Has the eagle landed?

Published: October 2, 2010
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The official logo of the All Pakistan Muslim League.

The official logo of the All Pakistan Muslim League.

Everybody likes comebacks. No one ever agrees on their quality, but the chatter can’t be ignored. The return of the doped-out athlete or the jailed movie-star is always observed, debated and judged.

But there is no comeback like a political comeback: Winston Churchill; Richard Nixon; Nelson Mandela; even M.A. Jinnah – all giants of government, each forced out of the public coliseum as a wounded ideologue, only to return as stronger and bigger leaders.

But the rarest of comebacks is that of the defamed dictator.

Military rulers – especially those who have had the luck to survive assassination attempts but not the acumen to sustain an absolutist, coup-inspired dispensation of their own making – returning to the political realm, that too through the mainstream of the democratic process – a parliamentary party – are the hummingbirds of the political animal kingdom: They are seldom seen, not expected to make much of a dent to the food-chain, but are obsessively sought by the observers of the jungle of public affairs.

But the artilleryman who became a commando, and the commando who became a general, and the general who became a coup-maker, and the coup-maker who became a pariah, and the pariah who became a statesman, and the statesman who became a global icon – one former President General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf, doesn’t think he’s a hummingbird. Nor do his supporters.

And they also say that he’s been through so many transitions that another turn-around is only a natural challenge for the man who was once quoted by Time Magazine in unforgettable, yet (eventually) fallible gusto: “I never feel scared.”

Those were the Big Days of Musharraf. The million-dollar book deals and the Camp David retreats, the 95 percent referendums and the booming middle-classes – made him, and most of the rest of the world, feel like the man was always meant to run Pakistan, fight a global war, solve regional conflicts, empower women, emancipate media, and ensure everyone in his country could afford a cell-phone.

But then, something went wrong.

Musharraf’s base – the “believers” – could not understand. The progressive elites were shocked at his treatment of the judicial crisis. The capitalist elites were let down by his inability to balance the books and provide the basics as militancy multiplied. The middle-classes saw their car and bike loans climb into deathbed debts. And as they saw both his country and his control over it melt all around him, the global elites – not the always interested academic ones, but the low-attention span political sort – concluded that Musharraf was a powerless relic, an emasculated warrior, an armchair general who needed to retire. And so it ended.

But now, it has begun again. Well, sort of.

Yesterday, in London and Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, the All Pakistan Muslim League got a new leader. Pervez Musharraf is now, officially, the tough cookie of Pakistani politics. His party’s symbol, the eagle, is a throwback to the famous Iqbal poem that inspires all to fly high.

The ‘ex-factor’ makes Musharraf feel confident enough about returning is not actually, but virtually, full of potential.

This is the “credit card” support base that the APML is banking on – called so because they have the potential to provide Musharraf benefits, but currently only ‘promise’ the big bucks.

Musharraf’s game-plan is not public yet, nor is it fully baked. His supporters at home obviously feel the time is right for him to launch into politics, but not return.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • parvez
    Oct 2, 2010 - 1:06PM

    Nice balanced article. If I had a million Pound apartment in London town, a fat bank balance and several properties in Pakistan and the “political sirens call” was strong in my ear, which must be a very voluptuous siren call. I too would slap my thigh and say “come on lets give it a try, I really have nothing to lose. If it does not work, well I gave it a try. “Recommend

  • Oct 2, 2010 - 2:33PM

    I can’t speak of London, because I was not there. However, one was surprised at the attendance at two places-Islamabad and Karachi. I, for one , was also surprised to see the name of my former boss, Chaudhry Hamid Nasir Chatta, among those listed to proceed to London to attend the party’s launch. While Mr. Chatta was in office as Information Minister and Speaker, National Assembly, he fully backed the former late Prime Minister Khan Muhammad Junejo, and shined as bona fide democrat. Has he thrown his lot with a former dictator- jettissoning his democratic credential.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Oct 2, 2010 - 9:44PM

    Great article.Recommend

  • kamran khan baloch
    Oct 3, 2010 - 6:34AM

    As a stock exhange investor…I can feel, the shares of APML are going to be bluechip sooner, than later…a strong BUY call….
    M Ali Saif, Amir-muqam , Fawad are smartest of investors…they knew that although Musharraf’s balance sheet is weak…but its a fundamentally strong “Company”…. Lets have a rally… :-) , specially Saif…will benift a lot by sticking to the “City Bank”, even it had lost a lot of face value. Recommend

  • mussarat ahmedzeb swat
    Oct 3, 2010 - 7:22AM

    If a man cannot catch glory when his knees are supple,he had better not try when they are stiff..Recommend

  • Natasha
    Oct 3, 2010 - 6:26PM

    Nice article – very well written.

    I think Gen Musharraf’s comeback will be very interesting as the media plays down the breadth of his popularity.

    I do think he should wait before he comes back here though.Recommend

  • Nageen
    Oct 4, 2010 - 5:05PM

    “Every Pakistani who fulfills the legal and law’s requirements has a right to fight for presidency.” Same was my thought when Zardari was being elected. In gatherings where people criticized him as being unfit to rule, I snapped back by saying “WHY NOT”…let him TRY.
    Gen PM is someone we have tried before! And, we are ready to give him an Another TRY too because IMHO in his time the common man improved! As the writer points out also that everyone on street can afford a cell phone!
    IMAO, I dont think Lal Masjid incidence was inappropriate, since the people were give ample time to leave. If they were innocent people then why did they have weapons…Weapons in schools only teaches Voilence and cannot be justified anyways! Not even in case of war, since in WAR the schools are shut down instead of Weapon-izing them.
    Similarly, it might not be fair to imprison Dr. Afia for 86 years on the grounds of attempting to assualt a US official. But, yes, her links cannot be denied. Voilence is not acceptable by Pakistanis………….not anymore!
    However, in Gen PM’s policies I am unhappy that Kala bagh was never built. If we would have had a couple of dams on the main indus channel the flood disaster would have far lesser than what it is today.
    So I guess what APML has to work on is long term planning…and with a strategist and visionary like Gen PM, it can come out great.
    So what, if he has a military background…..He is a Pakistani and has a right to participate in elections!Recommend

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