No one is shedding tears for Pervez Musharraf

EDITORIAL
No one is shedding tears for Pervez Musharraf
By H. K. Dua

It had to happen. Abandoned by friends at home and abroad, the country and even the Army, President Pervez Musharraf sent his resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly on Monday, which was all set to impeach him for hijacking the Constitution and much else.

If he had given up his office soon after last February’s elections, which rejected the “King’s Party”, a few people might have shed some tears on his exit from power he had grabbed nine years ago in a coup. Even time-servers have vanished.

Musharraf said in his farewell telecast that he was leaving Aiwan-e-Sadr for saving the nation, which would get caught in a debilitating confrontation. Nine years ago, he assumed absolute power, as all dictators do, also for “saving the country” from chaos.

He said he always promoted reconciliation. Nothing could be far from truth. He followed a well-planned divide-and-rule policy where he set off one political party against another, suppressed most of the institutions and, when faced with threats to his absolute rule, sacked the Supreme Court, scrapped the Constitution, imposed emergency – just to protect his power, projecting that he was indispensable to the destiny of Pakistan.

Whatever his boastful claims in his telecast about the country’s progress during his years in power, Pervez Musharraf has left behind his country writhing in greater tensions and uncertainty than ever before with many in Pakistan and in the world anxiously guessing whether it will be able to survive as a nation.

None had been a better friend of Musharraf than the United States, under George W. Bush, without whose help he may not have lasted in power all these years. Washington could not save a de-fanged ruler who was of little use to them any longer. The carefully designed US game-plan to forge an alliance between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto crashed with her assassination eight months ago in Rawalpindi, not far from the Presidential residence.

Policy wonks in Washington and NATO capitals have been lately worried over the sporadic raids the Taliban is able to carry from the border areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan where NATO troops are trying to make the country safe from terror.

This apart, Washington’s worry about the fast-spreading influence of Islamic extremists within Pakistan, activities of Al-Qaida and the allied groups and the Taliban is acute. This is mainly because no one in Pakistan really knows how to contain extremism. Most functionaries of the State – like Musharraf himself — are not able to control terrorism in Pakistan, or they do not want to.

As India has often experienced, Musharraf in his heydays did not or could not tackle terrorist groups operating from Pakistan. Whether the Army, under General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, will now be able to do so remains to be seen. The civilian government led by Yousuf Raza Gelani has yet to establish itself to be able to contain terrorism on Pakistan’s soil — a matter of grave importance to India.

It was a kind of troika that had emerged after the February elections: The coalition government thrown up by the polls, a badly-bruised President and the Army. It never really worked during the last six months as demands mounted for Musharraf’s exist. Now, with Musharraf out of the picture, it is not known how the coalition government will function in the absence of a common foe.

Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif may have to forget many of their old quarrels to evolve agreed policies. It is not an easy task, however, considering their ambitions and interest are often found to be in conflict and areas of influence different. Both want to wield power; but Nawaz Sharif controls the Punjab province — which controls much of governance in Pakistan — and Zardari is influential in Sind where the PPP matters. In a country where federal relations are crucial, NWFP and Baluchistan are increasingly becoming assertive in their ways, but are unpredictable.

The army under General Kiyani all these days has been watching from the sidelines the polemics between Musharraf and the civilians. The Army may have helped in saving Musharraf, who was its former Chief, from going through the pain of a certain impeachment and much ignominy it might have wrought.

General Kiyani might have told the Army to remain in barracks before and after the February elections, but it will be unrealistic to believe that the installation of a civilian government in Islamabad and the exit of Musharraf, means the Army has lost interest in the governance of Pakistan.

The generals who have tasted power do not take sanyas, nor do they like to be confined to the cantonments. The collegium of generals would be watching with some interest how the civilians are doing and waiting for the politicians to begin fighting with each other and creating a political mess in the country.

Irrespective of who is the Prime Minister and who heads the Army, those in uniform remain a major political factor in Pakistan. An ambitious general always waits for his chance to “clear the mess” created by the politicians and as they say to “save the nation”.

The familiar cycle goes on in Pakistan but the politicians do not learn from their blunders. Maybe, the civil society whose instincts got sharpened during the protests against Musharraf during last year’s turmoil, might throw up a durable alternative to the Army. But it is only a hope!

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