Musharraf’s mumbo-jumbo

Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf only opens his mouth to change feet. On a speaking tour of the US, Musharraf pronounced that “civilian governments [in Pakistan] have never performed”. He said that an elected government has to deliver to the people and to the state but “if that is not happening, that is the problem in Pakistan”. By dislodging Nawaz Sharif’s government in a military coup in 1999, Mr Musharraf remained in power for nine years.

He then formed a quislings party, the PML-Q, to legitimise his military rule while continuing an elaborate pretence that a civilian government was in place. Musharraf should ask himself why his handpicked government was not able to ‘deliver’ or ‘perform’ when it was in power. The numerous crises that our country is facing today are mostly due to Musharraf’s policies. That said, Musharraf needs to familiarise himself with the historical perspective of why democratically elected governments in Pakistan have had a hard time performing their duties.

First, it must be said that making a sweeping statement about civilian governments having “never performed” in Pakistan’s history is factually incorrect. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s first term was marked with relative success. Even Ms Benazir Bhutto’s and Mian Nawaz Sharif’s respective two stints in power — though incomplete each time — were not without some pro-people policies and reforms. Secondly, Musharraf conveniently ignored the real cause of why civil governments have had a hard time performing to the best of their abilities. Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators for more than half of its history since it came into being in 1947. Even when no military ruler is in power, the real power lies with our security establishment. Then there is the problem of continuity. As soon as a democratically elected government comes into power, the undemocratic forces launch a defamation campaign against it. Most of the civilian government’s tenure is wasted in defending itself while the shadows lurking in the dark remain busy in hatching conspiracies to destabilise it further. Another factor in the underperformance of civilian governments is that our establishment controls the foreign and security policies — two of the most important policies for any government. When a government is not able to decide on important issues like its diplomatic ties and defence policies, how can we expect it to perform well? As if that is not enough, there is always the fear of another military coup. We have seen in the past how our army chiefs have unceremoniously and unconstitutionally removed civilian governments. In a country where civilians are subservient to the whims and wishes of the high and mighty military establishment, the chances of a civilian government delivering on its promises is perhaps expecting too much. Military rule is inherently bad. Development cannot take place in its truest sense unless democracy is allowed to take root in Pakistan.

It is ironic that a man who toppled a civilian government is now being so dismissive of democracy. Mr Musharraf not only needs to brush up on history but also needs to come out of his delusional world where everything is hunky-dory as long as he or his military compatriots are in power. The icing on the cake is that Mr Musharraf recently launched his own political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), in London. If he thinks that civilian governments are unable to deliver to the people, then why has he decided to enter politics as a ‘civilian’? General (retd) Musharraf should stick to delivering half-baked lectures all over the globe instead of trying his hand at politics. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Pakistan for sale

A bombshell by Balochistan Assembly speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhoothani was dropped on Friday that the office of the prime minister was ‘pushing’ to sell 70,000 acres of land in Balochistan. According to Mr Bhoothani and media reports, the Prime Minister’s House is pressurising the Balochistan government via the Revenue Department to quickly approve the summary for selling the land to Arab sheikhs.

Politicians or people in power in Pakistan have a history of selling national assets to foreign companies and countries for a quick buck. Gwadar Port and Reko Diq projects are the biggest examples. In the past, governments had turned a blind eye to the fate of children being smuggled to the Middle East as camel jockeys. We are still coming to terms with the decision of the Musharraf regime to ‘sell’ Pakistani nationals post-9/11. A few days ago, the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court prevented 53 falcons from being illegally exported to Qatar. Less than a week ago 28 hunting licences were granted to numerous Gulf States luminaries for the Houbara Bustard. The Houbara Bustard is listed as an endangered species by international conservation bodies. Pakistan is a country of contradictions. It is most evident in the difference between our dealings with the US and Arab countries. It is all right for the Arabs to buy vast patches of land and hunt wildlife that is protected in their own countries but it becomes a matter of national sovereignty when US planes enter Pakistani airspace.

When questioned what if the Arabs pay a good amount for the land, Mr Bhoothani was correct in asking: “Would the government sell the whole of Balochistan if some outsider paid a handsome amount?” Or as a matter of fact, the rest of the country? There is already great justifiable resentment in Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab towards the violations of human rights and exploitation of the people and natural resources of these regions by the federation and Punjab. That resentment is fuelled by actual or proposed transfers of land in thse regions to Arab moneybags.

The problem is much deeper in Pakistan. Money has become the be all and end all in Pakistani society. It no longer matters whether money is made by legal or illegal means. We need to wake up and realise that money is not everything. There are some things money cannot buy, such as self-respect and dignity — a lesson our leaders would do well to learn – DailyTimes