Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Musharaff Out! Pakistan Gets Yet Another Historic Opportunity

Like the Democratic party in America, which is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of certain victory, I have seen fewer countries in the world that have the ability to waste historic opportunities like Pakistan has.

Much that I have been a critic of President Dictator Musharraf in Pakistan, I do have to give him credit for not having been the evil dictator that General Zia had been about 20 years ago. On top of that, I must laud retired General Musharraf for having the decency to step down, and resign instead of facing impeachment.

In that, he has shown greater courage and decency than either president Bill Clinton did or that I wish President George Bush would show.

Some of the statements in his farewell speech were laughable. But, one also has to understand how difficult it must be for any president, much less a dictator, especially one who suffers from a savior complex that Musharaff did, to step down.

But all is well that ends well. And one has to say that the Musharraf presidency and role in Pakistani politics has run its course. For better or worse he is now a part of history. Now it is up to the Pakistani coalition government as well as the Pakistani population to decide where they want to go from here.

Will Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif, the two men in power for now, do the right things for Pakistan? Will they have the good sense, decency and moral courage to put their own political ambitions aside and focus on putting Pakistan on the right track?

In this case, the right track that Pakistan needs to be on is, in reality, a long and winding road - of several interconnected and sometimes opposing paths!

On the one hand Pakistan has to do everything in its power to curtail the evil of fundamentalism and lawless terrorism that has become the norm. On the other hand it also has to stand up for its national self-interest, even if that means standing up to United States pressure.

Pakistan has to ensure that education of the masses, especially in the rural areas is a high priority. But, it cannot be done at the expense of economic development in the major cities. It needs to ensure the provinces get their fair share of revenues and development funds, but not at the expense of idiots holding up building of dams and power plants needed to survive, much less thrive, in coming years.

I am personally a big proponent of considering dictators and their supporters punishable by death when they overthrow an elected government. However, we also have to remember that the so-called elected rulers of Pakistan generally have themselves been guilty of becoming "elected dictators".

So, yes, there is some value to charging Mr. Musharraf with treason, which he did commit, in overthrowing the government of Mr. Sharif. This is especially true if the Pakistani people seriously want future generals and dictator wannabes to have the deterrent of death staring them in the face, should they decide to overthrow an elected government. But, at the same time, I realize that the Pakistani army is not going to stand by and watch one of its own actually be hanged.

I am also quite certain that Mr. Musharraf and his partners in crime, including bureaucrats, and people like Mr. Shaukat Aziz, have played a major role in plundering the economy of Pakistan, playing the stock market, and manipulating commodity prices to their own benefit. However, these are crimes that have been committed by every single government, and every single ruler, in Pakistan.

So, if we want to jail or imprison Mr. Musharraf, we should be ready, willing, and able to do the same for Mr. Sharif as well as Mr. Zardari. After all, neither Mr. Musharraf, nor Mr. Sharif, were ever given the name Mr. 10% that Mr. Zardari is commonly known as.

In the immediate future the biggest threat to Pakistani democracy and being on the right track does not come from the Army or from any external threat. The biggest internal risk to Pakistani democracy would come from the politicians starting infighting for greed and personal ambition.

Let us all hope for the best and make sure we keep the pressure on these new rulers to follow the rules. Let us pray that this historic opportunity is also not squandered by politicians, bureaucrats and illiterate followers of fundamentalist murderers.

What do you think?

ADDED: Aug. 28. A server problem (as usual a GLOBAT web host mistake!) prevented this post from appearing online for weeks. Zardari is hell-bent on becoming sole proprietor of Pakistan, the fawning corruption-in-waiting Assembly members are least bothered to do what is right for the country. Let the looting begin.

ADDED: Aug. 25. During this time, Mr. Ten Percent, Asif Zardari, the man Benazir Bhutto had ensured keeping out of the picture, has had himself nominated as candidate for President. He has already reneged on written agreements for restoration of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and an independent judiciary. Result, the coalition that was able to bring down Musharaff has collapsed a few minutes ago.
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