Dictators are bad — always

Published: June 22, 2010
The writer is a research associate at LUMS (ammar.rashid@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is a research associate at LUMS ([email protected])

General Musharraf’s announcement that he plans to return to Pakistan has prompted a spate of debate among the chattering classes about the comparative merits and demerits of dictatorship and democracy. Revelations of his efforts at forming his own party appear to have set off waves of nostalgia among the general’s supporters about his nine-year reign. Comparisons with the current, floundering civilian setup are suddenly abundant in the digital airwaves, mostly consisting of fond-hearted reminiscence about the ‘stability’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘integrity’ of the general’s allegedly blissful tenure. This is in stark contrast to the blatant ‘ineptitude’, ‘corruption’ and ‘cronyism’ of the political dispensation currently in power.

Even though the ex-president is now a civilian, one can detect in these trends the age-old penchant among Pakistan’s urban upper-middle class for military leadership. Many in this disproportionately influential social class are beset with a fixation on autocratic modes of governance that present an all-important impression of immovable authority. That such musings are alarmingly analogous to the articulation of the old European myth of fascistic efficiency (Mussolini’s allegedly punctual trains being a case in point) is a fact largely lost on this group. Usually in such deliberations the notion of democracy is routinely dismissed as being ‘inapplicable’ to our ‘unruly’ society either because of illiteracy or because democracy is seen as an imported western concept alien to our culture.

The fact that the current civilian ruling clique has been woefully inadequate in governing the country makes matters worse. Efforts by the government to protect its citizenry, revive the economy, regain control over foreign policy, restore energy supplies and uplift the economically vulnerable have been insubstantial at best.  Mainstream politicians of every stripe persist in displaying their ineptitude, myopia and venality at every opportunity. That the general performed better on any of these counts is a disputable (and highly tenuous) proposition, but not one that I wish to address right now. What the fervent supporters of the general fail to acknowledge is that the shortcomings of our political class are symptoms, rather than causes, of our repeated flirtations with military statecraft.

Historically speaking, the national-security-obsessive and administratively postcolonial foundation of our statehood has necessitated an insecure position for the civilian political class; they have remained largely dependent on the military and bureaucratic arms of the state for patronage in matters of governance. Perennial insecurity regarding their political future has made them uniquely susceptible to excessive rent-seeking (read: corruption) when in power. The institutions of the military and bureaucracy have led subtle and overt campaigns to vilify and undermine civilian political institutions in order to further buttress their supremacy. The results are not too difficult to recognise, given our current state of affairs. Those reminiscing about the general’s rule would do well to dwell on a simple theoretical supposition — that we cannot hope to overcome our leadership deficits by continuing to call for unelected ‘saviours’ from institutions whose primary function is the application of coercive violence. Authoritarian rule inhibits the institutional development required for societies to evolve effective, organic modes of conflict mediation, resource distribution and economic organisation. We cannot afford another capacity vacuum brought upon by another decade of quasi-military rule and the political apathy and nonparticipation that it actively fosters.

We cannot improve the standard of governance or wrest it from the control of feudal or reactionary forces without participation in the democratic process. This participation must amount to physical and ideological engagement with the many societal fissures (of class, ethnicity and religion among others) that run in our midst, rather than a continuation of our perpetual role as cheerleaders for every other general or messianic ideologue that appears in our ranks with promises of quick fixes of the militaristic variety.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (62)

  • Arsalan
    Jun 22, 2010 - 1:10AM

    How can you say that dictators are bad?
    Did you notice what we noticed in Musharraf regime?
    Did you notice the difference between a democratic and a dictator government?
    Did you notice in Musharraf regime how poor people came over the middle class line?
    Did you ever notice how Musharraf loves Pakistan?
    Do you know whom people say “samajh to gaye hongay aap”?
    Have you every felt the heart of a soldier?
    Think about it and then write your columns.

  • Farid Ahmad Malik
    Jun 22, 2010 - 1:43AM

    Dude you are one patriotic person and that is good.
    But don’t get carried away.Dictators are no good.Never ever.
    What musharraf did , we are suffering right now.Recommend

  • Anwar Ahmad
    Jun 22, 2010 - 2:29AM

    No doubt dictators are always bad. Some are worst like Musharraf. He was a black sheep among his flock. He was too lenient, so liberal, didn’t do a thing about Kalabagh Dam, gave unnecessary freedom/privileges to press and lawyers. He is qualified for worst ever dictator of history award.Recommend

  • Jun 22, 2010 - 2:52AM

    A qualification that I feel must be made here – as the author, I cannot, in all good faith, support the value-laden assertion in the title of this article, which is largely the result of the creative application of editorial license.

