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Time For Musharraf To Go!

By Usman Khalid

27 March, 2007

The Government is eager to portray the hiatus over the reference against the Chief Justice as a purely ‘judicial matter’. It isn’t! Until this regime resigns or is removed, crisis will prolong and fester.

General Musharraf was legitimised in power for the first three years by a court ruling, and for the next five years by a deal with the MMA on which he reneged. With that kind of legitimacy, he feels he is entitled to give the country a new polity. He calls it ‘enlightened moderation’. He is reluctant to explain what it is but its effects are clearly discernible. On the rare occasion that he does say a few words in explanation, he says it means that the Muslims should give up ‘jihad’ and the Americans should help resolve the problems of Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya etc. He does not mention Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia where jihad against American occupation is going on in real earnest. But then his role is not to solve the problems of Muslims but to solve America’s ‘Muslim Problem’.

‘Enlightened moderation’ is not just for Pakistan, it is the basis of a new relationship between America and rulers of Muslim states. It has a regional and a Pakistani internal dimension. Regionally, it implies submission to India’s hegemony - advancing India’s interests (through SAARC & SAFTA) and to create conditions that the people submit to Indian hegemony. Internally, the agenda of ‘enlightened moderation’ is to decry Jihad, abandon the Kashmiris and their struggle for liberation, and to revile those who resist occupation as extremists. He openly promotes heretical cults. This regime has extended patronage to those openly ridicule the ‘Two Nation Theory’ and work for the agenda of foreign powers to break up of Pakistan along ethnic lines. To broaden the constituency opposed to the Two-Nation Theory, they have wooed and obtained the support of secular political parties which also support this pro-India agenda.

With all the props for the triumph of ‘enlightened moderation’ regionally in place, the government is trying to sell it to the Middle East, even South East Asia. But in those regions, there is very little enlightenment; they call its proponents traitors and collaborators.

Democracy stands discredited in Pakistan because of the arrogance and misconduct of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif in power. Even in the USA and the UK, where democracy has deep roots, free elections have returned to power leaders who lied to and cheated to wage illegal wars that devastated Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia and now threatening to invade Iran in utter disregard of international law and the will of their constituents. The secular parties – PPP and ANP – are led by persons even more enlightened (more pro-India) and more moderate (more anti-Islam) than Musharraf. Ethnic nationalists are openly anti-state. The Armed Forces of Pakistan are led by a General who openly reviles the polity of Pakistan. Who represents the majority in Pakistan that is neither enlightened (pro-India) nor moderate (anti-Islam)?

Political observers have already noted that the outcry against the suspension of the Chief Justice is as much a concern for the ‘independence of the judiciary’ as a ‘vote of no confidence’ in Musharraf. It has also been noted that unlike the public protests over ‘sugar price’ in 1969 that got transformed into ‘anti-Ayub’ movement, the present ‘judicial crisis’ has not yet given rise to a public movement against this regime. It is because in 1969, there was a popular alternative leader – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - on the scene. Today the leaders of the national parties are neither ‘less enlightened nor less moderate’ than Musharraf. If the Muslim League and the PPP cannot find any one to lead their parties apart from the stale and discredited leaders they have now, Musharraf may win by default.

But it does not have to be like that. If Musharraf leaves, the PML is more likely to make an alliance with MMA and PML (N) rather than with the MQM and the PPP. That alliance won two third majority in the National Assembly in 1996 Elections and can do so again without any help from the Army or America.

Musharraf administration has many achievements to its credit. It has restored economic health of Pakistan. It has maintained the efficacy of the nuclear and non-nuclear deterrent for security and dealt with insurrection in Balochistan with cool courage. But the rate of growth of the economy is now slowing because of the uncertainty created by Musharraf refusing to leave office gracefully. He did not answer my question: “What would you do different to Ayub and Zia that your legacy would outlive your period in power”? I will give the answer: You will relinquish the office of the COAS now and not encumber the PML with an un-natural alliance with the MQM and/or the PPP. The Armed Forces and the Judiciary are the two institutions where performance and conduct of their members are judged by their peers. After a dumb start, the Chief Justice of Pakistan is being judged by his peers. But Musharraf has resisted the judgment of his peers. They have been telling him privately at first and publicly now that it is time for him to go. That way his legacy, the good name, and public confidence in the armed forces can be saved.

The writer is the Director London Institute of South Asia.

( First published in 'The Nation' Lahore on March 26, 2007)


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