Sunday, August 14, 2005

Musharraf: Past His Sell-By Date? (Part II)

In Part II we carry on with jogging your memories with the remainder of the seven promises the General made to his countrymen. Let’s consider what became of them.

4 • Ensuring law and order, and dispensing speedy justice

- While there was much talk of reforming the police little has been done. Instead virtual autonomy has been handed over to the police force without establishing the necessary safeguard of local public safety commissions keeping an eye on their activities.
- In Punjab and Sindh government politicians still rely on the police to harass and brutalize their political opponents in an attempt to subjugate them by registering false criminal cases against them.
- International institutions maintain that Pakistani police continues “to routinely engage in crime; use excessive force in ordinary situations; arbitrarily arrest and detain citizens; extort money from prisoners and their families; accept money to register cases on false charges; rape female detainees and prisoners; commit extrajudicial killings; and torture detainees, often to extract confessions. Political opponents, former government officials, and other critics of the regime are particularly at risk of arbitrary arrest or abduction, torture, and denial of basic due process rights at the hands of military authorities”.
- Obviously an obedient police force is more important to the Musharraf regime than one that is competent and ensures a decent state of law and order.
5 • Depoliticizing state institutions

- Suffice to say both that the senior judiciary and bureaucracy (particularly the police) continue to remain an adjunct of the military regime.
- At the same time the powerful institution of the Pakistan army remains as politicized as ever.
6 • Devolving power to the grassroots level

- The manner in which provincial and district administrations are coercively creating ‘unopposed candidates’ in the current local government elections renders the whole elective process meaningless as far as the ‘grassroots’ or any other level is concerned.
- All I need do here is quote Professor Stephen Cohen, the Brookings Institute authority on Pakistan, who maintains that the local government scheme was ‘deliberately sought to further weaken provincial power’.
- Cohen further suggests (and I can’t disagree with him) that ‘perhaps the real purpose of the exercise is to curry political favour by creating a class of notables who owe their position to Army Headquarters’. He adds that corrupt Nazims are openly tolerated providing they toe the line dictated by the local military commander. It is hard to disagree with this analysis.

7 • Ensuring swift and across-the-board accountability

- As we all know NAB’s process of accountability has been brazenly manipulated in pursuit of a political agenda. Cases against Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, Kashmir Affairs Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat, Industries Minister Jehangir Tareen, Water and Power Minister Liaquat Jatoi and several others were put on ice or withdrawn once they pledged their loyalties to Musharraf.
- Others such as the notoriously rapacious Chaudhries from Gujrat, the billionaire ex-bureaucrat Imtiaz Shaikh from Sindh and others tainted with acts of high corruption were deliberately disregarded by NAB.
- Members of the judiciary and the Pakistan army have also been intentionally exempted from any form of accountability.

Having largely reneged on his 7-point commitment that he voluntarily made to the nation, General Musharraf ought to be reminded of his dig at his predecessors’ ‘sham democracy’. OK, if Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto ruled under the cover of ‘a sham democracy’, what has Musharraf given us after nearly six years of complete power?

These days we have a hapless ‘Prime Minister’ who was taken more seriously as a Minister of Finance. Shaukat Aziz has not only been ordered to keep his hands of Punjab but has also been known to privately admit that he lacked authority even to transfer a deputy secretary.

And now we have an almost completely pre-rigged local government election. By the time foreign observers arrive to monitor the ballot the result will have already been predetermined.

So are we being ruled with ‘supreme national interest’ or ‘Pakistan first’ in mind? (Now kindly refrain from laughing out too loud).

As fifty years of Pakistan's history would suggest: it's all about the kursi of course.