    With all due respect to the undoubtedly able tribune staff, this article was intended as a comment on the structural underpinnings of democratic failure in Pakistan, rather than an exposition on the incontrovertible ‘universal badness’ of dictatorship, which is what the title appears to be suggesting.Recommend

  • Jun 22, 2010 - 3:27AM

    A country and the processes that keep it afloat, are hardly vested in individuals. Dictatorship is bad, democracy is good. Now the people who happen to be dictators or democrats have ego’s and personalities like everyone else. It doesn’t matter whether Musharaf is good, or Zardari is bad. As a society we need to decide whether we are happy ceding power to individuals based on the lapels on their shoulders, or whether we want a say in the decisions being made by politicians, whether good or bad. Politicians, are a reflection of society. If they are corrupt and dishonest, then maybe we as an electorate are not making the most of our roles as decision makers. Recommend

  • Heba Islam
    Jun 22, 2010 - 3:27AM

    I have to agree with Mr. Rashid’s qualification. The title may perhaps be catchy (if simplistic) but it simply does not do justice to what the article is trying to examine- not a shallow exposition of a ‘good’ democracy and ‘bad’ dictatorship dichotomy but rather a look at the culture behind our tendency to look upon military rule in a benign fashion in spite of its obvious failures. The tribune staff would perhaps do well to avoid vital changes such as amendments to the title of an opinion piece, which in this case has obviously misrepresented the viewpoint of the author and taken away from the essence of the argument he’s making.Recommend

  • Wasiq
    Jun 22, 2010 - 3:43AM

    Nicely done ammar…also, many dont realize that the evolution of our democratic values does not take place, by virtue of the fact that somehow dictatorships create justifications for conventionally tested, corrupt, abominalbe leaderships which have haunted us for so long. And still, very conveniently, our emotionally charged nostalgic people welcome the traitors and dictators of the past with open arms due to the fact that dictatorships and corrupt ‘democratic’ regimes have become a part of a political drama which takes place in a cycle. The only way for new blood to get into the mainstream is an uninterrupted string of democracy no matter how pathetic it looks, so that our political values evolve in an open ended manner rather than a cyclic one.Recommend

  • hira
    Jun 22, 2010 - 5:09AM

    “we cannot hope to overcome our leadership deficits by continuing to call for unelected ‘saviours’ from institutions whose primary function is the application of coercive violence.”

    i greatly appreciated this sentence among many others in your article. we really need to stop looking for one-person/leader fixated solutions. and recover and cultivate a sense of collective responsibility and committed structural action that is not reactionary or issue-based, but rather apprehends and dismantles the “structural underpinnings of democratic failure” as you say.

    thanks for writing and sharing this! Recommend

  • usman
    Jun 22, 2010 - 9:11AM

    OYEYE PAPPUUU!!!Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Jun 22, 2010 - 9:37AM

    Yes! Especially those who are elected!Recommend

  • Farhan
    Jun 22, 2010 - 10:04AM

    I agree with the point highlighted by Hira, however you are mistaken that the political class is insecure. If anything they feel that they have a right to rule the ‘kammis’ and the ‘kam-zaats’.

    Also: “The institutions of the military and bureaucracy have led subtle and overt campaigns to vilify and undermine civilian political institutions in order to further buttress their supremacy.”

    Not buying this, the civilian political institutions vilify themselves – this reads like a conspiracy theory and an excuse for their sorry “governance”.Recommend

  • Patriot
    Jun 22, 2010 - 10:07AM

    We should do this, we should do that in order to cultivate the culture of democracy….yea sure keep trying these westminister style democracy if this country survives under this revenge called democracy!Recommend

  • rahim
    Jun 22, 2010 - 10:14AM

    @arsalan ‘Have you every felt the heart of a soldier?’
    haha…um yea so seriously like nice picture, and wheres the real article you wrote cause this seems like some kind of reductionist twist on the quagmire that is our political scene.. Recommend

