By Ajay Darshan Behera
General Pervez Musharraf’s resignation from the presidency last Monday was unprecedented, as it was the first time in the history of
The problem for most Pakistani military rulers has been how to bow out of power at a given point in time, realising that the task for which they had assumed power has been accomplished. Ironically, military rulers start believing that they are indispensable to the destiny of the country and start looking for ways in which to continue in power. They civilianise their military regimes, entrench themselves in the power structure and refuse to leave.
So far, the three previous military rulers that the country had did not give up power but left in unusual circumstances. General Ayub Khan, the first military dictator, was forced to do so in a crisis situation by his successor, General Yahya Khan. Yahya left in ignominy after the separation of
Musharraf managed to prolong his stay in power, but increasingly became weak under pressure to restore democracy in the country. Political developments in
In hindsight, one can say that he either did not understand the changing power dynamics or had a flawed exit strategy. He could have still departed gracefully when his constitutional term expired in November 2007. He would have retrieved some respect and been hailed as the first army chief who willingly gave up power in the interest of democracy.
Instead he imposed a state of emergency, got himself elected as the President by the outgoing electoral college even while still being in uniform. His ability to continue as the President, even though it was illegal, came from the fact that he was the army chief. It became apparent the moment he appointed his successor, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, that his days were numbered.
Even though General Kayani was perceived as a close ally of Musharraf when he was appointed last November, he did what is expected of the army chief and that was to protect the interests of the army first. Musharraf had increasingly become a liability for the army. The military was forced to recognise the popular mood by the series of events starting from the sacking of the Chief Justice and the resultant demand by the legal community for the restoration of the country’s judges to the public’s demand for free and fair elections and the creation of a democratic government. Musharraf’s attempts to cling to power in such circumstances did not reflect well on the image of the army. Therefore, General Kayani left Musharraf to his fate but was, however, interested in a dignified exit for him.
Musharraf’s final departure is a defining moment in
Unless another maverick army chief takes over power in
(The writer is an Associate Professor at Jamia Millia Islamia,