Beginning Of The End
By Brig (R) Usman
19 March, 2007
end of Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s 11 years of rule started with
celebrations - of a ‘decade of development’. Amid all the
eloquent speeches and fine write ups in the press in praise of the glorious
decade of Ayub Khan Rule, the price of sugar shot up suddenly. The country
had indeed made more progress during that decade that any previous decade
or since. But no one had realised that ‘Ayub fatigue’ had
set in and the people did not want to hear his name or believe the government
publicity; they focussed on ‘sugar price’. Why? According
to the 1962 Constitution, which Ayub had divined and introduced, the
tenure of the President was fixed at two terms of five years.
His ten years in power had
come to an end but there was no sign of a successor or preparations
for a smooth hand over of power. The ‘celebrations’ were
taken to mean that he wanted another term as President. Sugar price
was the excuse for the people, awestruck that he really wanted another
five years, to show their horror and anger.
General Musharraf was given
three years in power and a mandate to‘re-organise’ to bring
an end corruption in politics. He had no idea how to go about the task.
He took bad advice from NGO advisors given to him by the USA and strayed
hugely from his mandate. His wish list of ‘seven points’
was highly forgettable ‘motherhood and apple pie’. Increasing
the number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies, giving
one third of those to women; making a degree pre-requisite for candidates
to contest election; and introducing a controversial system of local
government; were not on the agenda of any political party. But there
was no opposition or resistance because these measures increased the
opportunities for corruption and for much larger number. At the end
of the three years, the politicians hoped to rule the country. But he
only increased the pay and perks of the members of assemblies but kept
all the decision making to himself. He had found (or been advised) that
puppets are better than real persons to run a ‘modern’ democracy.
That is indeed true in every ‘stable’ democracy. But the
audience get bored with the same puppets singing the same tired song.
I considered myself a friend
of General Musharraf when I asked him a question three years ago during
centenary celebrations of the Staff College, Quetta, “ What would
you do different to Ayub Khan or Zia ul Haq that your legacy would outlast
your period in power”? I did not expect him to give a considered
answer but I did expect him consider the question later. Quite clearly,
he hasn’t. A time comes during the tenure in office of every leader
when a change is needed. Ayub Khan did not realise when the people had
become tired of him; Zia ul Haq did know but could not divine an exit
strategy. General Musharraf also does not seem to realise that the people
are tired of him. He should be thinking of protecting his legacy (and
there is indeed a great deal that needs protecting) and prepare for
succession rather than ‘another five years’. But he isn’t.
He is more blatant than any of his military predecessors in power. Chief
Minister Pervaiz Ilahi seriously thinks that he could become the next
prime minister riding on the shoulders of General Musharraf. Ambitious
men of little calibre often become the steps of a ladder for other ambitious
men with little calibre to climb to high office of the state quite undeservedly.
Where this ladder of the Chaudhries leading, no one knows?
Musharraf should be thankful
that he would not exit on a sugar pallet. He has placed himself in a
‘no win’ situation. If he does succeed in removing the Chief
Justice, the successor would be less able to submit to pressure to endorse
his election for five years by the present assemblies. If the Chief
Justice is reinstated, Musharraf would not expect any favours from him
any way. If he wants to continue in uniform after the end of his current
tenure as President in November, it would be challenged in Supreme Court.
He knows what the court verdict would be. After a verdict on his uniform,
his tenure will end in November. I hope no one would propose or endorse
his being the President at the time of the next elections. The credibility
of the elections MUST not be jeopardised by his being the President
at that time. This is truly the beginning of his end.
As has been seen in Bangladesh,
interim governments inducted for three months can last longer. These
unelected governments are much more amenable to foreign pressures. General
Musharraf could save himself if he declared now that he would NOT seek
another term as President. If he left such an announcement till it is
too late, (like Ayub Khan) he will neither be able to protect his legacy
nor his reputation. Even today, his prime legacy, the Pakistan Muslim
League, can win the elections fairly if it is not encumbered with his
political designs. It has been obvious for some time that he wants to
widen the base for his ‘enlightened moderation’ by embracing
Benazir and the PPP. That is as ‘unnatural’ an alliance
as there can ever be. She will accept the endorsement by the military
but refuse to endorse Musharraf as President. The PML tied to Musharraf’s
apron strings and as an ally of the MQM has no hope of winning. The
PPP, however, with ‘seat adjustment’ with the opposition
parties, could emerge as the largest party in the parliament.
Musharraf talks a lot about
strategy but he is a person with myopic vision who has never needed
to make sense when he talks. So, he talks, and talks but never reflects
or listens. The people are tired of him and desperately want to see
the back of him. But he talks and talks and cannot see the writing on
the wall. I remember the last days of Ayub Khan. I was posted at Ankara
at the time as Staff Officer to Pakistan’s Military Representative
in CENTO. Mr Sharafuddin Pirzada had just been appointed the new Foreign
Minister. He was visiting Turkey and was the Chief Guest at a reception
given by the Ambassador. We were all very eager to hear what he had
to say about the ‘critical’ situation in Pakistan. Ambassador
Iftikhar Ali goaded and goaded but could not get a word out of him.
Eventually he spoke. He said, “You know, Qazi Issa has joined
the Muslim League?” The same Pirzada is advising Musharraf in
the reference filed against the Chief Justice. May Allah (swt) help
Musharraf and Pakistan!
The writer is the Director
of London Institute of South Asia.
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