  • Jun 22, 2010 - 10:45AM

    It doesn’t really matter whether I support Pervez Musharraf or not, but it DOES matter that I support the assertion about civil authority over the armed forces. The military is a priori designed to function according to the principles of violence. That is, per se, the fundamental characteristic due to which the military – no matter how administratively proficient or professional it is – has NO jurisdiction in the affairs of civilian governance. To hope for a dictatorship and await a benevolent dictatorship is a utopian circumstance that is never going to happen – and it has never happened before, either.
    Instead of all of you – who have shoo-ed Musharraf away and now clamor for him to come back – supporting military rule and military dictatorships in Pakistan, you should be ashamed of how Pakistan’s education system and political process has FAILED – utterly and miserably – as regards providing a cogent platform for the enunciation of mainstream Pakistani society’s political views, general will and national ethos. Moreover, it is EVEN SADDER that the people of Pakistan sometimes like Ayub Khan for his decade of development, and then hate him because Zulfikar Bhutto demonized him and Yahya Khan to achieve his own Pakistan where he could be President, Prime Minister AND CMLA (for a short period). Then we come to Zia ul Haq, who is simultaneously abhorred by the so-called ‘liberal elites’ of Pakistan for introducing guns and drugs in our society (which, by the way, is something that pervades American society as well) and raised to heights unknown by religious conservatives and fundamentalist extremists alike.
    Now, the latest football for the Pakistani people is Pervez Musharraf – remembered for his ‘enlightened moderation’ yet hated for the Lal Masjid siege, Akbar Bugti’s ‘murder’, the Nov. 3 Emergency, to name a few.
    To reiterate the core point; the military is NO answer to the intrinsic shortcoming(s) displayed by the people of Pakistan for over 60 years now. The armed forces should be allowed to do their job without being given extra responsibilities that they might enjoy, but have no basic quality or legitimacy in matters of ruling the country. The armed forces should be spared the denigration that they face every time a military regime is on its way out – the sons and daughters of Pakistan who live and die for our great nation do NOT deserve the vilifications of our uneducated fellow countrymen. The people of Pakistan have to stand up not only to illegitimate usurpers of state power, but ALSO to inefficient and inadequate rulers that the uneducated people of Pakistan (or the majority of the people of Pakistan – both can be used interchangeably) have been voting into power again, and again, and again, and again (4 times for the 4th PPP government LOL).
    HOWEVER! If you don’t like Musharraf, and you don’t even like (Pres.) Zardari, I would solemnly like to ask you what your problem is; because the Pakistani people also need to live through their mistakes in order for them to learn from them (the latter case being highly unlikely, as our history and experience shows).
    Before anyone responds to this specific comment with heavily worded (yet improperly spelled) pro-Musharraf comments, I would like you to go to Musharraf’s Facebook page and see his status updates and messages. That will show you that you don’t have to defend Musharraf to me or tell me how good he was, or how he has changed, or how he will rescue Pakistan, what all. If you support a politician, support him/her through thick and thin – but you, people of Pakistan, always abandon ANYONE who faces a tough time, and you do so readily and without a second thought.

    You know what? You don’t DESERVE Pervez Musharraf.
    And THAT is the best reason why Pervez Musharraf shouldn’t return.

    Finally, brilliant article Mr. Rashid. You have really added perspective and value to this otherwise dull and mundane online world. Please continue writing.Recommend

  • rosysblue
    Jun 22, 2010 - 10:49AM

    wow..yes this is true..you are soo right mr…Recommend

  • rahim
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:17AM

    finally some mature writing..i hope express can now move on from its young world standard of articles to a better and more educated style of featuresRecommend

  • Nehan
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:59AM

    Very well written Ammar. Finally we are talking about ‘institutions’, which are way above and beyond ‘individuals’. But i don’t understand how the news about Musharraf’s return has spurred the debate on democracy vs dictatorship. I mean to the best of my knowledge Musharraf is not returning as a dictator; infact, he can never do. If and when he is able to make his way back into politics in Pakistan, he would be just another political party leader, and deserves a place like any other counterpart. Recommend

  • Umar Farooq
    Jun 22, 2010 - 12:37PM

    Democracy has given us nothing.Dictatorship might be bad however democracy is worst possibble form of Government,our people have long lost faith in the Democratic process. The voter turnout rate has been on a steady decline. The people can not handle the system. Feudal landlords dominate in the Countryside. Fake degree holders and some of the most notoriously corrupt people get elected as leaders in Pakistan.Rational analysis of the system has taken off the table.The Democratic set up, if it is truly democratic should be examined critically. The chancellor of Quaid e Azam university The President of Pakistan is someone who does not even have a University degree and his honesty is well disputed to say the least. This is a failure of the system we should start doing something about it rather than just harp about democarcy and condemn Dictatorship out of hand.Recommend

  • Wajiha
    Jun 22, 2010 - 12:37PM

    While Pakistan has long borne the wrath of dictatorship rule and autocracy, I still feel there is a long way to go when the majority of the civilian political class willingly gives up their “privileges” bestowed by the military and the state. Seems like both reinforce and benefit each other and there’s no one to lose except the masses, unfortunately.
    Very well articulated ammar,even though the title could have been better, the content speaks for itself. Also, great picture :)Recommend

  • Ammar Rashid
    Jun 22, 2010 - 12:38PM

    @Arsalan: Sorry, I didn’t really notice any of the things you mentioned. Perhaps because they were largely illusory.

    @Farhan: I would stand by my assertion regarding the political class being insecure – this insecurity is manifest in its constant historical readiness to accept a role subordinate to that of the military (compare that with the way Indian politicians interact with their military top brass), as well as its consistent succumbing to the pressure of the military’s ‘advice’ during even periods of democratic rule. (Kayani’s intervention during the Long March or the Mumbai attacks, for instance.) This, of course, doesn’t take away from their venality or egoism. It merely demonstrates their acknowledgement of their subordinate role in the country’s power calculus.

