DAWN - Opinion; October 12, 2003

Published October 12, 2003

Musharraf’s four years in power

By M. Ziauddin


TODAY Pakistan’s fourth military government completes its fourth year in power. While the first three military rulers used naked martial law as a ‘legal’ cover for governance, the fourth one, using the power flowing from an unannounced or covert martial law, issued the so-called Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) to ‘legalize’ his rule while the Constitution that was in existence on October 12, 1999, was suspended.

The superior judiciary was made to take oath under this order. This was as good as martial law with the superior courts functioning at the pleasure of the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).

After this the story of the fourth military government’s march into a blind alley has been almost the same as that of the three earlier ones. Gen Musharraf has taken three years to ‘restore’ democracy but without as yet transferring real power to the elected parliament. Under the LFO, he is all powerful and he has refused to take it to parliament for assent on the plea that the Supreme Court has validated it. Gen. Musharraf has also got himself ‘regularized’ as the constitutional president of Pakistan by giving ‘legal’ cover to his referendum through the LFO. Like Ayub and Zia, Musharraf too has been adopted by Washington and is being provided as much, if not more, help in the spheres of economy, politics and foreign affairs though the reasons and circumstances cited by the US for doing so have been different for each of the three generals.

As a result, today once again our economy is ‘booming,’ though in a very narrow sense of the term. Every rich donor, both bilateral and multilateral, seems to have opened its coffers for Pakistan.

We are being paid handsomely for the services we are rendering to the US in its war against the elusive ‘terrorists’. But then while the economy has seemingly started showing signs of picking up, the poverty line too appears to be widening. No major investment has taken place either in the public or private sector. Unemployment is soaring. Foreign investment continues to be shy. And the unending sectarian violence is not helping either.

And then Musharraf wants to unify and lead the entire Muslim world towards (his OIC rhetoric, lately) a path of ‘enlightened moderation,’ while at home during his four-year rule, he has only succeeded in sharpening sectarian and provincial divides. His exhortations on water projects, especially the Kalabagh dam, have messed up provincial relations.

With $11 billion in the foreign exchange kitty (thanks largely to 9/11), revenue generation and exports growing at a healthy pace and donors ready to help him with concessional doles, Gen Musharraf does not appear to be too much worried about investment and unemployment. His worry is the depleting defence capability because nobody, including his friends in the US, is selling us advanced weapon systems. The US appears reluctant even to sell us spares on the plea that it does not want to trigger an arms race in the subcontinent but behind this excuse it is perhaps trying to camouflage the reality of the democracy-related sanctions which seem not to have been removed despite the installation of an elected government.

The general has been claiming that he has succeeded in eradicating corruption from the top and that it now exists only at the lower levels. But isn’t there a large hint of nepotism in his decision to induct more than 1,000 defence personnel in civilian posts?

Sectarian violence is a legacy of Zia. But the successors of Zia, including the present incumbent, instead of putting a cap on it have looked the other way as the nation without being consulted was forced into two low-intensity wars for over 10 years — one in Afghanistan and the other in occupied Kashmir — using jihad as a strategic foreign policy instrument. The objective of the Afghan jihad was to achieve a so-called ‘strategic depth’ in the north beyond the Durand Line by helping install the Taliban in Kabul and the aim of the second war was to bleed India so much in occupied Kashmir through jihad that it would be forced to come to the negotiating table.

The Kargil misadventure was an important part of this strategy. Until about 9/11, Gen Musharraf was the biggest champion of the Taliban in Kabul and jihad in occupied Kashmir. And he was succeeding. His Afghan policy was sustaining his Kashmir policy. India was actually bleeding. New Delhi had gone on the defensive and one felt then that it wanted very much to come to some kind of a settlement with Pakistan.

The US was also interested for its own reasons to get the two, Pakistan and India, to start talking. Using its economic clout on an economically down and out Pakistan (this was before 9/11), it did make Islamabad create conditions to enable Prime Minister Vajpayee to invite Gen Musharraf for talks without losing face. So, Agra summit happened. India made it clear through a number of gestures but without saying so in so many words that it considered Kashmir as the core problem between India and Pakistan. It appeared to be ready even to put it down on paper but in return it wanted Gen. Musharraf to denounce in writing militancy in occupied Kashmir. But the general refused to oblige.

India is arming itself to the teeth and does not want to talk to us because it knows that Pakistan has lost the dreaded instrument of jihad. It knows that Pakistan does not have the conventional capability to force India to give up its half of Kashmir and it also knows that Islamabad can put the nuclear-option to use only as a deterrence and not as an offensive weapon.

