Elections 2013: Don't take General Musharraf lightly
This is Pakistan we are talking about -- nothing is impossible. I definitely see Musharraf being elected as an MNA.
Given the volatile political situation of the country, it is hard to predict who will be supporting whom and which party will be contesting for premiership in the next general elections. But one thing seems to be certain, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf is going to eventually land at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport and hundreds, if not thousands, of activists of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will be welcoming the commando back home along with workers of All Pakistan Muslim League (APML).
Why am I so sure?
I am no fortune-teller but I can guess the future scenario with the help of some ongoing statements and political manoeuvring.
Very recently, MQM senior leader, Farooq Sattar said the party would have no problem supporting Musharraf in the next general elections. Sattar even went on to say the MQM would not field a candidate against Musharraf if he contested in the election from Karachi. No doubt, Musharraf strengthened the MQM's power through the local government system and doled out billions of rupees to then city Nazim Mustafa Kamal for development work. Musharraf also enjoys close relations with MQM chief Altaf Hussain and can easily win his support for the APML in the next general elections.
The retired General is a mohajir and a resident of Karachi. It is thus understandable that he can contest for a national assembly seat from this constituency. Everyone knows the MQM is popular in certain constituencies of Karachi and the commando can return uncontested or even trounce his opponent from any other political party with a heavy margin.
So is it actually this simple to become a Member of the National Assembly?
Yes, if you have got connections at the right place and can use them at the right time. Indeed, who knows this better than Musharraf, the all-powerful former president and Chief of Army Staff?
In any case, why would Musharraf not be a MNA? He is a citizen of Pakistan and enjoys all the constitutional rights like anybody else living in this country.
People from Punjab and Balochistan despise him, but most Karachiites have got no problem with him. Billions of rupees were spent on development projects which were launched in Karachi during his stint and the business community of the city also benefited from his liberal and progressive economic policies. The business community would even be willing to fund his political campaign, especially if they get a hint from ‘particular’ quarters.
People have said that General Musharraf has faced serious life threats from fanatics for the military operation against Lal Masjid and the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, therefore he won’t return. Yes, there are threats to his life and he also faces court trials in these cases including for the death of Benazir Bhutto. However, being the former Chief of Army Staff and having connections in the corridors of power, I think, he can manage all these issues. If he can promulgate National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) for a safe return of Benazir Bhutto in the country, President Zardari can also return the favour.
For those who are still disbelievers -- ladies and gentlemen, this is Pakistan we are talking about - nothing is impossible here.
The leadership of the PML-N is also just limited to rhetoric against Musharraf. If Nawaz Sharif is so serious in prosecution of the former president under Article 6 of the constitution, why does he not move to the apex court for the same? Why has he failed to file a reference against Musharraf despite repeated demands of the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership? Public statements are one thing but doing something practical is quite difficult.
Moreover, the common man has fond memories of Musharraf's era owing to the failure of the present so-called democratic dispensation. The much-trumpeted 'Khadim-e-Ala' has also failed to bring any positive change in the life of ordinary people. Much like the leadership of the PPP, he too only makes public statements and people don’t take him seriously any more.
But what can Musharraf do even if he is elected as a MNA?
The All Pakistan Muslim League (Musharraf's party) could form an alliance with small political parties like PTI, MQM, PML-F, BNP and others. Collectively, they would be able to give a tough time to the government if they opt for sitting on the opposition benches. Some parliamentarians from the PML-Q could also join Musharraf’s party upon his return to the country, so it would be foolish to take the commando lightly.
While it would be a stretch to say that Musharraf will be the next prime minister, I will go as far as to speculate that he will be an MNA at the very least. I definitely see the starts aligning in favour of the retired General.