THE VIEW FROM PAKISTAN:
US Support of Gen. Pervez Musharraf Supports Terrorists
"Any impression that the US supports a military-controlled polity will turn Pakistan's civilian leaders against Washington," warns seasoned journalist Hussain Haqqani. "They [the ordinary people] would be tempted to cooperate with Musharraf's Islamic critics in street protests that would probably be driven by anti-Americanism."
General Musharraf, who seized power through a bloodless coup nearly three years ago, is bound by a Supreme Court ruling to hold parliamentary elections by October this year and to transfer power to an elected government.
Introducting 'LFO 2002'Through "Legal Framework Order 2002," Gen Musharraf now has the power to sack the future prime minister, overrule parliament, head the powerful National Security Councilwith four serving generals as members of the body, thus giving a constitutional role to the militaryand appoint chiefs for Pakistan's armed forces.
LFO 2002 itself makes it clear that it cannot be challenged in any court of law "on any ground whatsoever."
"I do not need the Assembly's consent... I am here to amend the constitution in the light of the Supreme Court judgement," he replied to a teasing journalist who dared to ask him who on earth gave him authority to write, rewrite and erase the constitution of the country that he has taken an oath to defend as a serving military officer.
"If the future parliament tries to reverse any of the amendments, especially the one relating to the National Security Council," General said arrogantly, "they [elected representatives] will have to quit, or I will quit."
"Given the fact that he has armed himself with the power to dissolve the National Assembly," Pakistan's respected English-language newspaper Dawn editorialized, "it is obvious who will have to quit in case there is confrontation between the two."
In the press conference he phrased his political order as a "democratic dictatorship."
A political activist, asked to comment about the General's announcement, said, "It is all clear through this decree that General Musharraf has no intention of transferring power to a future parliament, if and when elections are held.
He continued, "The General simply plans to establish a shadow military state in the garb of democracy."
Newsline, an outspoken Pakistani newsmagazine, recently published a title story describing Musharraf's political brainchild, calling his "democratic dictatorship" a government "Of the General, for the General, By the General."
One political analyst wrote that Musharraf sees his intentions as the criterion for judging his actions. "And since, in the General's view," he observes, "his intentions are good, he cannot understand why anyone should question his actions."
As one professional said sarcastically, after listening to the General's speech on TV, "Musharraf is here for his lifetime, and everyone should just relax."
Hope, then a Loss of TrustHowever, people are questioning. Ordinary people who were fed up with the chaotic political order of the 1990s initially welcomed Musharraf's takeover when he promised fellow countrymen political and administrative reforms and impartial accountability in all walks of life.
However, he lost this trust faster than any other previous leader by engaging in political nepotism, selective accountability, and favoring retired and serving military officers through awarding business contracts and donating vast pieces of real estate as gifts.
The last nail in his government's coffin was the April 30 referendum, which was massively rigged to win the vote. Appearing on television, he could not help but confess before the nation that massive rigging and fraud in the referendum did occur, and he was apologetic for it.
"His referendum was his ultimate stupidity, which he tried to cover by admitting it was partly rigged and by apologizing," writes Shaheen Sehbai, the fugitive journalist and ex-editor of Pakistan's largest selling English-language newspaper, The News. Shaheen fled Pakistan in March this year after the military government came after him for publishing a story about Jihadi groups' intimacy with Pakistan's intelligence apparatus. "But what did he offer to the nation in return? More of the same stupidity" with his LFO 2002.
Pakistan is a curious country. Since its inception based on the slogan of 'oneness of Muslims of south Asia' some half a century ago, the military in Pakistan has acquired the role of custodian of national security and self-appointed arbiter of national interest. The military has been ruling Pakistan directly or indirectly from its very first day of nationhood. When out of power, the military has still wielded influence through shadowy intelligence agencies that have acquired notoriety as being the state within the state. Any politician who does not agree to play with generals is mistrusted, scoffed, labelled a security risk and persecuted.
No elected leader in Pakistan has been able to complete his or her term of office. All have been booted out of office with one or another excuse; military ideologues always insist these ousters were in the greater national interest.
Today, heads of four major political parties of Pakistan are living in exile. Those who have not been lucky enough to make it outside the borders are either enduring unstoppable harassment or are behind bars.
