politicians from across the spectrum. His misdeeds were thus institutionalized. The issue of his disregard of the constitution however goes beyond the redemption given to him for his actions against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In a carefully thought out plan, Pervez Msuharraf was given a strict schedule of two years take off his uniform. The two year window would have allowed him the two years necessary to be “out of office” so that his party could run in the elections and he could be nominated as the president again. In effect his misdeeds would have been “constitutionalized” and the country would have been spared the problems it faces now.
However Pervez Musharraf was buoyed by his foreign visits and propelled by the false sense of security accorded to him by the White House. Sequestered in the cocoon of the presidency he was overwhelmed by the flatterers who insisted that he not take off his uniform. He made his blunder. He did not take off his uniform under the plan worked out for him. He violated the contract with the Pakistani politicians which had carefully crafted his safe passage. He stubbornly refused to take off his uniform. This refusal antagonized the entire spectrum of Pakistani politics–from Imran Khan to The Jamat e Islami to the PML to the ANP. Musharraf had thought that Condaleeza Rice would make him another Hasni Mubarak. The USA had another plan up its sleeve. It wanted a more complaint president in Islamabad. Unknown to him a plan had been hatched to replace him.
He took off his uniform not at the insistence of the Pakistani people, but because of the pressure from the White House. Once he had done that and appointed General Kiyani as the new COAS, the opposition was emboldened. They had tasted blood and would not let go. By not taking off his uniform according to the Pakistani schedule everything went haywire. He was now in violation of other segments of the constitution. He thus ran awry of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry who had allowed given him a carte blanche earlier. By not taking off his uniform Pervez Musharraf now was illegal again. Only Pervez Musharraf was responsible for landing into the fire twice.
He thus tried to do what he done before, subvert the constitution again. This time the Supreme Court refused to give him a life line. Additionally this time around the Pakistani politicians refused to support him. The people had forgotten the total incompetence and stupidity of political parties and had forgiven their sins of corruption. Faced with a war on their doorstep and missing Pakistanis, the nation reached out to the tried and tested horses–the ones that had failed them twice before.
Musharraf now tried to use the only leverage he had, sign a deal with the PPPP and try to stay in power. The Benazir fiasco threw a wrench in his plan. Nawaz Sharif barged into the party, and the people elected the PPPP into power. An emboldened Asif Zardari used Nawaz Sharif to get rid of Musharraf and then went back on his signed declaration to restore the judges.
This brings us to the “dharna” and the lawyers’s movement. Nawaz Sharif now wants to force Mr. Zardari to restore Chief Justice Ifthikhar Chaudry. The PPPP is scared that restoring the judges will open up the Pandora’s box of the National Reconciliation Order (NRO). The NRO forgave the sins of the MQM and the PPPP on all counts of corruption and evil deeds. Constitutional experts are split on the legality of the NRO beyond 90 days. The PPPP has the votes in the National Assembly and the Senate to regularize the NRO and consecrate it so that the Chief Justice is unable to undo it. Why Mr. Zardari has not done so is beyond comprehension. He has thus done nothing to neutralize a loaded gun pointed at him. If the NRO expires or is overturned, Mr. Zardari would be ineligible to hold office.
LAHORE: Former President Pervez Musharraf has said the country is facing many challenges and conspiracies are being hatched against it. He said President Asif Ali Zardari appointed Salmaan Taseer as Governor Punjab in consultation with him.
Talking to journalists after condoling death of Pakistan Muslim League-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s mother here on Thursday, Musharraf said Pakistan is facing serious challenges, however, he hoped that these would be tackled.
As regards Lahore attack, former president strongly condemned Lahore attack and termed it a conspiracy to weaken the country.
“There should be no conjecture or statement without substantive evidence”, he added.
He said the government should improve training standard of law enforcing agencies so that they are prepared for any eventuality. Musharraf said he is in contact with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and lauded his services for the country.
In the meeting, former federal minister Javed Ashraf Qazi and others were also present.
Mr. Pervez Musharraf is a very savvy politician, possibly the smartest one around. The current government in power is totally incompetent. It has been able to pass only four laws in The National Assembly in the past year and is looked as a client government under the supervision of the White House in Washington. Mr. Pervez Musharraf judges the low popularity of Mr. Zardari as a possible window of opportunity to make a comeback. It is very obvious that he has ambitions beyond being a coup dictator. He has a constituency in Pakistan. Can he gather them to help him?
Legally, he cannot run for any office ’till 2010 or thereabouts–two years after resigning as COAS. Technically he is still a violator of the constitution. The penalty for violating the constitution and abrogating his oath is death. He has not been indemnified for his removal of the Chief Justice and ensuing actions.
Mr. Musharraf’s statement that Mr. Zardari took his advice on Salman Taseer is a carefully crafted message and it is a poignant reminder to Pakistanis that he is still relevant in Pakistan. He could work with Mr. Zardari and consecrate a new NRO which would indemnify him of his 2nd “Martial Law (which he euphemistically named as “Emergency Plus’). If his misdeeds are forgiven, he could get elected to the parliament and lead the PML or his new party Pasdaran e Pakistan to victory.
The people of Pakistan are fed up with the wrangling of the Zardaris and the Sharifs. Mr. Zardari cannot rule or will not rule. We are not sure why, but the incompetence and corruption is in their blood. Can Pakistan tolerate a decade of the Sharif-Zardari fued?