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Current Affairs ( 18 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Musharraf’s resignation triumph of democracy: Sherry Rahman

By Asim Yasin

August 19, 2008


ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman on Monday said Musharraf's resignation was a triumph of democracy and a vindication of the nation's determination for a civilian political order.


"General Musharraf had become a liability for the nation because of his anti-democratic credentials," she said while talking to the newsmen here on Monday.She said that eight years of his rule had been fraught with gross constitutional violations and acts of political divisiveness, which had not only put democracy at stake but had also created serious economic and security challenges for the country.


"Even though this resignation was due on February 18, it has come today reinforcing the public will and strengthening the coalition government's legitimate struggle to put democracy on track in Pakistan," she added.


She said it also echoed in late Benazir Bhutto's historic comment that democracy was the best revenge. "Our success is also a tribute to all those who gave their lives for a return to democracy."


The information minister said that the people of Pakistan had paid a heavy price while suffering a one-man rule. "It was Gen Musharraf's reluctance to clear the way for a civilian rule that triggered political disorder in the country. PPP leader Shaheed Benazir Bhutto lost her life for the political struggle to fight the crisis created by his illegitimate hold on power." The information minister said that Gen Musharraf's resignation was the result of the coalition government's determination to move towards complete transition to democracy.


She said during the last week, all the four provincial assemblies had passed resolutions with clear majority calling for his impeachment. "This reflects the elected government's understanding of the public opinion and willingness to take responsibility for creating a political system that caters to the public's democratic aspirations." She pointed out that immediately after his resignation, Pak rupee registered a sharp rise against the dollar, while the Karachi Stock Exchange rose by nearly 500 points.


"This is an indication of the confidence that economic and financial institutions have in our government. This also demonstrates their support for strengthening democracy in Pakistan," she said.


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Political leaders welcome Musharraf’s resignation

Resignation a victory for the people of Pakistan, says Nawaz


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Leaders of different political parties expressed mixed feelings over the resignation of General (retd) Musharraf on Monday.


PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said that the resignation was a "victory for the people of Pakistan". He said they were now free from the dictatorial regime. ìWe can say a dark period of their life has ended," Nawaz said.


Talking to CNN, he added: "Now the democratic government of Pakistan will have to perform. It will have to fulfil each and every individual's aspirations." He thanked all the people of the world as well as the media for "supporting democracy".


When asked about Pervez Musharraf’s next destination, he said: “Well, I don't know what they are negotiating, because on one side we are preparing a charge-sheet against him. So, I don't know whether they are in negotiation with this man.


“There should not be a safe exit for the people who play havoc with the country, who derail the system, subvert the Constitution, ridicule the judges and throw them out of the office.” On the options of the next presidential candidate, he said he was not interested for the slot.


“It should go to the person who actually enjoys the support of the people of Pakistan. I think the best option would be somebody from Balochistan, as there is a sense of deprivation in the province,” he said.


PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told journalists that Musharraf’s resignation should be taken positively. Replying to a question, Shujaat said that Musharraf was consulting them on his resignation decision since the last many days. “His close aides suggested to him to resign,” he said.


Shujaat added that if the coalition government took the resignation of Pervez Musharraf as “a sheer joke”, then it would be a setback for the country and the entire nation.Chairman Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran said the resignation of Pervez Musharraf reflected that the United States had found another Musharraf in the form of Asif Ali Zardari for the accomplishment of its polices in Pakistan


Khan demanded the restoration of the deposed judges at the earliest after Musharraf’s resignation. Talking at the media cell of his party, he observed that the address of Pervez Musharraf comprised “bundles of lies” and he tried to mislead the nation in the speech.


The Islami Tehrik Talba Pakistan (ITTP) demanded in a meeting chaired by its chief Ghulam Abbas Siddiqui that “the dictator” did not deserve any mercy and should be held for his extraconstitutional steps.


The meeting also demanded that nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan should be made the next president of the country.PPP-S chief and former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao described Musharrafís resignation as a wise step, adding it would help end the political uncertainty in the country. He said the people were pinning great hopes on the coalition government.