Only those politicians who agree to their "guardianship" are permitted to participate in the government. With this breed of politicians, the current military government has formed many political groups and alliances, which are derogatively called the "King's Party" by the press as well as by the man in the street. Despite this military sponsorship, these political groups have failed to win the people's slightest support. Thus the military junta has decided to continue to play its lead role in any future political dispensing. Musharraf's governmental team is working overtime to influence the outcome of the October 10 parliamentary election, as the military knows that any free and fair election would bring back powerful politicians whose roots run deep with the masses.
Political observers see Musharraf's LFO-2002 and other gimmicks as attempts to keep an effective military check on the future parliament. As they put it, through these amendments, he has "clipped the wings of the future elected government" by appropriating all of its powers for himself.
They argue that when General Musharraf finally oversees the swearing-in of what some may characterize as a toothless prime minister this October, elected on the back of a parliament overshadowed by the National Security Council, he may well oversee the beginning of yet another era for Pakistanhis "Democratic dictatorship."
Election in DoubtEven this may be an optimistic scenario. The majority of people still doubt that the parliamentary election will be held as scheduled six weeks from now.
Amazingly, even those who are running for elections have no faith in the General's promise to hold elections. In newsrooms, corporate offices, political parties' meetingsí corporate headquarters, on the streets, in tea shops and at public meetings, the majority believe that the junta will be creating conditions that will give them a pretext to postpone the voting.
Manufacturing an Emergency"India has attacked Kashmir,." This is how Pakistan television broadcasting relayed breaking news on Friday, August 23. "Nation must be prepared to defend motherland from the enemy aggression." That afternoon General Rashid Qureshi, spokesman for Musharraf, hurriedly called a press briefing and told reporters that Indian ground forces attacked a Pakistani post in (Pakistani controlled) Kashmir. According to him, the attack was repulsed and the enemy retreated with heavy casualties.
India denied the story. We have had no independent verification of this claim after two weeks.
Coincidentally, militant activities in Indian Kashmir have increased in recent days. In the days ahead, with a major terrorist event in Indian Kashmir, war rhetoric and war mongering will be back regarding that region, thus giving Pakistan's 'reluctant' military leadership a pretext to postpone elections.
US Role is CriticalThe ordinary people in Pakistan believe that the US has a crucial role in any political change occurring in Pakistan. To them, the post-September 11 approval of Musharraf's government by the White House has been a setback for democratic forces.
"We are concerned that [Musharraf's] recent decisions could make it more difficult to build strong democratic institutions in Pakistan," said US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker to the media the other day in Washington.
However, our sigh of relief did not lost long, as we heard soon thereafter that despite the State Department's disappointment with the General's recent undemocratic acts, the White House considers him more important than any political philosophy.
"He's still tight with us in the war against terror, and that's what I appreciate," US president Bush was quoted by media around the world when he spoke to reporters while visiting Squires Mountain in Oregon.
Pushing Pakistan Into"Any impression that the US supports a military-controlled polity will turn Pakistan's civilian leaders against Washington," warns seasoned journalist Hussain Haqqani, who was two-time media adviser of two Prime Ministers of Pakistan. After being harassed by the military regime, who labeled him as an "Indian Agent," he quit Pakistan to avoid any eventualities.
Arms of Islamic Extremists
"They [the ordinary people] would be tempted to cooperate with Musharraf's Islamic critics in street protests that would probably be driven by anti-Americanism," continues the journalist.
He suggests a solution: Instead of appearing to condone Musharraf's disregard for democracy, the US could impress upon him the destabilizing effect civil-military divisions are having on Pakistan.
"Conquering other countries or smashing terrorist cells may be an acceptable short-term solution," writes Manzur Ejaz from Washington in a Pakistani newspaper. "But, in the long run, democratization of Islamic countries is the only way to get rid of the terrorism malaise." He points out that terrorism is the outcome of authoritarianism. By embracing General Musharraf's molesting of democracy, his gurus in West are helping the terror network to flourish in Pakistan.
Dr. Rind, based in Karachi, Pakistan, writes on geopolitics. He has been a regular contributor to the Chronicle since October 2001.
Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
This story was published on September 4, 2002.