Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No Thanks For The Memories

(I’d like to apologize to my regular readers for my prolonged absence. The truth is that after coping with my daily responsibilities I find fasting during Ramazan seems to sap my ability to perform additional tasks such as blogging.

I promise things will be back to normal after Eid!)


The great bard Shakespeare told us:
‘There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune’ (Julius Caesar)

How apt in Musharraf’s case.

From an ignominious start where a US President (Clinton) refused to be photographed seen shaking hands with him and a US president-elect (Bush) who had no clue as to his name, Musharraf has come a long way.

The tide came his way with 9/11. For the past five years he has basked in it, and used it to fortify himself at the cost of all else. To my mind this tide peaked during his US publicity tour for the ‘In the Line of Fire’

And now the tide has begun to recede.

Thanks to the headiness which comes with fasting your blogger is feeling rash enough to make a forecast. I give Musharraf 15 more months at the most. The road to the 2007 elections will in all probability politically finish him and his chumchas in PML (Q).

What follows I can only hazard a guess but whatever it is, it will be bound to have a khaki-tint of sorts. Reality states that our generals will resist all moves to be herded back to the barracks.

In the meantime I leave you with an op-ed piece that I wish I had written myself:

Op-Ed from The News : Flying high

President General Pervez Musharraf is at his peak. Regardless of huge controversies generated by his best selling memoirs, in fact a thriller combined with his quite provocative and controversial account of recent history, he is at the centre of everything around us. In a typical sense he has entered a stage where he now thinks he can make things work to his advantage, come what way. He perceives himself infallible, omnipotent, indispensable and fated with delivering the nation whatever he thinks is good for it. Enlarging himself bigger than the size of a mortal life, he in his perception is synonymous with, and even larger than, the state. Under him everything else is lost in the oblivion of the overarching shadow of his personality. Will the king really last the challenges he faces?

There is no doubt that from Brussels to New York, and from Washington to London wherever he went he remained in the headlines, preceded or followed by controversies and doubts about whatever he is doing. Yet he remained firm in his resolve, questioning one report or the other, responding to one critique or the other and defending his record on one score or the other. The most daunting task was to defend the Wana accord with the pro-Taliban tribal elders in North Waziristan and woo the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh back on the India-Pakistan peace track. And of course he could not miss the opportunity to promote his book.

The massive coverage he got wherever he went should be enough to intoxicate even a most balanced person. Back home he is now unequivocally asking votes in his name, even though the elections are to be held more than a year from now, that is if they are to be held at all under him with all the powers of the state in his possession.

And look at the fantastic façade he has put together: there is a cabinet and a prime minister, representative institutions at all levels and the whole paraphernalia of the state and government. So far, no scandal or instance of corruption is attributed to his person or his family. On the other hand, the opposition and its alliances remain divided both within and among themselves, accusing each other of not being steadfast against the 'common enemy'. A backchannel contact by the government with this or that faction of the opposition, even if it is quite clear that it is nothing more than a tactical manoeuvre, is enough to throw a spanner in the works of a grand alliance.

Consider how, in the wake of the gruesome killing of Akbar Bugti and the massive backlash against it in Balochistan, the so-called women protection bill distracted the whole opposition from that burning issue, and how Maulana Fazalur Rehman and the government salvaged the situation by raising a storm over Sharia in the hapless parliament. The dust settled down with the JUI still in the Balochistan government and the sword of the Hudood laws hanging as menacingly as ever. And before the opposition could overcome its stupidity and close its ranks, the stories of backchannel contacts between the government and Benazir Bhutto proved enough to keep the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and the Muttahida Majlis-i- Amal (MMA) in doldrums.

At the dizzy heights of fame abroad and with his opponents in disarray at home, would Musharraf get a bit more ambitious and bring forward the date of elections while he is still in uniform? But the situation is not as rosy as our Bonaparte and his entourage may think. There are brewing problems that may get out of hand in the months to come and on many counts. How could the situation be so satisfactory as Musharraf makes it out to be? No one should know more than him how bad it is when he has to travel through the capital in a helicopter?

If the situation is well in control at our borders, how come all these rockets are being discovered every other day in Islamabad--one day in Rawalpindi, the other day close to the presidency and the next day in the vicinity of the ISI's headquarters? If the accord in North Waziristan is working well, why are the NATO commanders crying wolf? After the commander of US Central Command General Abizaid, General David Richards, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is coming with 'evidence' of the ISI's alleged backing and training of the Taliban, at a time when the Wana accord is being looked at with great suspicion.

Despite our repeated pleas that the Dr A Q Khan chapter be closed, new quarries are being made and will be made more vigorously in the days to come, as North Korea announces its plan to explode a nuclear device and the Iran nuclear proliferation imbroglio worsens. To make matters worse, the Taliban are now estimated to be emerging once again as a resistant force backed by many Pakhtuns with very serious ramifications and spillover in our tribal areas and beyond. Not all is well on the Indo-Pak peace front even if dates are being fixed for the resumption of the composite dialogue process. New Delhi has put Islamabad on the most crucial test of proving its innocence and extending cooperation in nabbing culprits from this side of the border allegedly involved in the Mumbai rail bombing.

The post-earthquake rehabilitation work has run into serious snags. Investors are now shying away from the only mega project in the country, i.e., the Gwadar port, on account of the law and order problem in Balochistan. With the trouble in Balochistan, the grand jirgas of the Baloch demanding review of their accession to Pakistan, their alienation running too deep, the tribal areas gradually slipping into the Taliban's hands and the simmering nationalist resentment across Sindh, what would happen if all this converged into a political storm. Yet those in power actually believe that everything is hunky-dory. They are extremely confident that they will get even greater popular endorsement not only in Punjab but also in Balochistan in the general elections which they say will be free for all except two former prime ministers.

Pakistan is, perhaps, moving towards yet another round of turmoil. The Musharraf era has passed its zenith and it is now on the decline. Yet he wants to perpetuate its control beyond what it was during the 2002 elections. That was the time for the regime to open up for compromises and accommodations at home and engage the main political stakeholders. But this was not to be. The regime is running high on self-glorifying assumptions and is totally cut off from the ground realities. If the regime makes more such mistakes there is a possibility that the pent up anger and frustration borne silently by the people will show its visage either before the elections or immediately after if they are held under the present framework and design.

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