Musharraf should not be given a second chance
He had half-hearted approaches to deal with terrorism, cosmetic economic measures, and lack of political judgments.
Pervez Musharraf stirred new controversies and conversations by announcing his return to Pakistan last week.
However, the main question remains whether the Pakistani people should give the former dictator-president another chance to run the country or not.
An in-depth look at the former army chief’s post 1999 resumé would suggest that he is not fit for assuming the country’s top leadership positions again.
Half-hearted approaches to deal with terrorism, organising only cosmetic economic measures and exercising lack of political judgments were some of the key things that Musharraf did during his tenure and the cost of his miscalculations and mistakes are still being incurred by the masses today.
The list of Musharraf’s failures is long.
Despite proverbially banning militant outfits in a landmark national address on January 12, 2002, Musharraf failed to act against them as he had no real policy to tackle home-grown terrorism. His failure to deal with groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had further emboldened these organisations who are now killing members of the Shia community with relative ease and impunity.
Moreover, his failure to detect the rise of the Punjabi Taliban and his casual approach towards dealing with the insurgencies in the western provinces has also not gone unnoticed. The double-faced approach of Musharraf has been well documented by renowned writers like Ahmed Rashid, Zahid Hussein and Stephen Cohen in their scholarly and journalistic accounts of the Musharraf government’s anti-terror approaches after 9/11.
It was his inept approach due to which terrorism is still a menacing scourge that rears its ugly head in Pakistan every now and then. Had he dealt with organisations like the SSP, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), the Pakistani Taliban and others with an iron fist, the bloody modern day mayhem of Karachi and Quetta could have been avoided.
If strong action was taken earlier in the western provinces, the Baloch and Taliban insurgencies that have currently besieged the two provinces and its people, would have been finished under Musharraf’s watch.
In his book, Frontline Pakistan, Hussein narrates at great length, the botched Waziristan operation of 2004 and the first two military operations in Swat that also failed. The 2004 Waziristan operation ended with the surrender of more than 200 Pakistani soldiers at the hands of a handful of unarmed Taliban.
Such was the demoralisation that was existent within the rank and file of the armed forces that the international community feared a rebellion against the military hierarchy by the ordinary soldiers and lower ranked officials.
General Musharraf has never taken any responsibility for this.
His failure or unwillingness to tackle home grown terrorist organisations and his inability to initiate actual economic reforms and many relevant clauses of the constitution render him legally ineligible to even take part in elections.
Under Pakistani law, as Musharraf has outstanding court orders and arrest warrants against him, he would be legally required to first present himself in court whenever he arrives. He would first have to get himself cleared in more than a dozen cases that were already being prosecuted against him when he proclaimed the November 2007 ‘emergency’ and when he officially resigned in August 2008.
If his culpability is confirmed by the courts in even one of those many cases, legally he would be ineligible to contest elections and run for parliament.
On the economic side, Musharraf has failed to acknowledge that his economic policies were only cosmetic in nature. The over 8% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, the importing of used cars and subsidies given to top industrialists all contributed to an actual rise in absolute poverty across Pakistan.
Under his government, with the full support of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the entire agricultural prices support price mechanisms—the system through which the government would buy agricultural produce from the farmers and then sell it off to the industry in Pakistan or overseas, collapsed.
In an era of high inflation and cut-throat corruption in the agricultural sector, millions of farmers had to slash the selling prices of their products to stay in business. Powerful feudals and industries were using their influence to exploit the farmers across Sindh and Punjab, but Musharraf failed to take much notice of it.
This led to a growth in poverty ratios in regional Pakistan, where the bulk of the agricultural business takes place. The importing of used cars from overseas further opened up the already divisive class differences in the country and has certainly played a role in rising street crimes across the country, where new models of brands like Toyota and Honda are being stolen by miscreants and criminals at gunpoint.
Supporting a dictator is no permanent solution to Pakistan’s problems.
Today we are reaping the consequences of the seeds of hatred and mismanagement that were sowed into society by generals Ziaul Haq and Musharraf; dictatorships shall be rejected at all costs.
Musharraf, hence, should not be given a second chance.
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