Why not Mushar­raf again?

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Dr Syed Man­soor Hus­sain

In spite of his slo­gan of ' en­light­ened mod­er­a­tion', Mushar­raf re­peat­edly caved in to re­li­gious ex­trem­ism. The fact that he was never seen with his dogs in any pic­ture af­ter the first few months of his rule prob­a­bly is the most telling com­men­tary on his un­will­ing­ness to face up to the re­li­gious lob­bies

Fi­nally I can sym­pa­thise with for­mer pres­i­dent and strong­man of Pak­istan, Pervez Mushar­raf. Of all the in­dig­ni­ties heaped upon him since his un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous ouster from the pres­i­dency of Pak­istan, the ul­ti­mate has to be that In­dia has re­fused him an en­try visa. Be­ing de­nied an In­dian visa! How much worse can it get? For some­body who once strode the world stage like a gi­ant among men feted by all world lead­ers and con­sid­ered the face of a resur­gent Pak­istan, this must in­deed be the ul­ti­mate in­sult.

How far he has come down in the scheme of things must in­deed be ex­tremely both­er­some for him. Even so, I find it a lit­tle baf­fling that Gen­eral (retd) Pervez Mushar­raf still be­lieves that he is widely, if not uni­ver­sally, loved and re­spected in Pak­istan. Frankly, as they say in cricket lingo, the man has had his in­nings. For all prac­ti­cal pur­poses he was in­deed the lord and mas­ter of Pak­istan for al­most a decade and if he did as great a job as he is wont to be­lieve, then he should still be wel­comed by all and sundry in the coun­try he once ruled. The fact he is not wel­come back would sug­gest that he per­haps was a lit­tle want­ing in his per­for­mance. More­over, the two politi­cians Mushar­raf tried his best to rid Pak­istan of were both able to re­turn with con­sid­er­able pub­lic sup­port, which sug­gests that Mushar­raf was not able to ei­ther win the hearts or the minds of his coun­try­men dur­ing his time at the helm of af­fairs. Even the Pak­istan Army that he lav­ished much at­ten­tion and largesse upon dur­ing his ten­ure as Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and as pres­i­dent is per­haps not quite pre­dis­posed to hav­ing him back in the coun­try.

Mushar­raf's prob­lem is some­thing that is com­mon to most au­to­crats like him. Com­ing to power through un­con­sti­tu­tional means they in­evitably sur­round them­selves with syco­phants and yes-men who spend most of their time try­ing to con­vince the mas­ter that he (rarely a she) is in­deed God's gift to the coun­try, if not all hu­man­ity. And most of these au­to­crats start ac­cept­ing as fact the toad­y­ish blather that they are fed ev­ery day. Mushar­raf was no ex­cep­tion. Dur­ing his pres­i­dency Mushar­raf started be­liev­ing that he was in­deed the saviour of Pak­istan. To gov­ern he de­pended on the army and its agen­cies un­der his com­mand and un­abashedly used politi­cians whose loy­alty he could buy. As pres­i­dent he was un­de­ni­ably able to cre­ate some de­cent eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity but he also throt­tled all in­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. As a con­se­quence, he even­tu­ally lost pub­lic sup­port. Even as things were start­ing to slip, the co­terie of syco­phants and yes-men sur­round­ing him kept telling him how great a job he was do­ing, how pop­u­lar he still was and how well things were in the coun­try.

Some day some­body will write an ob­jec­tive his­tory of Pak­istan. When that hap­pens, the Mushar­raf era will stand out as a pe­riod that was in­deed full of prom­ise. Sadly, none of the prom­ise ever bore fruit. Per­haps the most im­por­tant part of his un­ful­filled legacy was his in­abil­ity to turn around the tide of re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism. In spite of his slo­gan of 'en­light­ened mod­er­a­tion', Mushar­raf re­peat­edly caved in to re­li­gious ex­trem­ism. The fact that he was never seen with his dogs in any pic­ture af­ter the first few months of his rule prob­a­bly is the most telling com­men­tary on his un­will­ing­ness to face up to the re­li­gious lob­bies.

The best thing that can be said about Mushar­raf is when the time came he left with­out too much of a fuss. The most im­por­tant thing though is that al­most ev­ery Pak­istani if asked to­day whether you were bet­ter off dur­ing the time Mushar­raf was pres­i­dent, the an­swer will most likely be ' dur­ing Mushar­raf's time'. That is what makes Mushar­raf be­lieve that if he does re­turn to Pak­istan he will be wel­comed by the peo­ple.

This is in­deed an in­ter­est­ing prob­lem. If most peo­ple were do­ing much bet­ter three years ago then why are they not clam­our­ing for Mushar­raf to re­turn. By al­most any ob­jec­tive cri­te­rion, things are in­deed worse to­day or at least no bet­ter. In­fla­tion is bit­ing the mid­dle class, the poor are def­i­nitely poorer, and the power cri­sis seems to linger on and on.

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