New Delhi does seem to be interested in normalizing relations with Pakistan but on its own terms without any talks on Kashmir. There seems to be nothing Pakistan or any other power can do today to force India to discuss Kashmir at least in the foreseeable future. And our Afghanistan policy has resulted in a hostile Kabul and in the need to deploy for the first time in the last 56 years troops numbering as many as 70,000 along the Durand Line which the Karzai government has derecognized by implication.

In the four years of his tenure, Gen Musharraf seems to have achieved a level of political stability. His immediate successes can be attributed to the decisions of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to remain out of the country and also to his selective use of the instrument of accountability. He has used the judiciary in whatever way he wanted all these years. For every unconstitutional action of his he has a ruling of the superior courts. The crisis over the LFO, in retrospect, appears to be well designed. Gen. Musharraf does not seem to be in a mood to transfer power in a hurry.

He has made it very clear that he would not take off his uniform or court the risk of an election. And where the LFO is concerned, he has no intention of taking it to parliament for approval. He knows that if he doffs his uniform he immediately becomes a hostage in the hands of the next Chief of Army Staff. On the other hand if he takes the LFO to parliament, he becomes a captive of parliament, no matter how pliable it is.

The general’s investment in the MMA has so far paid off handsomely. The politics of the religious alliance thrives on anti-Musharraf and anti-US sentiments in the country. The MMA does not want to lose this advantage, come what may. On the other hand, it also does not want to lose its governments in the NWFP and Balochistan. So, by continually agitating against the LFO and the uniform in parliament, it has ensured the continued loyalty of its vote bank, but, at the same time, by keeping the doors of negotiations open all the time, it has so far kept the government from retaliating against its governments in the NWFP and Balochistan.

The agitation at the centre also keeps the leadership of the opposition in the hands of the MMA, though between the PPPP and the PML-N, the two parties have more seats in parliament and had also polled more votes than the religious alliance in the last elections. This is an ideal arrangement for Gen Musharraf as well. With the leadership of the opposition in the hands of the MMA, he or his government need not have any truck with the real challengers — the PPP and the PML-N. On the other hand, he can always point to his friends in Washington that he faces a challenge from religious extremists on the domestic front in the guise of the MMA, and therefore he needs continued help from them.

So, unless a tussle for turf starts between his and Jamali’s secretariats like the one we saw between Junejo’s and Zia’s, there is every likelihood that the current arrangement with all its defects and artificiality would last until the next election in 2008. Meanwhile, any misunderstanding between Jamali and his party chief Chaudhry Shujaat can also cause trouble. Already Tariq Aziz is looking with a large dose of impatience at the way the PM’s secretariat is handling the job of transfers and postings.

Gen Musharraf’s supporters give him a lot of credit for allowing the domestic media to function in a relatively freer environment. But then why should a man who knows very well that he is not going to offer himself to any kind of accountability or the judgment of an electorate of any kind worry about media criticism, no matter how intense and how widespread? His supporters also completely endorse his decision to continue wearing the two hats on the plea that the on-going global and regional turmoil and domestic uncertainties, plus the need to put the economy on the right track, demand that Musharraf remain all powerful.

There is logic in this reasoning. But then our past experience has shown that this logic has always failed and pushed us to the precipice every time the strongman in charge disappeared from the scene. Also, there must be a lot of logic in the reasoning of the advanced countries when they refuse to endorse Gen. Musharraf’s democratic credentials.

Rise in sectarian violence

By Mahdi Masud


THE escalating sectarian violence threatens the very bedrock of the nation’s polity, its internal peace, harmony and socio-economic progress. That the sectarianism has been allowed to spread since the eighties has made it a vicious force and at this stage nothing short of drastic action would prove effective in curbing it.

What the government has not realized is the fact that the consequences of sectarian terrorism, if not put down ruthlessly, would be infinitely worse for larger national interests than any backlash which the government apparently apprehends from tough action against the forces of sectarian hatred and violence. Sectarianism is the fascism of our time. Proponents of sectarian hatred and incitement whether from the pulpit or madrassahs should be deemed to be no less culpable of crimes than the killers themselves

With all the problems facing Pakistan internally and externally, the opening up of another front conflict is the last thing that we can afford at this stage. At the global level no anti-Muslim force ever distinguishes between one Islamic sect and another in the course of their ruthless persecution of Muslims whether in India, Kashmir, Palestine or elsewhere. Mercifully the terrorist outrages do not reflect any upsurge in sectarian animosity at the popular level. The sectarian monster of recent years is a test-tube baby, a contrived product of narrow, self-seeking interests. However, if the terrorists are not tracked down and brought to book and given exemplary punishment as a deterrent to others, the nightmare of sectarian riots may come to pass.

