Friday, August 22, 2008

Musharraf departs - A relief with mounting challenges

Raja G Mujtaba

Every sun that rises has to set. Likewise every person in power has to leave. Lucky are those who leave with honour and grace. Some are so unfortunate that they fail to read their humiliation and assume that they were the saviours and messiahs.

Parvez Musharraf has been the unfortunate one who fell in his own trap. He got power intoxicated little too quick, he deviated from his announced agenda in the very first year of his takeover. Today he has been abandoned by his masters, friends and so called admirers and supporters. Each has their own views to distance themselves from the falling dictator who lost complete sense of direction when he was at his peak.

In February 2000, I had almost one to one meeting with General Muhammad Aziz, the then Chief of General Staff at his residence. He tried to give assurance that Musharraf will not stay a day longer than required but who was to determine if he was no longer required, General Aziz had no satisfactory answer to that. Today after almost nine years Parvez Musharraf was still not willing to relinquish his office. What a colossal damage that he has inflicted to the state, it’s institutions and people would be assessed by history.

His total switchover to the West came as a rude shock to the entire nation but he went about wielding his fists as the only person who was sane and rest were just a bunch of nincompoops. The atrocities that he committed against the innocent people would never be forgotten. His support to America in holding Afghanistan made our western border highly volatile, more insecure than our borders with India. This also gave an opportunity to all those players like India, Israel, US etc to destabilise Pakistan. Once our strategic depth was now a hostile land. It is for this reason that we are facing all the problems in FATA, NWFP and elsewhere in the country. Even the minions like Hamid Karzai show eyes to Pakistan and grind their teeth.

America, who derived the maximum benefits through Musharraf in the region, was the first to dump him like a waste paper that had no more utility. This was followed by almost all the major countries of the west. All provided him lip service with the diplomatic jargons and nothing beyond that .

Underlining how the West has already moved on, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered "deep gratitude" for Musharraf's decision to join the U.S.-led fight against extremists following the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he "served as a good ally of the United States, granting him asylum is not on our cards.

Javed Jabbar, a technocrat and a politician, a school time friend of Parvez Musharraf said, “Parvez Musharraf had lost the track of the national priorities; his personal interests came in the fore in the very first year of his rule. This shift in his policy and personality forced me to resign from his cabinet.”

Immediately as he announced his resignation, Pakistan's stock market and currency both rose strongly on hopes the country was bound for political stability. The commentators were expecting more rallying on Tuesaday.

"Today we have buried dictatorship for ever," Gilani, Pakistan’s Prime Minister said in a special sitting of parliament. “Pakistani stocks jumped more than four percent on the news of Musharraf's resignation,” added Gilani.

Sharif's spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal, said Monday, "The crimes of Musharraf against the nation, against the judiciary, against democracy and against rule of law in the country cannot be forgiven by any party or individual,"

Musharraf claimed in his TV address yesterday that he had always kept the national interest above his personal interest. Nothing could be further from truth. One would like to ask him whether he was thinking of the national interest when in the face of his dismissal order he violated the constitution and his oath of honour and overthrew a democratically elected government on October 12, 1999.

Was he guided by the national interest when he held a rigged referendum to perpetuate himself in power? Did the national interest prick his conscience when he forced the intelligence agencies to rig the 2002 general election and distort the democratic process in the country?

Gen Moin ud Din Haider, a senior and a friend of Musharraf also had similar views. Gen Haider had been the interior minister in Musharraf’s cabinet that deviated from the laid down objectives. Haider was sorry for Musharraf who missed the opportunity to make a positive name in history.

In cities across Pakistan, crowds gathered to celebrate, some firing automatic weapons into the sky. People were seen offering prayers of thanks in front of the parliament house.

Talat Masood, a former army general turned political analyst, forecast the coalition would find compromises for both the presidency and the judiciary, partly because neither wants to tackle the country's problems alone.

He further said, "It's a huge challenge and they cannot face it individually. It's very important for them to work together and I think they know that," he said.

Gen Asad Durrani, a former DG ISI and spokesman of the Ex Servicemen Society has demanded a trial of Parvez Musharraf.

Talking over telephone to General Hamid Gul, also a former DG ISI and an ardent Islamist said that the political future depends on as to how the ruling collation would involve the other parties like APDM, MQM to face the new challenges. Here he also said that the role of Army would play would be a major factor in shaping the future.

About the three likely candidates to fill the slot of the president, Hamid Gul said; “If Zardari wants to further strengthen his hold over the party and the national politics, then it would be Faryal Talpur, Zardari’s sister, If American interests are to be watched then it would be Asfandyar Wali, another strong contender for the slot is Mahmood Khan Achakzai.” “However if the grievances of Baluchistan have to be redressed, then it should be Atta Ullah Mengal,” said General Gul.

The immediate challenges that face the nation are, the restoration of judiciary, price control of various daily use commodities, availability of electric power and reduction on the dependence of the imported fuel.

Imran Khan when contacted by scribe to have his views about the post Musharraf scenario, he said, “All depends if the judges are restored.”

Finally, will the PPP-PML-N alliance hold? It’s an unnatural alliance between the arch rivals; hence forth they would be on clash path for their bigger goals. Now Parvez Musharraf is out, there is nothing that can hold them together for a long time. PPP would grapple to take a shot at Punjab while PML-N would realign it’s azimuth for Islamabad. If the judiciary issue and the nomination of the presidential candidate are not settled amicably the honeymoon would be over.

It’s a testing time for Pakistan, it's the real time for the Intellectuals and opinion makers to build a situation of normalcy depict a national cohesion. Politicians have to rise above the party or personal interests, demonstrate unity of thought pave the way for a strong Pakistan based on its ideology. Our foreign and internal policies must be a true reflection of our Islamic character, anything short of that would constitute a constant struggle that may spill into an anarchy the signs of which are more than glaring.

Opinion Maker

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