Pakistan’s Prodigal General
By Najeeb Jung
13 Mar 2013
IF GEN PERVEZ Musharraf is to be believed then he would soon be on a plane to Pakistan with the intention of contesting the next general elections scheduled for May 2013. The General seems to have hired a publicity company to sell his return, and expects admirers and journalists to pay him for the privilege (or the risk) of flying back in the same plane. Gen Musharraf handed over power to a civilian regime in Pakistan in October 2008. At that time the country had been ruled by the military for more than 34 of the 61 years of its post independence period.
There have been so far four periods of military rule in Pakistan — October 1958 to June 1962, March 1969 to December 1971, July 1977 to August 1988 and October 1999 to August 2008.
Interestingly with the exception of Gen Yahya Khan, who did not have the opportunity to do so, the other Generals, Ayub Khan, Zia- ul Haq and Pervez Musharraf tried to create a civilian façade to their dictatorships.
The truth is that each general in his own way contributed to the deeper entrenchment of the military and systematically eroded democratic forces in Pakistan that they considered counterproductive to their objectives of perpetuating military rule. Having said that, the erosion of democracy and the roots of religious extremists are enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan itself. Provisions relating to the Objective Resolution, the text of oaths to high offices, the 8th Amendment, the Council of Islamic ideology and the Sharia Courts all go a long way in promoting religious extremism that became the foundation of the legacy of Islamisation left behind by Gen Zia.
Weaponisation, sectarian brutalisation and a completely non- secular sectarian approach were his legacy to the people of Pakistan. This policy of Islamisation not only crept into the military but gradually helped Islamic parties and Jihadi groups gain considerable power and weaken the state. Gen Musharraf, for all his plain talk positioning himself as a soldier of modern secular governance, was really no different and took advantage of the fears caused by the 9/ 11 tragedy to get into the good books of the international community, particularly the USA, and played a duplicitous game tinkering with the political system; leaving Pakistan to civilian rulers in an almost ungovernable situation.
Post 9/ 11, he tried to distance himself from the Taliban and in January 2001, prepared a list of 60 wanted Taliban to extradite them. But even as he did this, he covertly backed Jihadi groups. Writing in May 2001 in The Friday Times, Najam Sethi wrote, “ the Musharraf model seeks to covertly ally with the Jihadi groups while overtly keeping the mainstream religious parties out of the power loop”. The fact is that while Zia had openly supported religious organisations, Musharraf ostensibly supported secular parties but in effect marginalised mainstream political groups. When it suited him he would criticise the madrasas or at different times praise them as when he said: “ very few of these schools are engaged in any kind of militancy.
Most of them are humanitarian, they give food and lodging to the poor people”.
The result is that there could be as high as 40,000- 50,000 madrasas in Pakistan with the likelihood of having around a million students. Unlike madrasas in India that have been consistently committed to devout nationalism as an inclusive part of religious teaching, the madrasas in Pakistan preach the extremist’s ideology of Jihad. We see the results for ourselves.
General Musharraf now intends to return to a country that is hopelessly divided on religious and sectarian lines and is often being seen as a failing state.
Its military budget is approximately 45 per cent of the national budget. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the country’s ruling elites owe a staggering $ 4 billion or so in non- performing and defaulting loans to state- owned banks.
The domestic and international debt is around 90.5 per cent of the GDP, the rich and the feudal grow richer as the poor sink in deep penury and the country’s social indicators remain among the lowest in the region.
Despite this Pakistan nurtures ambitions to be a leader in the Islamic world, continues its aggressive armament development program as it indeed continues to support a proxy war in Kashmir.
Now, with elections round the corner, the political scene is of a Shakespearean tragedy. With a hyper- active judiciary that is clearly led by a Chief Justice with an axe to grind, a cricketer- turned- politician whose public meetings draw large crowds but who has little political organisation and has sunk back to rely on the support of discards from other political parties, an inquisitive Canadian cleric with the potential to seemingly attract crowds, the powerful Punjab and Sindh regions that are devoted to the two oldest political parties ie the Muslim League ( Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party, the Northwest torn apart by sectarian discord and huge loss of life and property through constant bombing by American drones, the largest business city of Karachi devastatingly disturbed by sectarian strife, and an army that cannot even contemplate not playing a singular role in everything and anything of consequence in Pakistan, should it surprise us that the few months old Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf turns to the revered shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti to pray for a miracle for the times ahead? As Ghalib would have said: “ raw main hai raks- e- umr, kahan dekhiye thame ne haath baag par hai, na paaye rakaab par” ( destiny is galloping ferociously, who knows where it will stop, yet neither are there hands on the reigns, nor are there feet in the stirrups.) The writer is the Vice- Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia
Source: Mail Today