Indian political observers have spoken of “unprecedented policy choices open to India as a result of Pakistan’s failure to “manage its ethno-sectarian contradictions”. Faced as we are with a volatile regional environment, serious problems with India (and Afghanistan), the on-going freedom struggle in Kashmir and serious challenges to Pakistan’s political stability and economic progress, the last thing we need is to open the Pandora’s box of sectarian mayhem.

Religious leaders and the intelligentsia have a fundamental obligation to work together to create a climate of respect for all sects and for their revered personalities and for avoiding any injury to the feelings and sentiments of the two major sects. This is the only civilized way of coexisting in a multi-denominational society.

Most disheartening has been the low-key response and virtual inaction of the leadership of the religio-political parties over the systematic sabotaging of national solidarity by sectarian extremists. These leaders could play a vital role through their extensive religious and political platforms in combating sectarian incitement and violence. For their part, the mainstream political parties have shown no interest in using their influence to counter efforts to provoke sectarian hatred and violence.

The greatest source of disappointment has been the studied inactivity of human rights organizations. Except in a few of isolated instances, the champions of human rights, who are quick to take up cudgels in far less tragic situations, have failed to voice outrage or to mobilize public opinion against the brutal sectarian slayings over the past many years.

The media too has not done much to highlight and condemn the continuing targeting of an Islamic community which has been an integral part of the polity and the state. The hands of the government would be immensely strengthened in dealing with propagators and practitioners of sectarian hatred and violence if mainline political parties, the religio-political leadership, the human rights organizations and the print and electronic media too joined in the campaign against such elements.

What is needed is deterrent punishment for sectarian terrorists. It is regrettable that a regime, which had justified suspension of the Constitution on grounds of “national interests”, finds itself unable to do much about legal and procedural roadblocks in providing exemplary punishment to sectarian killers in the rare cases where the police manage to catch the real perpetrators. Indeed, most disturbing is the thought that if a military-led government is unable to confront the sectarian terrorists, there is practically no prospect of a political regime in the future mustering enough courage to do so. Some key elements in the establishment are apparently not prepared to take on the terrorist groups whose networks have been used in the past to promote particular objectives in the region.

Respected Pakistanis from different walks of life should get together for joint declarations, stressing the importance of sectarian peace, harmony and tolerance for national stability and progress. Greater use should be made of TV/radio by respected religious leaders of different sects and writings in the print media to highlight the dangerously negative effects of sectarian violence and strife on Pakistan’s vital security, economic and political interests.

The bedrock of the bulk of the people of Pakistan is their belief in the Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Respect for positive traditions and cultural and religious heritage is a key element of all living civilizations. But should we not combine this respect for our heritage with an understanding of others born in a different community or sect? The perceived monopoly of truth should never be divorced from humanism, compassion and understanding.

Those amongst us who have not felt the pain and anguish of the near and dear ones of those ruthlessly murdered on either side, would do well to recall the memorable words of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). In reply to a question as to when justice would be established on this earth, the Holy Prophet said, “Not until he who sees injustice done to another feels it as much as if the injustice was done to him”.

The writer is a former ambassador of Pakistan.

My country, right or wrong

MY country, right or wrong. It’s getting harder to know when it’s right and when it’s wrong. To bring you up to date, the CIA has asked the Justice Department to find out who in the White House leaked the identity of one of its undercover agents to the press.

Undercover agents’ names cannot be revealed because lives could be endangered. In this case, the leak came from people in the White House who were trying to embarrass an American ambassador by using his wife.

The CIA wants the Justice Department to find out who the White House leakers were and try them for unauthorized disclosure, which could mean a 10-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine.

The attorney general is the president’s lawyer and he certainly doesn’t enjoy the task of doing the CIA’s bidding. The White House denies it has been leaking anything to the press concerning undercover agents, though columnist Robert Novak disclosed the operative’s identity and maintains he had two Bush sources for his information.

Of course, the people in the Administration are mad at the CIA for rocking the boat by demanding an investigation from the Justice Department.

Where, you may ask, does the FBI fit in? They are supposed to find out who the leakers are, even though they are very reluctant to do anything the CIA asks of them. At the same time, the FBI is still looking for senators who may have leaked information about weapons of mass destruction evidence, which was supposed to have been top secret.

