Sunday, 4 November 2007

Musharraf cannot fool us again

Guns to the rule

That Pakistan is caught in the throes of those who wield power through the comfort and support of the barrel of the gun rather than popular political mandate is an unfortunate development.

However, that would not have mattered to me because the regime of General/President Pervez Musharraf has thrived on the basis of America and the West putting the war on terror above real democratic reform in Pakistan.

Despite that, there is still trouble in Afghanistan; Osama bin Laden still sends us videos of home life and the Northwest of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan is still as ungovernable as it ever was – terror has visited the main cities as self-interest amongst the leading politicians leaves carnage in their wake.

General Musharraf believes that imposing emergency rule which is in fact martial law in everything but name would stop Pakistan from committing suicide.

We would be fools no longer

Regarding Pakistan, we have been taken for fools for a long time and this would have been believable if Musharraf had just come round to clean out a seething mess, but he is the one who has presided over Pakistan over the last eight years and to pretend he is not only instrumental and central to the problems of today is dishonest to say the least.

To then address the world and contend that our expectations of democracy in Pakistan are too lofty since the democracies in the West have had centuries to mature is to pull the wool over our eyes – Is India’s democracy not the same age as the time Pakistan got its independence?

Pakistan, Bangladesh (East Pakistan until 1971) and India used to be part of the same entity of the British Empire – British India - up until the independence in 1947; India has made the greatest progress in democratic maturity whilst the other two countries have vegetated into quasi-religious militancy with fragile political frameworks that pander to the cult of political dynasties.

General Musharraf has no answers to the problems in Pakistan and egregious exercise of military-backed executive remit in dismissing judges who contend with how the constitution is being abused; the arresting of political minds who would question this power-grab and the suspension of the constitution are only going to make matters worse.

Accepting the unacceptable

Unfortunately, the war on terror would prevent a proper condemnation of these extra-constitutional developments and it sets no template by which other military juntas around the world can be de-politicised.

The people of Pakistan would have to rise up and demand that they be given the right to decide who presides over their nation; it is unlikely that General Musharraf in his uniform or Mr. Pervez Musharraf in a Taliban tunic would win any popular support.

History and case studies all around the world where soldiers have marched rough-shod over the yearnings of real democratic reform show that they only have the terrifying effect of the fear of gun-borne retribution; they bring nothing of political progress to their countries, rather, they entrench corruption, impunity and human-rights abuses.

That is not to say democracy has all the answers, but Pakistan does need to be put back on the road to real representative democracy without some tin-pot General trying to lecture us on government having lost all credibility as a leader that can be trusted.

The sham of civilian government we are told still exists when the political leadership have been placed under arrest, restrictions exist on news reporting and the usurpation of powers that belong to the judiciary and legislature leaves much to be desired – as any government without a popular mandate always finds itself at variance with the judiciary that it tries either to subsume or emasculate that branch of government.

At no time has it become so necessary for General Musharraf to seek political asylum in some far-flung land and allow for Pakistan to be delivered from the throes of suicide that he and him only has created and fostered.

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