Friday, July 27, 2007

SC Decision & It's Aftermath

Few people expected the Supreme Court verdict in the CJ case to be so overwhelmingly positive. Reports suggest that Musharraf, having been misled by his intelligence agencies, believed till the last moment that there would be a split judgment in his favour. While those in the CJ’s camp assumed that he would be reinstated with a long list of conditionalities attached to his restoration.

As the Friday Times editorial opined today:

Whatever they may say, the fact is that neither the government, nor the lawyers and supporters of the CJP, expected such a resounding verdict. Indeed, the government’s intelligence agencies had told it to expect 8-5 in favour while the friends of the CJP thought he would be restored only with some restraining conditions.

Faced with an independent judiciary the bells are now loudly tolling for Musharraf. It is no longer a question of whether he is going but when.

Perhaps his only remaining option is to impose martial law, get rid of this sham of a government, and openly declare himself as the military dictator that he has always been. But then even his supporters oppose this idea. As the Daily Times reported yesterday:

Army may not back martial law: Afgan
ISLAMABAD: The army will not necessarily support President General Pervez Musharraf if he tries to impose martial law in Pakistan, said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi on Wednesday. The minister made clear he did not support martial law. “If I sensed the president was going to impose martial law, I would quit as I can’t support any unconstitutional act of the president,” he told Daily Times in his office.

While your Blogger expects Musharraf’s days in power to be clearly numbered, the future for whoever replaces him remains decidedly uninviting. Unfortunately for Pakistan, eight years of Musharraf’s harsh, arrogant and intolerant approach towards the body politic has rendered the country virtually unmanageable.

As Aitzaz Ahsan recently commented:

“Anyone who wants to step into the shoes of General Musharraf, or who wants to get into a partnership with him, must remember that General Musharraf has made this country practically ungovernable. He presides over complete anarchy and absence of law.”

But having said this, there is no accounting for Benazir Bhutto. If she gives Musharraf a chance to breathe, and comes into government through the back door, she will have to pay the price for her dishonesty. Perhaps not today, but sometime in the near future she will be answerable to the people of Pakistan – including her supporters - for ditching democracy in return for getting off scot-free against the charges of money laundering in the Swiss Courts of Justice.


So what is making Pakistan ungovernable?

Here is your Bloggers version:

1. The Great Disparity of Wealth

While the rich elite of Pakistan troll around the streets in their BMWs and Land Cruisers and living in multi-million dollar luxury residences, millions of their countrymen live in a state of desperate poverty, many without access to drinking water, two square meals a day and education for their children. The great disparity of wealth is no longer in the rural areas but in the cities. Simply put in eight years of Musharraf’s rule the urban rich have got obscenely rich beyond their dreams and the unfortunate poor have just become poorer.

The bogus theory of trickle down wealth is basically just that: Bogus.

How can the poor benefit if all the money has been made in share market, property or sugar scams? Also how can they benefit if this wealth is then spent in the import of high-priced cars, premium whiskey, luxury goods and overseas trips.

Impoverishment has encouraged many of the rural poor to send their children to religious seminaries where they are fed for free. In return the children are often indoctrinated with a harsh and intolerant version of Islam. And so, potential Jihadis are being created in their thousands every year.

In the urban areas crime has soared. Armed robberies of homes and car hijackings are common occurrences in the urban areas. Some of these criminals display open hatred for the well-to-do, rape of some of the unfortunate victims is sadly becoming all too common.

2. The Authoritarian nature of the State.

Suffice to say that from the very inception of Pakistan the average citizen has had little say in the affairs of his country. Pakistan was ruled initially by haughty bureaucrats inherited from the British Raj and then by a series of Army generals. In between we had the odd civilian and even these people proved to be bullying despots by nature. ZA Bhutto attempted to brutally stub out all his political opponents. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, whilst hampered by overbearing generals, exuded little tolerance for diverging points of view from either the press or the judiciary – and, of course, police would regularly be used by them to ‘knock sense’ into their political opponents.

On the other hand the rich elite have been able to bypass the authoritarian nature of the state by using their wealth, influence and the ever-present social network, which enables them achieve their business or career goals while remaining mostly above the law.

At the same time over a hundred and fifty million of the hapless non-rich and the non-influential have remained victims of the rapaciously dishonest officials, whether they be members of police or petty bureaucracy.

Some may suggest that these poor do get to exercise their rights at election time. This view clearly overlooks the reality that virtually all our recent elections have been rigged by the military agencies. Just recently Musharraf had the audacity of offering to "adjust the vote" in Benazir Bhutto’s favour as long as she accepted his terms.