He predicted hard times for the government, as in the days to come it would have to resolve a number of issues, including the price hike, unemployment and the law and order situation.PML-N Secretary Information Ahsan Iqbal said that all controversial amendments made in the Constitution by Pervez Musharraf would be scrapped.


Talking to reporters outside the Zardari House, Ahsan Iqbal said the coalition partners would do the needful together. The PML-N leader said that Pakistani currency had gained strength and bullish trend was observed in the stock market soon after Musharraf's resignation. “Now the country’s economy will grow,” he hoped. He added that the PML-N did not want to give a safe exit to the person who had violated the Constitution two times, sacked the judges and put curbs on the media.


PML-N parliamentary leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said all political parties, the civil society and lawyers deserved the credit for forcing Musharraf to resign. He said the restoration of the sacked judges was the top priority of the coalition government. "First we would restore the deposed judges and then decide about who is going to be the next head of state." To a question, Nisar Ali Khan said Musharraf must be brought to the court of justice because it was the demand of the people as he had violated the Constitution and sacked the judges.


Mian Raza Rabbani termed Musharraf's resignation as the nation's victory and result of Benazir's sacrifice. Talking to the media outside the Zardari House, he said the ruling coalition would decide about giving a safe passage to Musharraf.


The Muttahida Qaumi Movement -- a one-time ally of Pervez Musharraf -- described his resignation as a correct step taken in the larger interest of the country.Commenting on the issue, the MQM spokesman told APP that by resigning his office, Musharraf had saved the country from further polarisation.


The spokesman further said Musharraf did not make the issue an "ego matter".Munir A Malik, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, hoped that the deposed judges of the superior courts would be restored immediately after the resignation of Musharraf.


He termed the restoration of November 2 judiciary a pre-requisite for strengthening the democratic institutions in the country. President Islamabad Bar Association Haroon-ur-Rashid said Musharraf’s resignation was a good omen for democracy and free judiciary in the country.


Talking to APP, he said Musharraf’s resignation was expected as he was realising the repercussions of the impeachment process. "We hope the deposed judges would be restored immediately and parliament and judges would work according to the Constitution for the welfare of the whole nation," he commented.


Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum said that the decision by Pervez Musharraf to resign was right in the prevailing circumstances and in the larger interest of the country and its people. "I advised him not to challenge the charge-sheet or the impeachment move in the court. I was very clear about the issue. This was my honest advice," the AG said.


“The decision has avoided confrontation between the presidency and parliament,” he said while responding to a question by reporters. When asked about his own resignation, he said, "I will decide within a couple of days. I will think about it."


Balochistan’s Minister for Quality Education and the sole representative of the Hazara tribe in the Balochistan Assembly, Jan Ali Changezi, termed the resignation tendered by Pervez Musharraf as a triumph of the nation.


He said that Pervez Musharraf was elected unconstitutionally. NWFP Minister for Information and Coordination Mian Iftikhar Hussain, while paying rich tributes to the neutral role of the Army on Musharraf’s resignation issue, said that it was a historic day that marked the victory of the democratic and patriotic forces in the country.


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Exit Musharraf


 An editorial in Dawn, Karachi


IT came at 2.02pm. Three quarters of an hour into a speech that kept the nation on tenterhooks President Musharraf bowed to the inevitable and announced his resignation. Here at last was the moment the overwhelming majority of the country’s politicians had been hoping for. Most will wonder why it took the president so long; some will rue the lost opportunity to impeach him. What is incontestable is that the country must move on from this crisis quickly. The four-party coalition at the centre told the country in no uncertain terms that governance would be impossible in the shadow of President Musharraf. Now that that hurdle has removed itself, the field is open for the politicians to address the most pressing problems facing the nation. Determining what the priorities ought to be is not difficult: militancy, the economy and relations with India and Afghanistan need to be addressed urgently. Solutions, however, may prove more elusive. Indeed the nature of the problems is such that they may get worse before they get better. But at the very least the politicians must show the same purpose and focus in dealing with these problems that they have demonstrated in taking on the president.