Don’t go away. There’s more. The White House is trying to find out who planted information as to what it would cost to rebuild Iraq.

The Pentagon has asked its intelligence service to profile everyone flying JetBlue aeroplanes to see if its passengers are terrorists.

The president is staying out of the fray, except to find out what Vice President Cheney knew about uranium from Niger and when he knew it. He has asked Karl Rove to find out which speechwriter inserted the statement concerning uranium in his State of the Union speech to Congress.

The Democrats claim Bush lied to the country when he said he had to attack Iraq to destroy Saddam’s WMDs. The Republicans responded that just because the Americans didn’t find any weapons doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

The FBI, through the Patriot Act, is investigating anyone who criticizes Homeland Security. Their findings will be turned over to Congress for hearings. Is there more? Of course there is.

In order to investigate everybody, the FBI needs 100,000 more agents and $87 billion dollars. This will guarantee that the United States will remain a democracy. (Except for California, where the governor could be overthrown in a putsch.)

Now I know everyone is wondering who is watching the FBI. It’s a good question. I have it on authority from two sources that the Environmental Protection Agency is watching the FBI and that is why the air is so clean in Washington.—Dawn/Tribune Media Services

ARD: which way?

By Anwar Syed


POLITICAL parties in Pakistan have periodically come together to launch protest movements against military dictators and autocratic rulers in hopes of ousting them. Democratic Action Committee (DAC) was formed to oppose Ayub Khan, United Democratic Front (UDF) to restrain Z.A. Bhutto’s drive towards authoritarianism, Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) to undo the electoral rigging in March 1977, and Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) to resist Ziaul Haq’s tyranny.

And now, for the last three years or so, we have had the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) that wants to remove General Pervez Musharraf and return the country to the 1973 Constitution in its pre-LFO version.

Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan played a leading role in these alliances, and he was president of ARD. Following his death on September 27, observers wondered which way ARD would go, let us say, during the next few months. Amin Fahim (PPP) and Javed Hashmi (PML-N) have been chosen, respectively, to act as chairman and president of the alliance, but it remains to be seen whether, even together, they will do as a replacement for Nasrullah Khan.

The Nawabzada excelled in the art of negotiation, basically an exchange between opposing parties, in which each side attempts to extract from the other as much acceptance as possible of its own stance. It requires of the participants a high level of ability to articulate their respective positions and infinite patience: in round after round the parties may keep restating their original positions, with minor variations, in order to exhaust the adversary into making concessions.

Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan was both articulate and patient. He would also seem to have been an astute student of politics. A gentleman of leisure, who never worked for a living, he had time to cultivate political notables. He never held, nor coveted, high public office, and lost elections more often than he won them. Thus he posed no threat to the careers of other politicians. All of this enabled him to bring leaders of diverse, even rival, groups together. He was not a “great statesman,” but such as he was he would be difficult to replace.

The ARD is said to consist of sixteen parties but fourteen of them are the typically silent partners. Its vocal and visible components are the PPP and PML (N). It hopes to oust General Musharraf through the pressures of a mass movement, that is, if he continues to ignore its pleas for him to quit.

The efficacy of any campaign that ARD may launch is diminished by the presence of a “like-minded” rival. The Islamic parties assembled in an alliance (MMA) have been more active than the ARD in opposing Musharraf and his LFO. But they have also been pragmatic and, at this point, they appear ready to accept the LFO with some modifications. If and when a settlement between the government and the MMA is reached, it will take the wind out of the ARD’s sails.

Are the PPP and PML (N) likely to continue working together in the ARD? It should be understood that deep down neither of them is all that worked up over the mischief wrought by the LFO. Each is agitated by the exclusion of its top leaders from politics. Nor can it be said that either of them will decline an invitation to return unless the other is allowed in also. At a recent press conference in Washington, Benazir Bhutto offered the general a “deal.” If he will write off her alleged wrongdoings, let her come home and pursue politics unhindered, her party will support a bill in parliament to condone the wrongdoings that he may have committed.

She claimed that she and the general were of the same mind on major issues of domestic and foreign policy — a fact that made them “natural allies.” She wondered why then he hated her party so much. It should be clear that in case she and the general made a deal, ARD’s integrity and effectiveness would come under severe strain.