    @Nehan: Recommend

  • Ammar Rashid
    Jun 22, 2010 - 12:46PM

    @Nehan: I realize that Musharraf is now a civilian. I was merely pointing out that the constituency that yearns the most for his return appears to be evoking the same ideals (stability, integrity, authority) that are evoked when the army intervenes, thus demonstrating that our fixation with such forms of governance is far from over. Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Jun 22, 2010 - 12:50PM

    My God, cant believe these people. Musharraf was more of a democrat than NS, AZ, Imran Khan & BB all put together. They are not even democratic in thier own backyard (parties) President/Chairperson for life in a political party? Ya, that’s democratic.

    Running a country is all about management not democracy, taking timely & prudent, honest decisions. Executive Decisions period.

    All the management guru of the modern world were army personnel, because army is all about decision making, gaining strategic advantage with minimal resources at disposal.

    I agree not all dictators were good, but look at the great men in history, they all were strong willed men & not afraid to take calculated decisions, FDR, Churchill, Charles D’ Gaule & look what they achieved!

    Democracy does not work in countries, were systems are weak. It can only work in a country with strong systems, US, UK, Canada, Malaysia etc.

    To develop that system you need economic stability, which was being provided during Musharraf time.

    Zia was a dictator & all this fallout today is due to his policies & decisions. Where were these TV journalists during Zia’s time, i shall tell you, they all were singing songs of his rule & now when given the freedom to express during Musharaf’s time they were spitting venom not realizing that they were hurting Pakistan’s interests by projecting Talibans & fundos as the face of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jaffar khan
    Jun 22, 2010 - 2:22PM

    brilliant.Very well written.Ammar keep it up.So good to see a young man with a thinking mind.Express please give space to serious writers who can educate people like Arsalan,Farhan,Umer Farooq.Recommend

  • sheraz khan
    Jun 22, 2010 - 2:27PM

    u r absolutely right, dictators are bad news…i mean Nawaz Sharif is the god son of a dictator and we are still suffering from him plus the mullahs and the talibans were created by a dictator as well :)Recommend

  • rosysblue
    Jun 22, 2010 - 2:27PM

    you’re sooo right…uff..i love you shahryar!!Recommend

  • Spinkane
    Jun 22, 2010 - 2:56PM

    About honesty of dictators.Ayub’s father was a subedar major in the army.The total salary Ayub got in his entire service was less than 3 million rupees.His sons are billionaires.Zia came from India,he did not have a car till 1968.The salary he got from army, in his entire service, was about 4 million rupees.His sons are billionaires.Musharraf’s father also came from India,so could not have brought any land from there.He was a low ranking officer.The salary Musharraf received during his service is between 22 to 30 million rupees.His Farm House in Chak Shahzad is worth rupees 140 million.Recommend

  • Farigh
    Jun 22, 2010 - 4:36PM

    agreed..dictators are bad. Infact anyone not accountable is bad. Politicians at least can be accounted after 5 years, no matter how good or bad they are they always have to leave the government. Musharraf is worst choice because he already had absolute power for 9 years. Whom he picked as his aides? Ch. Shujaat? wow what a choice. No country has ever progressed during dictatorship, Pakistan has tried thrice and surprisingly still some people can justify it Recommend

  • Malang
    Jun 22, 2010 - 5:12PM

    “Historically speaking, the national-security-obsessive and administratively postcolonial foundation of our statehood has necessitated an insecure position for the civilian political class; they have remained largely dependent on the military and bureaucratic arms of the state for patronage in matters of governance.”
    While i agree that much of our political set-up seems to recquire a military mandate, do you not feel this would be waived off if the ‘democracy’ in question was effective…or democratic even. Democratic ideals require, above all, tolerance and an genuine belief in equality, which we simply do not have. Pakistan being largely an agrarian society, means that we still maintain a structure of serfs and land lords, extending that to the political arena.

    @ Jafri: Why-oh-why, must personal attacks be brought into this forum. Critique the piece or opinion, not the person!Recommend

  • Mohammad Yousaf
    Jun 22, 2010 - 5:15PM

    Dictors are bad but the POLITICIANS ARE THE WORST!! Election commission today said there are around 140 MPAs having FAKE DEGREES!!

