Musharraf – President or Dictator?

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When the then Pakistani strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, had grabbed power in October 1999 by ousting Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, he had given justifications for his actions.  At that time, the General had said that he had been dismissed by the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif as Army Chief, while he was on official visit to Sri Lanka.  Further, the aircraft he was returning was denied permission to land and did not have enough fuel to land in some other country, but Pakistan.  Therefore, lacking fuel to land anywhere else and landing in India being out of question, he had no other options but to stage a military coup with the help of his Generals on the terra firma.  One does not know whether these allegations against Nawaz Sharif are true or false.  Probably, the truth may emerge in future.

Thereafter, history proves that the General had become totally obsessed with power and wanted to rule in perpetuity.  It appears, absolute power had made him completely blind to reality and devoid of rational thinking.  Otherwise, the General would have left at the right time on a high note and avoided nightmares and sleepless nights that he may be presently undergoing. 

In Pakistan, the Army is very much power hungry and the very fact that General Musharraf had been in power till very recently, both as President, if we may say so, and also Army Chief, is surprising considering the fact that he would have in normal course retired years ago.  One need not be surprised that by General Musharraf?s clinging to power for so long and giving sops to his loyalists and pets, the coterie of Generals were unhappy.

Normally, an officer in the Pakistani Army earns money through many ways (which well informed readers will be able to speculate) and also due to preferential allotments when buying any luxury items or goods, land, cement and other allocations, consumer goods, etc., etc.  Further, the monies earned and wealth generated by a one star, two star, three star and four star generals is just mind boggling.  I had read about two to three years ago in a newspaper that the wealth or earnings of a Pakistani four star general is beyond comprehension.  In the case of General Musharraf, one can just imagine. 

Further, sometime in 2003, on BBC radio news service, one Pakistani senator being interviewed told the correspondent that many Pakistani Army Officers holding commissioned ranks were millionaires then in US dollars, forget rupees.  This is a shocking scenario in a country where masses do not get two square meals a day.

When the General came to power, he promised to hold elections and hand over power to elected representatives.  This has been one more lie, as he has not lived up to his words and promises.  Further, he has got himself elected as the President unconstitutionally.   In the recent months, he had promised that he would not impose emergency.  This was another lie.  On the evening of Saturday, the 3rd November 2007, he had imposed emergency in Pakistan by citing law and order problems, constant interference by the Judiciary, etc., etc. 

The sacking of the Chief Justice of Pakistan is the greatest folly the President did that galvanized the nation against him, especially the legal fraternity.  Thereafter, he discarded the uniform and became a civilian President and appointed Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, a professional soldier, as the Army Chief.  Gen. Kayani has kept himself away from politics and may have played his part in ensuring free and fair elections, which have gone against parties who are President Musharraf?s loyalists.

Americans may be very much concerned about President Musharraf?s future, but people who want peace and stability in Pakistan, should pray for a strong civilian government that will steer the country into total prosperity and manage to keep its Armed Forces totally under civilian control and come to an understanding with tribal and extremist elements in the N.W.F.P. and Baluchistan.

Sadly, the ex-General had entrenched himself and had become power crazy and was not able to see the writings on the wall.  He should have relinquished power by holding free and fair elections where all parties under the sun could have taken part.  As he had tasted power, he felt heady to relinquish it and waited till the fag end till, when he was forced to hold elections and the results are contrary to his expectations. 

The ex-General should have retired on a high note and gracefully, which he failed to do and today he is caught up in a quagmire.  When he administered oath of office to Mr. Yousuf Raza Gillani, as Prime Minister, Mr. Zardari, his son, Bilawal and ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Sharif boycotted the ceremony.  This does not augur well for President Musharraf and I believe it is his turn to face the music.

In short, problems are of two types.  One type of problems is genuine and there is nothing much anyone could do about it.  The second type of problem is self-invited or self-created.  With Gen. Musharraf (Retd.), all his problems were invited by himself.

Nelson Lewis, Bahrain

Author: Nelson Lewis- Bahrain

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