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Registration date : 2007-12-16


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Pakistanis Venting at Dictatorship
Musharraf’s enlightened moderation
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December 21, 2007

Musharraf’s enlightened moderation

A H Raja

The military government under President Musharraf took a good start and managed to take the country out of woods and saved it from getting declared as a failed State. However, it did not take long for the same vices to reappear. He cobbled together political opportunists, accountability evaders and political orphans under the State patronage to form a new party and rule the roost in accordance with his wishes. He gave important portfolios to several ministers with skeletons in their cupboards. His gerrymandering in the presidential referendum in April 2002 followed by massive rigging in the general elections in October 2002 and pre-poll rigging in the September 2005 local body elections did not go well with the people. Likewise, employment of army, first in Balochistan and then in FATA to fight American war on terror made him unpopular.
When George Bush declared war against the Muslim extremist forces after 9/11 and asked President Musharraf to become his partner to fight his war on terror, the latter readily agreed and ditched the Taliban regime in Kabul. He also agreed to train the guns against his own people in FATA declared as terrorists by USA. In order to justify his military action against the Islamists, he needed a constituency other than the army which could extend its support to him. In order to induce the liberals and to pitch them against the Islamists, he coined the theme of ‘enlightened moderation’. Anti-US sentiment across Pakistan rose in the backdrop of US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and its cold-blooded and unjust policies against Muslims as a whole. Many in Pakistan look upon government’s support to the war on terror as fundamentally anti-Islamic. Hunting of alleged Al-Qaida elements by agencies in Pakistan in collaboration with FBI and sending them to infamous Guantanamo Bay prison without any trials became a cause of frustration and despondency. The public felt that the government was executing the agenda of USA.
The heavy parliament of 357 members, the largest in Pakistan’s history, was reduced to a farce. Dubbed as “King’s party”, it continued to flounder on a slippery ground throughout its uneventful five-year stint. It continued to sell President Musharraf’s bright idea of enlightened moderation, which was vigorously marketed as a panacea for our multiple ailments. Vulgarity and obscenity was deliberately spread to promote soft image of the country and thus win the affections of the Western world. The concept generated more extremism and sharpened secular-Islamic divide and gave rise to suicide bombing attacks. Even the secular forces turned against the author of the idea when he picked up cudgels against them instead of the terrorists after he imposed emergency cum martial law on November 3, 2007 to save his skin.
Musharraf’s enlightened moderation failed to impress anyone because of his dual faced policies. On one hand he vowed to eliminate extremism and terrorism and took very harsh measures to deal with a particular segment of society residing in FATA, NWFP and Balochistan. On the other hand, he shared power with a fascist party and patronized it despite its terrorist acts getting exposed on 12 May. He further dented his credibility by unleashing a reign of terror against moderate forces like the judges, lawyers, media persons, human rights activists, students and other educated members of the civil society. The Opposition parties disagree with the popular view that improvement of our economic indices and accumulation of more than $16 billion foreign exchange reserve is attributed to successful foreign policy and efficient management of the Musharraf led regime. They retort back saying that our national kitty got filled up owing to the remittances of our expatriates in the aftermath of 9/11, rescheduling of foreign debts and provision of over $10 billion aid to fight US war on terror.
Musharraf on the nudging of Washington struck a power sharing deal with Benazir and then issued the most controversial legislation in the history of Pakistan to absolve Benazir, her husband and some members of the PPP of their massive corruption charges. He also pardoned the heinous crimes committed by the MQM. The ordinance was the epitome of moral degeneration of our ruler who could go to such lengths to save his throne. It has been vigorously rejected by the civil society but the pliant judges would soon legalise the ordinance.
Showing the door to Chief Justice Iftikhar and other judges of the superior courts who refused to take oath under PCO on 3 November was another undemocratic act to subordinate the judiciary and legalise all illegal acts. The rubber stamp legislature before its demise on 15 November validated Musharraf’s emergency and PCO, while the judges under PCO dismissed all petitions against him and validated his candidature for the seat of president for next five years as well as his extra constitutional acts. On 21 November, Musharraf amended the constitution through an ordinance by virtue of which the emergency cannot be challenged in any court of law. It also validated all other ordinances issued subsequently. Having arrogated all powers to the seat of president, he doffed his uniform on 28 November and took oath as civilian president on the following day.
Musharraf till now had been playing on the fears of the west by drumbeating the threat of religious extremism and terrorism. He has now added another threat of nuclear weapons to enhance their fears. He says that safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is linked to his survival and continuation in power. Under the grim circumstances, the bold stand taken by the lawyers’ community and the deposed judges as well as the media and members of civil society to challenge the undemocratic and unconstitutional act of the government to sack the chief justice is praise worthy. The whole judicial system is in a state of limbo since the lawyers have refused to do business with PCO judges. The judicial organs and democratic institutions remain subordinated to authoritarian executive.
The PPP and JUI (F) already discredited for its dual policies have been bought over to play the game engineered by USA. We have heard enough of ‘free and fair’ elections. It would be more proper to say ‘controlled and unfair elections’ to select the already selected by Washington. We should be quite prepared to see the birth of another King’s party ruling for the next five years. Sixty years have elapsed; how long we will be deceived by crafty leaders showing us carrot of democracy. We should all stand up and renounce American or Western dictated democracy to be run by their touts to serve their interests and 9% elite of Pakistan and not the interests of 160 million people.

The writer is a retired Pakistan army officer and a defence and political analyst. First published Pak Observer in Friday, December 21, 2006.

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