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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2646

Farcical transition to democracy

By Asif Haroon Raja

Gen Pervez Musharraf took the reins of power on 11 October 1999 after axing an elected government of Nawaz Sharif which enjoyed two-third majority at the barrel of the gun. He created a dummy legislature led by Zafarullah Jamali through a thoroughly rigged election in October 2002 but kept all levers of powers in his hands. He thus established an authoritarian one-man rule and brooked no dissent. The arrangement suited Washington with whom he had cultivated a secret understanding that he would do as told to do. Bush Administration could get their wishes implemented on phone calls without any hassle. Mush had befriended Bush for he knew that without Washington?s support he would not last long and his wish of breaking records of his military predecessors would remain unfulfilled. In his eagerness to keep Washington in good humour he obsequiously submitted to all their legal and illegal directives and virtually turned Pakistan into a colony of USA. Oblivious of suffering of people of Pakistan with whom he remained disconnected, he kept obliging USA to prolong his stay in power and in the process compromised the dignity of the nation and sovereignty of Pakistan. He kept his detractors silenced through oppressive policies and by displaying high economic indicators achieved during the tenure of imported PM Shaukat Aziz.

He dubbed south-western Baloch tribals and north-western FATA tribals as extremists and terrorists and launched military operations against them as a consequence to which both flanks of Pakistan got inflamed and are still burning. His approach towards the fascist Party MQM was however different. He ignored their cold blooded murders on 12 May 2007 and 9 April 2008 and continued to pamper them in spite of their high-handedness and black mailing tactics. He also took no notice of wrong doings of Q League and directed the wrath of dreaded NAB towards his detractors only. Under his policy of appeasement, he never defended the charges hurled against Pakistan by India and USA. Rather, he acknowledged the charges of religious extremism, cross border terrorism into Kashmir and Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation and took concrete steps to allay their misgivings and apprehensions. He never got tired of putting in greater efforts to satisfy his patrons who under no circumstances got satisfied. In his exuberance to earn kudos and to earn dollars he went to the extent of handing over Pakistani nationals to USA secretly and without trials and killing his own people by declaring them as enemies.

Thanks to Justice Iftikhar defiance and sustained movement of lawyers, the dark night of nine long years finally gave way to dawn of democracy on 18 February. The people danced with joy thinking that their travails were over. There was a contagious optimism amongst them that their days of miseries had ended and a better tomorrow had finally come to put an end to injustices, witch-hunt against Islamists, corruption, favouritism, nepotism, vulgarity and obscenity, sucking up to America and futile war on terror. During the election campaign, the politicians of all hues had made tall promises to serve them. Each political party had come out with high-sounding attractive manifesto promising moon. The PPP had dangled the carrots of five Ds and had promised to undo the wrong policies of military dictator and to hold him, Q League and the MQM accountable for illegal and dishonest practices.

Great expectations came crashing down within a short period of two months when Zardari failed to honour his commitment of restoring deposed judges within 30 days of Bhurban Accord signed on 9 March. Thereon, he and his team tried all possible tricks they had up their sleeves not to restore the judges. To their utter dismay they found the PPP leaders maintaining secret links with Musharraf, co-opting MQM in Sindh government and also hobnobbing with Q League members. They have no plans to carry out trial of Musharraf for his umpteen offences. The PPP leadership instead of unshackling American perverse influence over our domestic affairs and foreign policy has gone an extra mile to cosy up with Washington and has made no change in the policy on war on terror or in the policy of appeasement. In fact, they have intensified military operations and allowed full use of force without caring for collateral damage or displacements. They have allowed US drones to attack suspected targets within FATA unchallenged whenever they desire to do so. No effort has been made to trace the whereabouts of the missing persons. The people are in a state of shock to find that the PPP is a carbon copy of the previous team headed by Musharraf.

As if these woes were not enough, massive load shedding, acute shortage of flour and sugar, rising inflation and unprecedented price hike has left the people dazed. All economic indicators have plunged and so has the value of rupee. The foreign exchange reserve that had swelled to $16.37 billion in December 2007 has dipped to $6 billion and is continuing to deplete at a fast rate. Notwithstanding the external factors responsible for the sudden economic slump, the worst part is that no practical steps have been taken to mellow down the ill-effects of global economic recession by way of tightening belts, cutting down imports drastically and above all taking measures of austerity by reducing all sorts of wasteful expenditures and affecting a change in lifestyle of the elites. Conversely, the parasitic rulers instead of showing mercy to the national kitty, they are further taxing it by adding to the strength of cabinet members, spending large amounts on foreign trips, over staffing government and semi-autonomous departments with PPP workers in disregard of merit and even reinstating all Jayalas sacked in 1996-98 with all benefits. While the Jayalas are undoubtedly ecstatic, others are sad and disillusioned. All sorts of vices including cronyism, nepotism and corruption have spread like a jungle fire.

The murder of Benazir has been forgotten by the ones who attained power in her name and are today enjoying all perks and privileges. Except for the farce of naming roads, educational institutions, airports and parks in her memory and raising Jeeay Bhutto slogans, no practical step has been taken to unearth the mystery of her murder. It is not understood as to what stops the regime from undertaking full-fledged inquest when all power rest with it. Requesting UN to probe is like passing the baby to others and putting the issue in a cold storage.

As against expectations of transformation from dictatorship to full democracy, it is a conversion from one-man-military rule to one-man civilian rule in which Zardari hold all the levers of power but is tied to the aprons of USA because of NRO. The huge size parliament about which the PPP leaders endlessly strain their lungs that it is supreme is the biggest farce played upon the people. The elected people were associated with the people as long as they were unelected and outside the parliament building. The moment they got elected and adorned the ministerial mantles they got disconnected with the people and got attuned to the wavelength of their colleagues inside the parliament, other power centres and USA. The legislature under PM Gilani is a dressmaker's dummy since all shots are called by Zardari and the National Assembly endorses his commands faithfully while Zardari takes dictation from Washington dutifully. The judiciary has been successfully pulverised and the NAB made impotent to remove all fears of their accountability at a later stage. Other than the militants in FATA, Zardari is following the path of reconciliation and least resistance with all others including PML-N, Q-League and even Baloch dissidents. He is slavishly trying to appease USA and India. The farcical transition to full democracy has caused immense anguish to the people.

Asif Haroon Raja: is a retired Brig and a defence and political analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

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