Immediately, however, two issues will need to be addressed. First is the restoration of the non-functional judges of the superior courts. The judicial crisis, which was the catalyst of the president’s downfall, needs to be resolved clearly, unambiguously and quickly. Second is the election of a new president. According to the constitution the president has enormous powers that reach deep within the institutions of the state which makes it a highly coveted post. The coalition must quickly nominate and elect a joint-candidate as president and avoid lengthy political bargaining.


At this point it is inevitable that attention will also turn to a preliminary assessment of President Musharraf’s legacy. Indeed the ex-president spent a significant portion of his farewell speech recounting his economic, social and political record. The economy was a central plank of the Musharraf era and the president emphasised the strong macroeconomic figures that existed as recently as last December. Undeniably the country’s economic indicators improved dramatically on Mr Musharraf’s watch over the anaemic, dangerously low levels of the 1990s. It is also true that the downturn over the last year has an international element which has buffeted the economies of other developing, non-oil-producing countries. However, economists point out that the economic model adopted by Mr Musharraf’s handpicked technocrats was a consumption boom that relied on easy credit fuelled by the inflow of dollars and global liquidity. When the spigot was shut off, Pakistan found itself much more economically vulnerable than it would have been if headline growth had not been the focus of economic policy. There is also the question of the stagnation of the rural economy, which supports over 40 per cent of the labour force, on the president’s watch. The spectacular increase in taxation revenue (from Rs350bn in 1999 to Rs1 trillion last year) is another achievement of the Musharraf era. However, it has been achieved by indirect taxes, which disproportionately affect the poor, and meaningful tax reform has remained elusive. Pakistan’s tax-to-GDP ratio of 10 per cent is still one of the lowest in the region and the tax base is abysmally small.


On the development side, the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) registered a manifold increase but the capacity to utilise the funds remains poor. The space for women and minorities to participate in the political process has been enhanced over the last eight years, but no meaningful legal reform to improve their plight took place. The Women’s Protection Act was a watered-down version of its original draft; however, it did have the salutary effect of initiating a national debate on the right to amend the Islamic laws on the books, which were strictly off-limits before. The media has broken new ground in the Musharraf-era, unwittingly demonstrating this by its vociferous criticism of the president’s attempts to muzzle it late into his rule. On all these counts President Musharraf’s record has been mixed. However, Mr Musharraf was an unqualified failure when it came to developing the non-economic institutions of the state. Few could argue that on the general’s watch parliament, the judiciary, the bureaucracy or the police improved. In the end it is perhaps this failure more than anything else that led to his downfall.

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 Exit Musharraf


An editorial in Asian Age, New Delhi


The manner of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s exit has caused the people of that country to breathe easy. The way events unfolded, the Pakistan Army was evidently not ready to sanction any misadventure on the part of the former commando. This effectively closed to him the option of dismissing Parliament, which was within his constitutional powers. It also became apparent that the United States no longer looked upon the retired general’s continuance as President with enthusiasm. Under his watch, America’s much-vaunted "war on terror" had turned sour in the tribal belt straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is now likely to have the highest density of the world’s terrorists. The thinking in Washington appeared to be that Pakistan’s all-powerful secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), commonly described as a "state within the state", was playing a double game vis-à-vis the Taliban and Al Qaeda while absorbing America’s dollars in the name of fighting terrorism. The Army and the US turning away removed any room for manoeuvre that the President may have desired. Thus, he went quietly before the impeachment motion could be given effect. Had he sought to put up even the semblance of a fight, it may have been bad for Pakistan’s stability, already under frightful strain. And if the former military dictator had gone kicking and screaming, it would have been terrible for the image of the Army, Pakistan’s most significant institution that has run the country for so long.

