Friendships and Conflicts in Pakistan

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mohammad Nouri

Among the Pakistani army generals who have turned into politics, Pervez Musharraf who is the last one of them was known for his intelligence and smartness. This former artillery regiment commander hailed from a diplomatic family. He received modern military training at the Royal College of Defense Studies at the United Kingdom and climbed the ladder of popularity during the 1971 war against India as a Company Commander in a Commando Battalion. All these were decisive in the political life of the 56-year old Pakistani army general, his shift from the army into politics, his clandestine and sophisticated relations with foreign players as well as his ceaseless campaign against political parties.

Musharraf’s rise to power coincided with the fall of old hand parties in the country towards the end of the 1990s but when the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 turned the political climate in Pakistan in favor of the same veteran party leaders, Musharraf was the first to realize his time to quit power had arrived. All the military and political technocrats who had built up his power network in a party called Muslim League - Quaid-i Azam (PML-Q) were bitterly defeated in a breathtaking competition with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslims League - Nawaz (PML-N). The blood of Bhutto and the tragedy of PPP popular leader’s assassination had now taken its revenge. According to Pakistani analysts, General Musharraf had accepted the recommendation of his seasoned advisors to bid farewell to politics on the even of the hazy elections after Bhutto’s assassination.

Hence, it is not far-fetched to state that in his historic decisions for wielding power and resigning as president, Musharraf did not make many mistakes. However, the main issue is that Musharraf waited for six months (since December) to declare his resignation. A few considerations are at stake in the delay the scrutiny of which can help explain the recent developments in Pakistan. Musharraf remained in power for six more months to escape above all the heavy and unforgivable allegations that he was behind Bhutto’s assassination.

After the death of Bhutto, her peers and the opportunist rivals of Musharraf cited the general as the main suspect in her assassination. However, after inviting New Scotland Yard inspection teams to carry out investigations, Musharraf shunned the accusation which could have historically disgraced him.

Another reason for Musharraf’s remaining in power for another six months was his high hopes on friendship with a few foreign powers, especially the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia. The truth is that the era of Musharraf’s rule was concurrent with America’s great wars in the region. Musharraf along with Afghan Leader Hamid Karzai were the pillars of the project known as war on terror in the past eight years. In these eight years, President George W. Bush granted an unprecedented 10 billion dollar aid to Islamabad and on several occasions reiterated his friendship with the general. Nevertheless, at present all the existing pieces of evidence hint at the fact that the US was the first country to show the green light to opposition parties on Musharraf’s ouster.

Musharraf’s foreign allies backstabbed him at the time when the project of war on terror has faced a great setback in Pakistan and thus it can be said that Musharraf is the big victim of Bush’s failure in fighting against the Taliban. Perhaps the biggest mistake of Musharraf is that he never thought his alliance with the US would be fragile.

It is quite likely that now that Musharraf has resigned, some people may think that the era of involvement of generals in politics has ended and Pakistani politicians will not have to follow the orders of military leaders any longer. But, the realities of Pakistani society reveal that resignation of Musharraf will not have that much an impact on reducing the might of the army or improving the position of political parties.

Notwithstanding their 50 years of history, Pakistani civil institutions do not yet hold sufficient powers. This weakness, more than anything else, troubles the present day leaders of political parties. Therefore, the victory of political parties in the case of Musharraf’s resignation should be viewed as an intermittent and precarious success.

The experience of Pakistan’s 60-year-old history shows that the end of the military rule over politics would mean the beginning of party disputes. It is also obvious that PML and PPP are so divided in terms of interests and political considerations that Musharraf’s peers in the army would not agree to quit protecting the political atmosphere and allow a few political groups wield power against strong regional rivals.


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