Pakistan Ponders: Is Musharraf Indispensable?

"You are either with us or against us" a message soon after 911, conveyed by US Secretary of State Collin Powell to Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf which, as understood, unnerved him and a snap decision "to be with us" considered by main ruling and opposition parties in Pakistan a decision of a "dictator" that pushed Pakistan into a situation creating multiple problems for the country. It is also argued that Pakistan had nothing to do with 911 as no Pakistani was involved in any of the acts that culminated into such carnage. Pakistan, as is known, has paid and is still paying a huge price in terms of men and material for being a partner in the fight against terrorism.

The question asked by the people in the streets of Pakistan is that the democratically elected government, coming to power through a free, fair and just election process facilitated first time in Pakistan history by Musharraf, does not spell out the stand, response and reaction it would offer to polite but firm, determined and threatening call of United States Administration.

Musharraf in charge had a civilian government in place which many believe did a better job to take the country forward politically and economically and in comparison the present democratically elected government turned the country upside down through mismanagement, nepotism, family rule and rampant corruption.

In order to oust Musharraf, the present ruling and main opposition political parties joined hands to make political mileage out of soared relations between Musharraf and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowdhary as the latter was accused of some irregularities and the current opportunist fragile political alliance projected it, through a campaign, as an attack on the Judiciary.

Under the changed circumstances and political convenience, President Asif Ali Zardari’s ruling government locked horns with the Chief Justice who they initially hero worshipped and used to pressurise Musharraf to leave political power. In the recent past Chief Justice Chowdhary dismissed PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) Prime Minister Reza Gilani for contempt of court charges (for non-compliance of an order to write to Swiss Court to revive Late Bhutto family’s money laundering case) and the next Prime Minister in line to follow the suit on or around 25th instant. In a retaliatory act, grabbing the opportunity, the involvement of CJ’s son facing corruption charges for misusing his father’s office to amass riches surfaced to put a question mark on the blemished character of top man of country’s judiciary.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s nuclear scientist in a tough spot due to American allegation was asked to tender an apology to the nation for the wrongs done. Dr. Khan, also known as "Saviour of Pakistan", many believe, is confused and has lost resemblance to realty. In January 2004, Dr. Khan was officially quizzed at a debriefing on his suspicious activities in other countries after the United States provided evidences to Musharraf Government, which Dr. Khan confessed a month later on a February 2004 local PTV program. Though United States maintained that Khan still remained a "serious proliferation risk" ; Musharraf government took a firm stand and defended his extradition to a third country especially USA for which he (Musharraf) was being pressed very hard. Dr Khan’s movements were restricted and allowed to move about only in areas properly guarded. This, as is believed, was a good tactical and timely move of Musharraf as under those pressing circumstances of 911 it wouldn’t be easy to hold on to international political pressure spearheaded by USA.

Musharraf’s former Prime Minister Mir Zafar Khan Jamali set the record straight by confessing that it was actually him (Musharraf) who solved Dr. Khan problem, calling it the only viable solution at that time; to persuade Dr. Khan to come on the national TV to accept the responsibility for the wrongs he had done and save him and the country from further humiliation and isolation.

In a renewed political somersault PPP government through its Presidential spokesperson, asked Dr. Khan an erstwhile hero, who was used to discredit Musharraf, to tender an apology once again to the nation for the crime of transferring nuclear technology. The controversial statement issued a day earlier by Dr. Khan that PPP leader late Benazir Bhutto was involved in the transfer of nuclear technology was vehemently denied by PPP and said to be unfounded. Dr. Khan said that "then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had called him; gave the names of the two countries to be helped and she had given him a clear directive in this regard”. Dr. Khan further said “that he was not self-governing instead he was bound to abide by the orders of the PM of the country and that explains he had to do it".

In another significant development, as reported by GEO TV (September 15, 2012), Dr Qadeer Khan revealed that Nawaz Shareef was not in favour of nuclear test blasts, though the opposition leader has all along been taking credit for those nuclear explosions to strengthen further his vote bank. The statement is considered a big blow to Nawaz Shareef’s political career. It must be mentioned that Nawaz Shareef and his family are also facing huge corruption charges. Dr. Khan was also critical of Imran Khan and mentioned him to be “an immature politician and people who, he thought, had high hopes will soon be disappointed”, he added.

The local council elections during Musharraf’s time had transferred power at the grassroots level and Karachi the main business hub of Pakistan, as is said, had turned into one of the model cities of the world. The port city Karachi has now become a death trap and lost its grandeur due to sectarian and mafia controlled politician-backed criminal environment. When the new government took over, four and a half years back, they reversed the system of governance by appointing Commissioners and deputy Commissioners who because of inexperience, corruption and miss-governance messed up once lucrative and peaceful business city Karachi. Now due to inept governance and the situation out of hands; Musharraf’s policy of transfer of power to local councils is being re-introduced and that people acknowledge as being the first sensible step.

Musharraf in a recent Pakistan’s Prime TV interview re-iterated his resolve to stage a come back to fight party-based elections. "The elections as and when held must be guaranteed free and fair under an order and supervision of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Keeping in view the worsening law and order situation, the Supreme Court must seek help from the army to make sure that people are allowed to cast their votes without fear, under no duress and use of black money to buy votes considered a criminal offence".

A true democratic setup, all agree, is the only way out to guarantee a prosperous and trouble free Pakistan.