By Saeed Qureshi
Musharraf was lucky because instead of being removed as Army head, arrested or even blown off in the air, he became, in matter of hours, the chief executive of Pakistan or in simple word a powerful sovereign. This was mind boggling phenomenon on October 9 1999 when Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf’s fortunes were diametrically swapped.
He is goofy and imprudent because despite all prior warnings and dire indications he decided to return to Pakistan. Now confined to his palatial mansion in Pakistan, Musharraf faces three mammoth criminal cases. Over his head are dangling the trials under clause 6 of the constitution for treason and the involvement in assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti, the Baloch renegade leader.
He was bewitched and misled by half a million face book entries deluding him to return to Pakistan as the redeemer of a chaotic Pakistan. Thus he out of sheer miscalculation got himself trapped in a stranglehold from which he cannot be liberated.
As if adding to his miseries, the government in power is inveterately hostile to him and for good reasons. It is a situation that reflects quid-pro-quo or a kind of unforeseen nemesis. The plight of beleaguered former Pakistan’s president is blatantly reversed as the tormentor of the past is a condemned and hapless captive and the victim of the past is now in full power regalia as the prime minister of Pakistan.
Such are the tricky pitfalls and thorny paths in politics more specifically manifest in third world unstable societies. The MQM, a political surrogate for Musharraf has climbed down the political ladder and its influence is considerably dwindled as a result of the general elections. The chief of MQM Altaf Hussain himself is locked in a maze of criminal cases that could finally land him in jail if proven.
So it is a kind of double jeopardy for General and erstwhile president in that he faces a hostile government and there is no group and party to stand beside him. These are indeed bad omens for him. He perhaps thought that the PPP would win the elections and he would be immune from any judicial or political backlash. But as ill luck would have it, a party won whose chief whatsoever, cannot have any soft corner for him.
There was a glorious past of Pervez Musharraf and there is a complete bleak future staring right in his face. The process of prosecution is going to be excruciating and protracted and at the end who knows what comes out. But to hope and predict that he can walk out of judicial rigmarole unscathed would be to watch the sun rising from the west.
Musharraf took some bizarre decisions like declaring the emergency rule on November 3, 2007, suspending the constitution, firing the Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, arresting the judges and confining them to their houses, deployment of troops on state run Television and radio stations. Yet he was still a lot better than other similar military rulers and civilian dictators. He did some good deeds also one of which was to give a modicum of freedom to the media and press. The economy looked better during his tenure.
On one hand he was hard pressed and caught up between the radical Islamic militants and the overbearing dictation of the United States for Pakistan’s support against the former. Practically and logically he had no choice or guts to defy the United States that was hell-bent against the militants especially al-Qaida in the aftermath of 9/11 catastrophe. He cannot be squarely blamed for towing the bandwagon of United States and her allies with regard to the so called war on terror. Not even a most liberal or conservative government in Pakistan could have refused the American stern call for the support.
The role of a submissive ally for the United States was not exclusive to Musharraf alone. It was initiated by a former Military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq when in December 1979; America started a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan through the Islamic warriors. That proved to be the first lethal step towards an un-mitigating disaster in the region.
It led to the continual involvement of Pakistan in American war in Afghanistan, later spilling over to the territories of Pakistan during the Taliban era. While American forces would leave war-torn Afghanistan next year, Pakistan will continue to suffer as the victim of the resurgent Islamic radicals, particularly Taliban and Al-Qaida.
Musharraf being the proponent and initiator of enlightened moderation wanted Pakistan to not turn into a haven for the radical Islamic forces. But that mission and thrust could have been most repugnant to the radicals who saw in Pakistan as a ripe land for enforcing a rigid and fundamentalist version of Islam.
The enforcement of the Islamic Sharia started in Islamabad when Burqa-clad women started beating and dragging in the streets and markets, the women without veils. The students from the religious school affiliated with Lal Masjid, forced the shopkeepers to throw away music and movies’ filled videos and other electronic appliances.
Now Pakistan is not a Mauritania, Somalia, Mali or Yemen that the state would submit before the reactionary elements, bent upon imposing upon the people, their decadent and mutually controversial creeds and beliefs. The state had to retaliate to stop that dangerous onslaught that in due course, could have engulfed Pakistan.
That is what Musharraf did and I believe he was doing it for the national cohesion and saving Pakistan from falling into the hands of hardcore fanatics, who could trigger a sectarian mayhem in Pakistan. He should rather be applauded rather than condemned or maligned.
Before opting to come back to Pakistan, Musharraf might have believed that people would pour out all over the country to greet and support him. He should have pondered that if it could not be done for a highly populist leader Bhutto, how it could happen for a non-political minion, who by sheer accident, rose to power.
Perhaps he became delusional in assessing his popularity and the hell he was going to fall in. He might have concluded that the army would not allow his trial. But he failed to comprehend that Army itself was under enormous pressure in the changing pro-democratic times to come to his rescue.
Moreover he belonged to a middle or lower middle class family and was not blue eyed member of an elite or aristocratic family who could garner support for his rescue behind the doors.
As for perceived support and backing from MQM, PMLQ and his own faction APML, these were non-entities on national political spectrum.
The PMLQ and MQM received a severe thrashing and colossal setback in the recent elections turning them into political dwarfs. Even otherwise the strident judicial activism would not have allowed or entertained any attempt at influencing the judicial decisions that would be forthcoming sooner or later.
So these were the probable murky scenarios that must have crossed the mind of Pervez Musharraf before embarking upon a return odyssey to Pakistan for retaking the power and grafting his watershed vision of making Pakistan an enlightened, modern secular and democratic state. Per say and supposedly, if by a miracle, he would have come into power and formed the government, would his religious adversaries allow him to proceed unchallenged and uninhibited?
The liberal lobby in Pakistan that could lend him support is also aloof in his affliction because of his permitting drone attacks as well as assuming the role of a bounty hunter. He cannot be absolved of the stigma of taking bounty money in return for catching the suspicious Pakistanis branded as terrorists and handing them over to the United States.
So Musharraf, as the metaphor goes is “in thick soup”. And one may shudder to speculate that in order to prevent future military chauvinism, the present government as prosecutor and the judiciary as upholder of justice may make him a dreadful example by sending him to gallows or long prison term.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat
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