Which way will the general go? He may decide to stay put and yield nothing to the MMA or the PPP. Mr Jamali’s government is reasonably secure. The larger party in the ruling coalition, PML(Q), is always ready to do his will. There is the possibility that in time Mr Jamali will become assertive, as the late Mr Junejo did in his relationship with Ziaul Haq. But that is a contingency to be met when it arises, and it may never arise. The chances that a mass movement launched by the MMA and/or the ARD may succeed in overthrowing the general are poor. There may really be no need then to make substantial concessions to any opponent.

On the other hand, it is true also that the opposition’s disruptionist acts are a nuisance and a distraction. Moreover, they give the outside world the impression that democracy in Pakistan is still a long way from finding a secure home. Representations to this effect have had some role in the Commonwealth’s decision to prolong the suspension of Pakistan’s membership. Suggestions that Musharraf has to do more by way of restoring democracy keep coming from the United States also. It would work to the good of the order if a settlement with one or more of the opposition parties were reached

Intermittent negotiations between the government and the MMA have gone on for more than ten months. The two sides reportedly see eye to eye on several provisions in the LFO. A few more mutual concessions might suffice to bring about full accord. For instance, the general is now said to be willing to take off his uniform on or before December 31, 2004, but he is reluctant to put it in writing. If he is indeed willing, making a public commitment to that effect is not a big thing. The general should be willing to make this minor concession in the larger national interest.

But a settlement concerning the LFO should not open the door to the MMA’s participation in governing. Its spokesmen have stated that they do not want to be ministers. That is good. Nor should any offers of further Islamization accompany the settlement. Members of the National Assembly belonging to the MMA should be left to play the normal role of a responsible and constructive opposition group.

Mr Javed Hashmi, acting head of PML(N), has been breathing fire, but life in exile would appear to have mellowed the party’s real president, Mr Shehbaz Sharif. He has been sending signals that he can live with the LFO, and that his principal concern at this time is to be allowed to return and practise politics. General Musharraf may have good reason to be intensely disapproving of Nawaz Sharif, but he cannot have the same kind of reason to distrust Shahbaz.

The real problem with Shahbaz Sharif’s return may be that he will pose a serious challenge to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s leadership of the reconstituted PML. Mr Hussain is working well as the general’s “good man,” and he is keeping the other notables in the party under control. Why then upset the proverbial applecart? Allowing Shahbaz Sharif to return and practise his craft may be the right and decent thing to do. But not every move the general, as a politician, makes has to be decent.

Benazir Bhutto wonders why General Musharraf hates her. Does he? We all know that numerous allegations of corruption and misuse of official power have been filed against her. We know also that similar allegations against other politicians have been set aside, and that some of them have even been elevated to high public office. Observers ask why then she must remain the target of the general’s “righteous” indignation.

The PPP and its top leadership, especially the late Mr Bhutto, were intensely loved and hated by a polarized public as no other politician had ever been. It may be recalled that many of our military officers had reason to resent greatly the humiliation Mr Bhutto sought to pour on them following the fall of Dhaka. It cannot be ruled out entirely that Benazir Bhutto inherits some of that old disaffection.

But much more disquieting for General Musharraf and his supporters is Ms Bhutto’s political standing in the country. It is apparent that she has a very substantial following that remains unaffected by the allegations of wrongdoing against her. In the elections of October last year, when she herself was away from the scene, her party won sixty-two of the general seats in the National Assembly (excluding the seats reserved for women, minorities, and FATA) in spite of hostile official intervention to its disadvantage, as opposed to the seventy-six that PML(Q) won with all of the rigging done in its favour.

If and when she returns to Pakistan, Ms Bhutto will be circumspect for a time, willing to bargain and make deals, but she cannot be relied upon to remain docile. Politics and democracy will surely be more vibrant, and also more accurately reflective of public opinion and alignments, if she is able to return and do her part. But if General Musharraf, like many a ruler past and present, believes that he alone knows what is best for the country, that his own destiny and that of the nation are inextricably linked, and that his rule must therefore proceed unhindered by credible rivals, he is not likely to let Ms Bhutto back into Pakistani politics as long as the decision is his to make.

Where does all this leave the ARD? It is possible that all three of the government’s principal opponents (MMA, PPP and PML-N), having failed to make their separate deals with it, will congregate to commiserate with one another under the ARD’s umbrella. But even in that event they will probably fail to bring about the regime change they desire — partly because they don’t all desire the same thing. Note that none of the previous alliances for safeguarding or restoring democracy, mentioned above, accomplished its mission.

The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, US.

E-mail ssyed@cox.net.com

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