    **During FY 2000 the public debt was 96%, which has declined to 54 % in FY 2006, Export growth has accelerated to US $ 17.011 billion in FY 2006-07, which was US $ 8.5 billion in FY 2000, the Equity market was out performing with market capitalization to the tune of US $ 47.5 billion as of December 20, 2006**

    Ministry of Toursim, Report on: Investment Opportunity In Tourism Industry
    Page 15, Paragraph No. 3Recommend

  • Humza Dubai
    Jun 22, 2010 - 6:23PM


    love the picture
    love the title
    this article is perfect
    you are perfect!Recommend

  • Ammar Rashid
    Jun 22, 2010 - 7:17PM

    @Umer Farooq: I’m not going to contest your normative opinions, which you are entitled to. However, some of your facts are incorrect. The voter turnout in Pakistan is not declining, it increased by 3.5% in 2008 despite the controversial circumstances (Such as the Emergency and Supreme Court purges) and the violent build-up to the polls. Further, every credible opinion poll on Pakistani society has reaffirmed the people’s commitment to democracy as an ideal – even if our societal ideal may differ considerably from the Westminster model.

    If, however, the education (or lack thereof) of elected representatives is the main issue for you, please refer to the history of innumerable functional democracies (Malaysia being an obvious postcolonial example) where the development of democratic institutions preceded educational reform and mass literacy. There are few, if any examples, where military dictatorships achieved the same.Recommend

  • Ammar Rashid
    Jun 22, 2010 - 7:19PM

    @Shahryar Ahmed:
    Firstly, no, a country is not a corporation that requires effective ‘management’ nor is the gaining of ‘strategic advantage’ the core of governance – it is precisely such thinking which has led to the proliferation in Pakistan of murderous ‘strategic assets’ and created an army of destitute workers and peasants toiling endlessly and without recompense for the sake of the ‘efficiency’ demanded by the country’s autocratic ‘managers’. Effective governance occurs with the mass consent of the governed (not just the urban, educated elite) and it encompasses the all-important sphere of societal conflict mediation. Neither aspect could remotely be classified as the forte of military men.
    I am also sincerely surprised that you fail to see the contradictions in your own reasoning – the individuals you have listed as supposed paragons of ‘greatness’ (a characterization I would strongly disagree with, personally) are in fact, products of the very democracy you are so keen on universally berating.
    As for the somewhat odd assertion that democracies do not work in countries with ‘weak systems’, I must confess I don’t really understand what you’re talking about. Information systems? Cultural systems? Cohesive federal systems? Religious systems? Geographical systems? Culinary systems? Apologies for the obvious comprehensive shortcoming on my part. :)Recommend

  • Bangash
    Jun 22, 2010 - 8:01PM

    Musharraf brought democracy and free press to Pakistan and is returning to take part in civilian politics. Please move on from Feb 2008.Recommend

  • Farrukh Siddiqui
    Jun 22, 2010 - 9:58PM

    Pakistan’s chattering classes just don’t get it. They are still debating this. The first military dictator, Ayub Khan, started top-level corruption and antagonised Bengalis to the degree that break-up of Pakistan became almost inevitable. His successor Yahya Khan made it happen within two years of the departure of his boss. The third dictator gave us drugs, guns, jihadis, and destroyed Jinnah’s Pakistan by selling it to Saudi-American axis. The fourth dictator, Musharraf gave us the War on Terror in the name of saving Pakistan. It turns out, it has turned into a War on Pakistan and may undo whatever is left of Pakistan. And some people are still debating whether dictatorship is bad?? Have we just lost it completely? Recommend

  • Mazen
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:54PM

    gud to see young one’s contribution on this blogRecommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 9:04AM

    What a stupid generalization the author has made in this article. Not all dictators are bad!

    Also can anyone tell me why Musharraf was the worst? You keep making that blanket statement but without any backing information.Recommend

  • Stranger
    Jun 23, 2010 - 10:08AM

    I don’t know and care about what is right and what is wrong? I only knows the figures. Starting from the Ayub era, the basic foundation of our economy is build in this era. Some says that there was disparity in the income levels. But they don’t know the reason, the govt. at that time has encouraged the people to invest and therefore there was income disparity and it was needed at that time. Moreover in Musharraf era our GDP was 6.5 % (2005) now it 4.1 %. Moreover inflation was (4-6 %). $ rate was 60. KSE 100 index has reached its highest volumes.

    These are figures u cant ignore.Recommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 10:29AM

    Musharraf’s era was the best era in Pakistan, IF by any means you think that they are not good, OPEN your eyes and accept the fact that this government is a failure :)Recommend

  • Rocket
    Jun 23, 2010 - 11:35AM

    Zain Abbas,
    Mr.Rashid has already pointed out that the title was not set by him. That makes ur comment senseless.Recommend

  • Rocket
    Jun 23, 2010 - 12:11PM


    One of the most unqualified comment since 0000 BC.
    Why the hatred?

    A non-representative govt looking out for the greater good of the masses, the fact that the current democratic setup is inefficient does not qualify as a reason to sympathize with Military regimes. It’s the democratic system we need to fix. If ur car tyre gets punctured, would you find a donkey, amputate its one limb and fix it to your car or would you get the tyre fixed.