People across Pakistan are celebrating the retired general’s departure. That is a measure of the deep unpopularity the Musharraf dictatorship had come to court. His shedding the uniform late last year, and getting elected in elections widely regarded as a political con, did not help matters. Appreciating that the Musharraf interregnum may have dragged down the Army in public esteem, Gen. Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, its present leader, has sought to maintain a low key role in order to preserve the institution. Great responsibility now devolves on the political system. Will the ruling coalition, which rode to power on a massive mandate only six months ago but comprising parties that were bitter enemies until the other day, cohere? If it does, Pakistan may have the opportunity to steady itself. If the system falters, the resulting chaos is likely to further boost the ascendance of the extremist-terrorist polity in Pakistan that may also threaten its neighbours. The Pakistan Army is likely to be tempted to step in decisively if the civilians prove a squabbling bunch. If the election for the new President is conducted without incident within the stipulated 30 days, and if the ISI is brought under civilian authority (a move that was recently scuttled by the outgoing President acting in concert with the Army) in the near future, and if the Parliament can enact a reform package that takes away the President’s power to dismiss it, then Pakistan may be deemed to be on its way. Nine years ago, Gen. Musharraf rode in on military power, removing an elected government in a coup d’état. He was ejected by people power, a fate that had not befallen any other Pakistani dictator. But the basis of that power is untested.


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Musharraf must face an open trial


By Yousuf Nazar


THE nation is heaving a sigh of relief as one of the most painful phases in Pakistan’s history has ended with Musharraf’s resignation. Should the matter end here? Gen Musharraf dismissed judges and violated the constitution but all dictators are guilty of that.


His greatest crime was that he compromised Pakistan’s national interests to consolidate his power when he was an international pariah and brought Pakistan to the brink of Balkanisation by his dual track policy of covertly supporting the Afghan Taliban while allowing the Americans to conduct air strikes on Pakistan.


But it is impossible to forgive him for insulting the people of Pakistan by telling them in the full glare of TV cameras that they should eat chicken if pulses are expensive (‘daal mahngi hey to murgi khain’). Marie Antoinette of France said, “Let them eat cake” when confronted by the poverty of the people and shortage of bread. She was executed by guillotine at the height of the French Revolution in 1793 for the crime of treason.


A section of our English-speaking elite believe Musharraf was trying to save them from the Taliban. This makes you wonder how ignorant one can be. He secured the evacuation of more than 3,000 Taliban and militants between Nov 15 and 23, 2001 from Kunduz in Afghanistan, where they had been trapped, to Pakistan’s tribal areas from where they were to later organise and conduct terrorist attacks.


Musharraf used the intelligence agencies to rig the 2002 elections to enable the supporters of religious militants and Lal Masjid extremists, such as Chaudhry Shujaat and Ijazul Haq, to gain power in the centre and the religious elements to gain ground in the NWFP and Balochistan. The politics of fear and blackmail was practised, fully exploiting the apprehensions of Pakistanis and the West of religious extremists.


This double game was played to a degree where it forced a former general and corps commander Faiz Ali Chisti to make a shocking statement to an international news agency on Jan 27, 2008. Chishti said he would “not be surprised” if Musharraf had engineered terror attacks to manipulate his image in the West. “Musharraf is an intellectually dishonest person. He is a clever ruler, who makes the US and the West believe that they can only effectively deal with Al Qaeda as long as he is in power,” Chishti said.


Some so-called pragmatists advocate a cautious approach to Musharraf’s accountability lest the khakis get upset. But Pakistan’s history tells us that letting dictators go unpunished for their crimes against the state and the people has not deterred the Bonapartists and adventurers from striking again in the darkness. Bhutto did not try the generals as was recommended by the Hamoodur Rahman Commission.


Bhutto was to later regret his policy of appeasing the army. He wrote these prophetic words from his death cell in his book If I am Assassinated: “If a coup d’etat becomes a permanent part of the political infrastructure, it means the falling of the last petal of the last withered rose. It means the end.” He added, “If India had suffered from martial laws and military dictatorships on the pattern of Pakistan, India would have been in three or four separate pieces by this day. India is more heterogeneous than Pakistan but India has been kept in one piece by the noise and chaos of its democracy.”


Bhutto faced two coup attempts within the first couple of years of his five-and-half-year rule and then the third fatal one on July 5, 1977. Why? The Bonapartist generals were sure nobody could touch them. Democracy and democratic institutions cannot exist and grow without accountability. It cannot be built on the basis of reconciliation with those who have showed a callous and contemptuous disregard for the people of this country.


