Musharraf and his party

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 03.07.10

With all its connotations, the slogan ‘Pakistan First’ may start hovering over Pakistan once
again – Pakistan must be first but not in the way projected and acted upon by the former
military dictator General Pervaiz Musharraf – with the advent of Musharraf’s party, the All
Pakistan Muslim League (APML). By that currency, a sister political party of the PML-Q, the
PML-N and the likes has emerged. Musharraf should have named his party as ‘Pakistan
First Party’ instead of using the traditional name of the Muslim League.

According to General (r) Rashid Qureshi, a time-tested devotee of Musharraf, the yardstick
of Musharraf’s popularity is his following on the Facebook where Musharraf has amassed
two lakh fans – mostly the youth – to prop him up. Realities on the ground, on the other
hand, do not predicate on the Facebook. Those who used to chant slogans to get
Musharraf elected ten times do not offer Musharraf any slot in their party, the PML-Q. For
them, Musharraf is a spent cartridge – who is now only relevant to those who have no place
to stay relevant. On arrival of Musharraf, Dr Sher Afgan may stumble on a new lease of life.

With the name of Musharraf, harsh memories visit one’s mind. Musharraf’s rule had
radiated the message that he was the source of law and that compliance with the law was
mandatory on everyone except him. Musharraf’s concept of the rule of law was to comply
with the orders issued by him and not what had been actually laid down in the books of law.

Musharraf’s stint in power is remembered for emitting a stink of general contempt for
democracy. In the beginning of the year 2008, after Musharraf had imposed the second
martial law of his regime on November 03, 2007, Musharraf visited London and uttered
publicly that democracy was not suitable to the genius of the Pakistanis. It is yet to be seen
how Musharraf will present his concept of democracy to be palatable to the ‘genius of the
Pakistanis’ once he is back.

Musharraf may come back but with only one skin – the actual skin sans the khaki casing he
donned at Kakul in his youth. In the field of politics, his original skin will be tested for
presence of the melanin called tolerance to a conflicting point of view.

Musharraf’s rule burgeoned politicians who believed less in personal abilities and more in
seeking backing of the establishment. Sheikh Rashid used to defend Musharraf on the
assumption that the establishment in Rawalpindi would help him win the election every time
he contested and that no true representative democracy could surface in the country.
Instead of abilities and virtues, reliance was placed on the potency of the establishment
besides one’s power of sycophancy. Musharraf’s rule is also remembered for gathering
around him those who used to tell lies in the public.

It is not yet known what lessons Musharraf learnt when the PML-Q rooted out of the political
scene in the past elections despite its performance in public works before the elections.
Nevertheless, Musharraf kept growth of representative democracy stultified for almost one
decade. Musharraf promoted the exercise of holding phony elections and exploited the
weaknesses of the religious parties or alliances like the MMA. Musharraf tried to erect a
surrogate system of democracy that mocked the spirit of democracy.

Will Musharraf be able to recompense for the loss of the precious lives of Nawab Akbar
Bugti and the innocent girls at the Lal Masjid? Both incidents changed the socio-political
landscape of Pakistan in their wake. Further, those two episodes alone gave birth to a new
breed of reactionaries who are still disgruntled with the state.

Musharraf, as an army chief, was constitutionally ineligible to take part in political activities
for two years since the date of his retirement was what the Supreme Court was trying to
convey him on November 02, 2007. By now Musharraf might have sloughed off his bad
habit of not listening to the sincere advice of the Supreme Court.

From the statements issued by another spokesperson of Musharraf, Barrister Mohammed
Ali Saif, it seems that Musharraf is still enmeshed by two obsessions: he is the first and final
bulwark against corruption and secondly he enjoyed a big following among the middle class
of the Pakistanis. The same two fixations are driving him to avow himself a saviour yet
another time. Musharraf used the arms of the state including the institutions like the NAB to
prolong his stay at the helm of affairs. Musharraf also incurred wrath of the middle class by
trying all ways and means to suppress the lawyers’ movement. The civil society abandoned
Musharraf when his real face came to surface on the tragedy of May 12 in Karachi.

Guess, how many times Musharraf might have read the document, the NRO, which could
not ensure his stay in the presidency but could only offer him a guard of honour. Musharraf
must have smarted from the tragedy of his ceremonial eviction from the country called self-
exile. Along the Edgware Road, London, famous for its cafeterias and Arabian food, the
commando inside Musharraf must be battling against the vicissitudes of life. After all, for
how long the series of lecturing can continue. On his way back, Musharraf would be
wrestling with Article 6 of the Constitution.

Musharraf must reconcile with the fact that Pakistan can manage its affairs without him.
Musharraf may be a person of choice to bank on for another military dictator down the line
of dictatorship. In that sense, Musharraf has to wait for another spell of military dictatorship
to assert his bearing. Above all, there is an urgent need of reclaiming the youth who do not
differentiate between a democratic leader and a dictator. Democratic orientation of the
youth must be improved qualitatively. The youth had better stay away from even the
shadow of Musharraf. In the meantime, Musharraf has to sip qahvas with Arabian desserts
and rue his impulse which made possible the impossible day of March 09, 2007.

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