This state of power disenfranchisement has created a political pressure cooker, which is now probably ready to burst. Your Blogger is certain that if Musharraf foolishly carries on with his plan to rig the 2007 elections the streets of Pakistan will implode thereafter.

3. The Centralist State

All power has rested in the twin cities of Islamabad/Rawalpindi. Despite promises made by successive rulers of devolving power from the centre to the provinces, in reality the reverse has happened. Currently all power in Pakistan is centred in the hands of a President/Army Chief/Chairman National Security Council, what the future holds remains uncertain.

It goes without saying that the smaller provinces of Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP have been demanding greater power for their elected provincial representatives for over four decades but to no avail. Their demands are not unjustified, take for example the following fact: Balochistan was receiving a royalty of Rs. 26 per million cubic feet of gas, while Punjab was receiving between Rs 80 and Rs. 190 for the same measure.

Right now Balochistan is in the throes of a Musharraf created rebellion. The military has admitted using F16 bombers, dozens of helicopter gunships and heavy artillery in an attempt to suppress Baloch insurgents. While Musharraf refers to these people as traitors, in reply many Baloch ironically deem Musharraf’s use of overwhelming force to be treasonous and anti-state.

While there is no insurgency in the interior of Sindh, the mood is tinged with anger. And there are few takers for Islamabad in NWFP, neither among the nationalist nor the religious parties.

Musharraf’s foolishness in so completely alienating the Baloch, means there is a good chance of Pakistan unravelling at some future stage.

4. Religious Extremism

Our India-centric GHQ has played a major role in creating religious extremism in Pakistan. After the success of the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets, our military geniuses adopted a similar policy to liberate Kashmir by using deniable proxies to wage war on their behalf.

The rise of the Ayatollahs in Iran led to a massive Saudi funding of Wahabi seminaries in Pakistan. GHQ happily recruited these Madrassah-educated extremist groupings in Kashmir and later in Afghanistan in pursuance of its policy seeking strategic-depth against India.

Some of these fanatics started killing hundreds of Shias and other minorities as ‘apostates’ and the Pakistani police found themselves helpless, for as soon as they detained a few, orders would come from high above to have them released.

Soon after 9/11 the GHQ’s policies lay in tatters.

It was now blowback time. The thousands of angered extremists have begun rounding up against Islamabad for its perceived betrayal. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, Musharraf has been trying to appease them, while at the same time acting as the US’s policemen against Al Qaeda and other foreign militants.

However, as far as Pakistan is concerned, the real danger stems from local extremists and until the recent carnage at Lal Masjid little was done to stem this tide of intolerant fanaticism.

In Conclusion

Musharraf’s successor has a tough job ahead. The body fabric of the state has been imperilled by an immensely incompetent dictator. The task ahead is extremely complex and difficult. We need a leader to unify and bring justice for the civil society – and that includes all 165 million of us (and not just for the rapacious ruling elite) – and using the goodwill of the majority of Pakistanis to stem the tide of fanaticism as well as sending our back the Army to their original and only task – to defend our borders.


libertarian said...

Onlooker: very thought-provoking analysis. It's interesting that none of the 4 points you mentioned for the ungovernability of the state are squarely of Musharraf's making. Which raises the question: how much of the mess is he responsible for?

The "elites" - with their revulsive feudal mentality - have been around for ever. They also have a disproportionate say in all matters with an agenda at odds with the rest. The state has always been authoritarian and centralist whether the administration was military or civilian. Religious extremism is as much a product of civilian as military administration - Benazir oversaw the creation of the Taliban, Nawaz was intent on imposing Sharia, Bhutto appealed to Islamists to prop up his tottering regime - Zia did Hudood and worse.

Seems Pakistan is caught between a rock and a hard place: the feudal class and the army wield virtually all the economic, military and political power. They seem quite OK with status quo. How does a popular revolution upset that kind of cronyism given their monopoly on resources?

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis - it is time for Musharraf to go. In light of the meeting between Mush and Bhutto today and her dismissal of his demands - she knows as any student of politics would - that he is not worth much anymore. So sad tho that he is now living in such a state of unreality that he is still demanding that his uniform stays on AND he remains President! The guy has gone bananas according to his inner circle......

AND, PAKISTAN AND THE MAJORITY OF PAKISTANIS ARE POORER AS A RESULT OF MUSH and Shaukat's economic decisions. Only the elite - whether military or otherwise have prospered.

AAS said...

Agree with Onlooker and Libertarian. I just don't see anyone who can truly lead the nation down the right path but i can stay many who should not return to power. Sigh!

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