In yesterday’s Daily Times Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi (a most reputable political and defence analyst) had some sensible advice for our erstwhile civilian leaders.
If the PPP and the PML-N want to work together to pressure the Musharraf government and move Pakistan towards democracy, they will have to learn from the 1988-1999 period. Regardless of Nawaz Sharif’s interpretation of the October 1999 military takeover, his policies contributed to the military’s return to power. In a bid to concentrate powers in his hands, Nawaz Sharif harassed the press and the opposition, weakened the parliament and undermined the Supreme Court and the presidency. However, his effort to subdue the military backfired. The moral of the story is that rulers — civilian and military — should avoid concentrating power at the expense of institutions. Power should be exercised within the limits of law and equity.
Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were intolerant of each other during 1988-1999. Whichever party was in power tried to undermine the opposition. The Nawaz Sharif government instituted court cases against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. Are the two parties now willing to adopt a balanced approach towards each other?
In the past, both cultivated the military to strengthen themselves and appealed to the army chief to remove the adversary’s government. Political leaders should not seek strength through the army high command or ask military leaders to dislodge a civilian government. The military top brass are more inclined towards a coup if they know that a section of the political elite is willing to support them.
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif should offer a political and socio-economic agenda that addresses the people’s problems. They need to articulate strategies for the growing economic disparities, alienation in the smaller provinces (especially Balochistan and the water storage issue), urban decay and deteriorating security and the democracy deficit.
The PPP and the PML-N should work to expand political space for themselves and force Pervez Musharraf out of office. They need to develop a clear vision of cooperation and a code of conduct to avoid past mistakes. They should agree to respect the basic norms of constitutionalism and the rule of law and desist from appealing to military commanders.
Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif claim to have learnt a lesson from their previous periods of misrule. The pertinent question for us is: Can we believe them?
With Musharraf facing the wrath of prominent US newspapers, combined with Benazir Bhutto’s recent high profile visit to Washington and the failure of the Pakistan Government to nail Asif Zardari in the Isle of Man case, Benazir’s star is momentarily in ascendant - much to the Head Chowkidar's discomfort.
Despite all the sudden spurt of nice things the Bush Administration is publicly saying about Musharraf, one suspects this is all part of a major covering up of a more private and subtle message - which is 'get your act together Mushie-boy'. After four and a bit years of putting up with our Head Chowkidar, Washington DC is close to reaching an exhaustion point in its patience with dealing with Musharraf - given old Fateh-Kargill's propensity for obsessive double-dealing.
The Empire, I believe, has begun to look at alternatives and has given him notice of its intentions. Unfortunately substitutes in Pakistan are hard to come by and that remains Mush's only source of continued survival.So what has Musharraf done to protect his 'kursi'? Well according to today’s Daily Times he has sent ‘two high-ranking members of the military establishment’ to Dubai to meet with Ms Bhutto.
So the cat and mouse games begin anew…