Go, Musharraf go... once more
October 1 is set to be a momentous day when the erstwhile General Musharraf will return to the Pakistani political stage in a long-awaited and much speculated campaign. Musharraf’s entry into the political arena is exciting news for his new army.
This new army is neither armed nor khaaki clad; this army of 'Musharrafites' or 'Mushies' for short, emanate from the educated middle and upper class who view him as a saviour from all the ills that plague us today. This new army, primarily Facebook based, is eager to welcome him back into the country citing his previous stint in office and our country’s quagmire of inaction, corruption and ineptitude.
As a former Musharraf supporter myself, I’ve heard all the arguments. He’s liberal. He’s good for the economy. He’s vital for friendship with the United States. He cares for our country. He’ll take us away from dynastic and personality-based politics and lead us to a new tomorrow.
Musharraf’s return will only set in motion a series of lamentable events that are best to be avoided. If anything, Musharaf’s return will be disastrous for the short term. It will wreak instability and havoc in a system that already has enough to cope with. It will galvanize the movement for so-called 'democracy' and usher in further acrimony and inaction. More importantly, it will set a precedent that Pakistan can do without - the rise of a retired military man entering parliament in civilian guise.
Musharaf’s venture into politics, I am sure, is comforting to some when the alternatives are considered. Even I would love it if Mushie, 'my man', 'my bro' from back in the day would return and sweep politics clean forever and ever. But then again, with the privilege of education and common sense, I know that will not happen.
What I’m afraid will happen is this: Musharraf will succumb to the filth that pervades our political system. He will promulgate yet another political party based on singular, myopic interests that carries no real political platform and revolves around his personality alone. He will condone or overlook the actions, statements and illegalities of his party members in exchange for political support. In short, Musharraf will be a Pakistani politician.
Worse still is the legacy he left behind. It was convenient that the present government could blame Musharraf for all of Pakistan’s woes post-2008 and the sad reality is, there is an element of truth in their arguments. Musharraf turned a blind eye to the Taliban after offering lip service to the Americans, and all of a sudden military operations in places like Buner and Swat were needed. The economic growth under his tenure (which ought to be attributed to Shaukat Aziz and not him) resulted in unparalleled levels of inflation. His behaviour with the Balochis, Akbar Bugti in particular, have not made him very popular in that province. His operations against the media or the judiciary certainly cannot buttress his feeble reputation for being a democrat.
Ah yes, perhaps you forgot, Musharraf is a democrat now. Will someone please tell me how can a man, who’s already violated the Constitution twice, be expected to respect or abide by it if elected into office? How can we forgive a man, whatever his intentions, to come back and serve a system he destroyed for almost a decade? And then of course, there is corruption. Let’s not forget that some of Musharraf’s former party members were culpable in high levels of corruption. With his coterie of sycophants eager to return to positions of privilege and power, Musharraf will be like any other ineffectual party leader succumbing to the vicissitudes of a tainted system.
Musharraf himself is an interesting character and one whom I respect immensely. He’s a tennis player and a dog lover. He can speak Turkish. When not planning coups, he can plan infiltrations into places like Kargil. As a soldier, he is brave and enterprising; as a citizen, patriotic and determined. He has the ability to speak well and at times appear charismatic. He is clearly dexterous at playing politics as his move from General to Chief Executive to President.
More importantly, Musharraf is the only politician in my lifetime for whom I rejoiced when he entered office and lamented when he exited. He gave my generation hope, and hope is a rare and precious gift. But now, Musharraf the General is no more. Gone are the days when this man would have the authority of his uniform and a firm grip on the country to get the job done. With no power base, Musharraf is not only a weak politician but a rather discredited one at that with enemies in all directions.
With Musharraf back, I have no doubt in my mind that our immature political system will deem him a scapegoat and try to hold him accountable for whatever real or imagined crimes he may have committed, thought, dreamt or believed. Forgive my pessimism but I do not have much faith in politicians and I vehemently believe his return will create another cycle of infighting, accusations and instability.
We already have enough of that.
For those who consider Musharraf the noble lion, I urge you to wake up and slap yourself across the head a few times so that you understand this:
Musharaf’s authority was only as important as his starched uniform. Even if he does become President or Prime Minister, he will not be the Musharraf we knew. There is only one man whom we can safely calls the shots in Pakistan, and that man is now the resident of Army House. Not Musharraf. Now he will have to be just like any other sniveling politician, playing a precarious balancing game, striking deals and scratching backs. Given his weak political base and his incipient political party, Musharraf will have to compromise if he wants to be taken seriously and make deals with the devil in order to gain any political clout.
We already have enough people like that around here.
The other alternative is that when he returns, he’ll be held accountable for his numerous crimes, subsequently turning the whole legal and political system upside down. Pakistan does not need this. Musharraf quoted the “doctrine of necessity” after his coup, stating what he did was inevitable and incumbent upon him. Today, I argue that same thesis against his return. Musharraf’s return will only bring instability. The country needs to focus on many things; we need to rebuild after the worst natural disaster to ever rampage our land. We need to combat terrorism, fix our economy, rid ourselves of our various social disadvantages and face the changing tides of the twenty-first century. We need peace, we need stability, we need order, we need action. We need good governance and leaders who are focused on the future. We may not have them now, but optimism is a virtue. What we do not need is more political wrangling and conflict. What we do not need, is Musharraf.
Even when Musharraf does return, I fear very much for him. Given the number of enemies he has, it would not be surprising if he is actually convicted, jailed, hanged or assassinated.
We’ve already had enough of that as well. We need heroes, not martyrs. Musharraf should not come back to Pakistan.
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