What right does anyone have to provide safe passage to someone who committed heinous crimes against the people and handing over hundreds of Pakistanis, including a young woman Aafia Siddiqui, to the US without the due process of law; who allowed the murder of Benazir Bhutto by withdrawing security and then presided over the cover-up; to one who should be held responsible for the deaths of several hundred Pakistanis including those who died on May 12, 2007 in Karachi as he stood in Islamabad showing his fists declaring, “I will have the last punch”?


But it would be wrong to single him out for Pakistan’s descent to the brink of a failed state. Musharraf represents the mindset of those arrogant and megalomaniac generals who consider themselves a special breed that is above any law and accountable to no one.


This breed was responsible for the ignominious surrender on Dec 16, 1971 and the break-up of Pakistan. Its ugliest face, Ziaul Haq, was responsible for the murder of Pakistan’s first elected prime minister and turning Pakistan into a CIA base and one of the biggest hubs of narcotics and arms trafficking in the world. It was another general — Aslam Beg — who sabotaged democracy by forming and supporting the IJI and encouraging the MQM to turn Karachi and Hyderabad into war zones.


His ISI chief Hameed Gul had little idea — and still does not — that by supporting the so-called jihadis, many of whom have been tools in the hands of suicidal raw power games conducted in the name of ‘national security’ and ‘strategic depth’, he and his ilk were creating Frankensteins, who instead of undermining the neighbouring ‘enemies’, threatened the very future of Pakistan itself. Musharraf was part of that reckless, irresponsible and dangerous bunch.


Pakistan cannot repair these deep wounds by pretending that there is nothing wrong or that Musharraf received bad advice or made some mistakes. No individual or army can be a substitute for the collective wisdom that the politicians are forced to choose as the modus operandi because democracy, no matter how imperfect, cannot function otherwise. Collective wisdom and decision-making processes may not appear to be particularly efficient but serve as a safety value to prevent disasters like the 1971 defeat.


The malaise of military rule is cancerous and deep, and may prove fatal. It needs a surgical operation and the operation must start at the top. It must start with an open trial by a judicial commission that should consist of only non-PCO judges. It will need to be followed by a healing process but healing does not and cannot start before an operation.


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Time to decide: dictatorship or democracy?

Awami Awaz


AFTER the Punjab, NWFP and Sindh assemblies, the Balochistan Assembly also … express[ed] no confidence in President Musharraf. In all 57 members voted in favour of the resolution. None polled against it. The resolution says that President Musharraf abrogated the constitution twice, weakened the federation, killed Nawab Abkar Bugti and thousands of innocent Baloch using brute force while hundreds of others were missing. Reports suggest that the ruling coalition had finalised the chargesheet against the president for impeachment….


Meanwhile, reports pouring in say that after the US, Saudi Arabia also entered the scene to obtain a safe exit for Musharraf. Some reports suggest the president had agreed in principle to resign. The chief of Saudi intelligence Prince Muqrin held a meeting with … officials of the intelligence agencies in Pakistan…. The business community has also demanded the president resign as uncertainty has destroyed the economy…. History stands witness that since the last 60 years this country has been run unconstitutionally, unlawfully and undemocratically. We have braved [a state of] of martial law, dictatorship, emergency and the law of necessity; hence this country could not gain stability in political, economic and social terms. It was really a miracle; a country running without law, without a constitution. But to what extent would this miracle continue?


Today we are at a turning point. One path leads to democracy, the other to dictatorship. The path leading to dictatorship ... fulfils the interests of … vested interests. The other leads to parliament and the rule of the people. The time has come to decide whether the country should be handed over to anti-democratic forces or the representatives of the people.


Fortunately today we have a democratic and elected government and it is hoped that it will succeed in taking the country along the democratic path. However, the tussle is touching the highest level of danger — Article 58(2)(b) may be used to dismiss the elected government…. Apparently President Musharraf has the … option in hand but lacks the support he needs to use it. Pressure is being mounted from all quarters on President Musharraf to give way to democracy as the ruling coalition has the people’s mandate .... If President Musharraf does not take this in a democratic spirit ... and resorts to an undemocratic step, the situation will become another nightmare for the people as well as for democracy and the country. It is the need of the hour that President Musharraf resigns and gives way to the democratic process. — (Aug 17)


— Selected and translated by Sohail Sangi


Source: Dawn, Karachi