    And Musharraf is totally kewl man. I love fashion TV.Recommend

  • apistomustakhta
    Jun 23, 2010 - 12:17PM

    Dear Mr. Rashid,
    Not only have you very eloquently weaved the nuances of this intricate matter but also your name should have two Es rather than an I.
    I think the right term for people who have criticized you here is…wait for it…
    PLAYER HATER, What WHAT?Recommend

  • Ammar Rashid
    Jun 23, 2010 - 12:32PM

    @Murtaza Ali Jafri: I’ll desist from replying to your entirely unnecessary personal jab there. :)

    I’m somewhat uncertain what you mean by dictators being the only ones to ‘build’ something. Assuming here that you don’t mean infrastructure of the physical variety (roads, buildings, railways or bodies :) I’m going to guess that you meant the country did better economically under their reign?

    Unfortunately enough, that is another huge fallacy, based largely on the large growth rates experienced during the respective generals’ tenures. For one, what such arguments fail to take account of is that our military rulers have historically ruled, without exception, with the political, military and financial support of the United States and its capitalist institutional components (the IMF, WB, WTO). In all three of our larger military periods, we have experienced huge influxes (in billions of dollars) of aid and investment aided by the political capital garnered by our military brass in Washington from doing their bidding in their unique ways. Needless to say, our imperial masters have not been so kind to civilian governments.

    The large growth rates experienced during Ayub and Musharraf’s time (growth rates in Zia’s time did not differ from Bhutto’s) are attributed by most credible economists, in large part, to these massive aid inflows (and in Musharraf’s case, post 9-11 remittances) that occurred in the 60s and early 2000s. For more detail and evidence on this hypothesis see Matthew McCartney’s excellent paper on ‘Economic Growth in Pakistan 1951 to 2009’.

    Not only have these influxes led to a debilitating aid-dependency for much of our economy, they have also had a more subtle destructive influence through the phenomenon known to economists as the ‘Dutch Disease’. For the economic layman, this is what the dutch disease (in Pakistan’s case) entails: huge aid inflows leading to massive increases in foreign exchange in the country, leading to an overvalued domestic currency, which reduces the competitiveness of local exports and severely debilitates the manufacturing/agricultural base of the country (which depends on exports to a large degree).

    In Pakistan’s case, as the aid inflows squandered during military regimes are quickly replaced with stifling conditionality-driven loans during democratic governments, the fallout of aid dependency and the dutch disease is usually witnessed at the time of democratic dispensations being in power, creating the fallacious impression that dictatorships do well and democracies flounder.

    Hence, even from a purely growth-oriented perspective, it is truly laughable to say that dictatorships have done more for this country than democratic administrations. It is more the case that civilian leaderships have invariably been left holding the bag while the military makes its unscathed retreats.Recommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 3:52PM

    I’m sorry, I’ve been rolling on the floor laughing since today morning when I read that Musharraf was a bigger democrat than the civil political stooges that we have ruling us today. Also funny was the comment that said “Democracy gave us nothing”.

    What have you given to democracy?

    What popular political party have you made that is not hoarded by vested interests, be they business or landlords or gangsters or barons or whatever?

    Have you ever voted considering the future of your country and the lives and prosperity of your children? Or did you just enjoy the holiday that comes with the election package?

    Have you ever supported any “executive decision” made by a civilian ruler? Or have you made more mileage out of how bad or ineffective every decision by every civilian government is?


    Have you ever spoken to a father who lost his daughter in the Red Mosque?
    Have you ever spoken to a Balochi or a Bugti about Musharraf, and lived to tell the tale?
    Do you not see how the Pakhtun population was mercilessly killed under the auspices of “War on Terror”?

    I feel saddened by Mr. Muhammad Yousaf quoting facts and figures when EVERYONE knows that figures can be fudged, as we know through Mr. Shaukat Aziz’s tenure as Prime Minister. If you are so dedicated to factual data, please search online for how our GDP growth rates for 2008-09 were revised ONE YEAR AFTER they were registered. Also remember how a handful of influential families owned and controlled Pakistan’s economy during Ayub’s “Decade of Development”. The so-called 22 families. So much for that!

    I am stupefied by Mr. Zain Abbass’ statement that not all dictators are bad. My good man, ALL DICTATORS ARE BAD BY VIRTUE OF USURPING STATE/POLITICAL POWER TO WHICH THEY ARE NEITHER APPOINTED NOR ELECTED. Have you forgotten that the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Allah Almighty is a sacred trust that cannot be played around with no matter how many troops you command?

    I also feel more pity for the people of Pakistan when Mr. Umar Farooq says that the people can’t handle the system. WHAT KIND OF AN EXCUSE IS THAT?

    Focus on mass public education and civic duties rather than playing favorites with military autocrats or corrupt politicians at your whim and will.
    Stop being civilian pawns in the perpetuation of the “doctrine of state necessity”.
    Learn to serve your country rather than your political masters.
    We will see what Musharraf has to offer if/when he returns. Just because you have a bad option (Mush) and some worse options (AZ, NS, etc) doesn’t mean you choose the bad option.

    Rise for Pakistan, not for Pakistan’s failures. Recommend

  • SD
    Jun 23, 2010 - 7:25PM

    “Lums Idealism Bubble”

    that is so true! Recommend

  • Shibli Mansuri
    Jun 23, 2010 - 8:50PM

    Q. Why do people like Musharraf get re-elected after failing in office for 9 years.

    A. Because the people of Pakistan do not know that it is their right to have a well managed state. Because the people of Pakistan are ‘ok’ with getting half baked deals. Because the people of Pakistan do not take a stand, they know not what they have to gain.

    Solution: Vote for meRecommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 24, 2010 - 1:09AM

    This is an excellent article.

    But let me digress. Mr. Web-Master or whatever you are called, why do you continue to allow people with single names to write for you? Is this a matter of economics and the bottom-line?

    Why can’t I write as MEEZUUUU? I could have a lot more fun, attack people, and you would publish it.

    Giving my correct name, I was contacted by one of your very impressive female writers who introduced herself as my niece.

    Good Grief! Did I say something grumpy and rude to her?

    Fortunately I did not.

    I am a member of many forums. The only thing they don’t ask me for is personal information like how many wives I have had (THREE actually the last time I counted. Or maybe it is FOUR). They will check and double-check my credentials, test my e-mail and ask me to enter undecipherable code to prove I am “genuine”.

    Frankly, sir, I am disappointed in your loose (or no) standards. Indeed, I should have never sent you my picture. My readers could have been duped into thinking I was a 27 year old, suave and slick dude with a million dollar smile.

    Oh, crap. Recommend

  • Jahanzaib Haque
    Jun 24, 2010 - 1:36AM

    @Meekal Ahmed Thank you for your views sir, we will keep them in mind as we continue to work on the site. At the moment we strongly feel that putting a restriction on names, verifications of identity, email addresses etc. will only serve to hamper dialogue, aside from the fact that there are easy ways around such mechanisms. We have opted for ‘loose’ standards and have put our trust in our visitors, and while there are occasional slip-ups the overwhelming majority of comments do not require moderation, or the Web Desk filters them out for you. We aim to improve this over time. Best wishes and thank you for the feedback (Web Editor)Recommend

  • Farhan
    Jun 24, 2010 - 2:33AM

    The simple fact is (and this is going to hurt) that our Army is the most democratic institution we’ve got. Our COAS is the son of a JCO – he rose through the ranks on merit – as yet I do not see a hari’s son becoming MNA, what to talk about President or Prime Minister.Recommend

  • Jun 24, 2010 - 3:30AM

    I have an issue with people who keep insisting on the LUMS idealist bubble argument. I’d like to know what bubble they belong to. if you’re using the internet, reading the english language press, and forming even half-baked and mostly incorrect opinions, you are probably part of some ‘bubble’ as well. it’s not like you wake up every morning with your finger on the pulse of the ‘masses’.

    @Farhan: Just because the son of a JCO becomes an Army general does not automatically mean that the institution is democratic. In fact thats not even the question here. Does an institution deserve to rule over the country simply because it makes sure that its members can walk in a straight line?Recommend

  • Omer
    Jun 24, 2010 - 8:09AM

    Some people just can’t think, especially some of our journalists. If dictartors are always bad than how can you explain the fact that it was former dictators of countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore who made their countries progressive, richer and modern. Recommend

  • Umar Farooq
    Jun 24, 2010 - 10:27AM

    @Ammar, The Iraqi elections 2010 had a voter turnout of 62 percent and 38 people were killed in the run up to the elections. A Country under Military occupation by a predominantly American coalition, has more faith in Democracy than we do. Historically they have had more Authoritarian regimes thn us . Saddam Hussain the leader of Iraq for over 23 years before the US led invasion, makes our most heavy handed leader Gen Zia seem almost Angelic.Corruption is rising in Pakistan, as far as Public opinion is concerned 70 percent of the Public believes that the current Government is more corrupt than the last. The economy has dropped like a rock, while our leaders are busy slinging mud and degrading their own respect on TV.Firdous Ashiq Awan and Fauzia Wahab perhaps best highlight the level to which our Politicans are willing to go to maintain their positions , vulgar language and the constant denial of everything, facts, claims whatever the case maybe obscene language and NO seems to be the answer our leaders always give. We need an overhaul of the system to a more controlled and limited setup with fail safe measures to make sure that the values of competence and honesty are valued and promoted.Recommend

  • Ahmed Khan
    Jun 24, 2010 - 10:41AM

    Just want to say one thing

    ..its a shame that people are still discussing democracy versus dictatorship whereas the difference in the two and its impact us (ordinary citizens) is so evident!Recommend

  • Khobar from UK
    Jun 24, 2010 - 11:14AM

    Gen Musharraf should return to Pakistan and test his popularity.
    I suggest he should join MQM. After all he was nick named as ‘Sector Incharge’ of Islamabad. He was the one who was very proud of ‘people’s strength’ shown by his favourite thugs in Karachi on 12th May.

    What he did to the CJP can not be overemphsised and in fact it brought to his downfall otherwise this generalissimo would have been going on for almost ever with his ‘second skin’ super glued on him.

    No one would even imagine in wildest dreams that he would run to safety of London. I do not imagine in the same esteem that he would ever dare to return to Pakistan where he would definitely be arraigned and charged with subversion of the constitution.Recommend

  • Nadir
    Jun 24, 2010 - 1:52PM

    Love it! As true as it gets. High time people realise what’s what!Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 24, 2010 - 4:24PM

    Mr. Rashid,

    I liked your point about aid-fueled growth, the Dutch-Disease effect and so on. A non-economist will never believe that our currency is pushed up in real effective terms. All they see is a currency always under downward pressure.

    The correlation between aid and growth in the case of Pakistan is quite striking. Why the correlation weakened in Zia’s time was because the aid was misallocated/diverted to military use.

    We now have a democratic dispensation (unlike in the case of Ayub, Zia and Mush) and the promise of huge infusions of aid. Let’s see what happens this time.

    Don’t forget, in Mush’s time, despite all that aid, we did have a three-year IMF PRGF with very high access which we claim we completed. I strongly suspect that much sleigh-of-hand was used, especially in the fiscal area.

    We even had a three-year EFF in Zia’s time but the program was not completed (one of many failed IMF programs).

    A lot, or at least some large part of the growth in Mush’s time was illusory. You can do wonders with chaging weights and base years to the growth numbers.

    This time the economy will take-off. But not unless binding constraints are alleviated (energy & security).Recommend

  • Farrukh Siddiqui
    Jun 24, 2010 - 10:14PM

    Aid is mostly loans and not grants. Latin America was the most heavily aided (read indebted) region in the world in the 1980s. That decade was also a lost decade for Latin America. Aid does not promote sustainable growth investments do because aid is almost certainly misused and abused and the result down the road is more debt, does not matter who it is owed to, IMF or some countries. Recommend

  • Ali Zaidi
    Jun 25, 2010 - 4:27AM

    You cannot appoint a sheep to look over a herd of clueless sheep. You need a man with a stick for this job.Recommend

  • Stranger
    Jun 25, 2010 - 9:45AM

    First thing is that yes in Gen. Zia era our economic conditions are not good but that is due to the after effects of nationalization done by Z.A. Bhotto.

    Currently we are facing twine deficit. Our trade deficit has been been increasing day by day and that is largely attributed to govt. expenditure. To finance that deficit we are borrowing from IMF. and our currency is depreciating. Moreover inflation is increasing due to borrowing. We are not increasing our resources. There is much differences between provinces , as a result we are not increasing our resource such as building dams(long run solution to overcome energy crisis).

    In NWFP food insecurity has increase. There are many reason but one of the reason is that Punjab has put some quota on export of wheat.

    From leadership point of view what morals did our political leaders have, since our Prime Minister’s salary is Rs. 3 million and one third of our population is under poverty.Recommend

  • Stranger
    Jun 25, 2010 - 10:27AM

    If a country takes loan is not always bad. If from that loan they increase their resources then it will benefit for the country. Australia also takes loan but from that loan they build infrastructure. And by the way our democratic govt. also takes loan and they r not building any infrastructure they r just financing deficit. Recommend

  • Stranger
    Jun 25, 2010 - 10:29AM

    All the infrastructure had been build in Ayub era. It was the golden era for the economic development .Recommend

  • Faryal Rashid
    Jun 26, 2010 - 12:24AM

    i love it..its amazing nd so is da picture..!Recommend

  • Shams
    Jun 26, 2010 - 2:16AM

    Dear Ammar Rashid I am glad to stumble upon your excellent blog. I salute you for your insight and passion. Your arguments are strong and sincere. You interacted frequently and without shying away from the opponents’ arguments. And there were a lot of opposition here, mostly based on sheer emotions and conditioned wisdom.

    Someone called your blog LUMS idealism. To tell you the truth I considered LUMS to be an elite business school devoid of any idealism for political and social causes. Your blog has definitely cracked my bias.

    I salute you for your wisdom, compassion and idealism. Nothing great is ever achieved without idealism. You have the makings of a great leader and for me you are already my leader. Recommend

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