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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

Musharraf, Benazir, US make mockery of democracy in Pakistan

By M Rama Rao reporting from New Delhi

New Delhi, 05 October ( Events in Pakistan have taken an interesting turn on the eve of Presidential election. Firstly, Musharraf himself has gone the TV to tell the nation and of course the world that he is all for national reconciliation, a euphemism for his willingness to offer political space for Benazir Bhutto. Secondly, Benazir has managed to secure the concessions she was after from a Musharraf who is on the horns of a dilemma – of whether to go by his gut instincts or to be allowed to be guided by the wily Chaudhry brothers, who have their own survival agenda. Thirdly, Musharraf has formally anointed his successor as the head of the army and he in turn had paid the obligatory obeisance to Washington by calling on the Secretary of State during a quiet visit and thus secured his place at the top of the military hierarchy at home. General Pervez Musharraf : "I will be elected on November 6. Once my election was over I will get down to the job of organising general elections." General Pervez Musharraf : "I will be elected on November 6. Once my election was over I will get down to the job of organising general elections."

These events on close examination show how the lead players are making a mockery of democracy pledging all the while that they are working for the furtherance of democracy in a country which was ruled by the military either directly or indirectly barring the early days of its creation by the departing British colonial masters out of Indian subcontinent. . One can understand the Musharraf speak. He is an army man who considers the uniform as his second skin, as he himself had stated a few days back. Yet, anyone who has interests of democracy at heart must have missed a beat while hearing Mush speak on TV on Wednesday night.

"I will be elected on November 6. Once my election was over I will get down to the job of organising general elections", he told Kamran Khan in the popular current affairs programme of Geo News "Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Sath". He declined to give exact time to doff off his uniform. "It could be between October 6 and November 16", he told the interviewer in a clear indication that he will go by his own calendar.

Funnily, rather interestingly, Musharraf has no doubts about his re-election as president in uniform. In fact, he gives the impression that he is doubly assured of his second term. In no democracy, whether it is India or US of A, a candidate can ever get into Alnaskar's dream on the poll eve.

Only in a dictatorship that has the deceptive trappings of democracy such things can happen. Also when there is no fear of the international community coming down with a heavy hand on such a charade. In that sense the sole global cop should bear the cross. Yes, the Commonwealth also cannot escape blame for letting off a military dictator without even a hit on the knuckles.

Suhar To Role Model

Musharraf claims often that his role model is Turkey's leadership. But in reality, his role models appear to be President Sukarno and President Suharto of Indonesia, who too practiced in their own way a variant of what may be called enlightened moderation both in matters of religion and governance of the country. Take the case of Suharto. He organised as many as six elections. These elections, as Endy M. Bayuni, chief editor of The Jakarta Post (since 2004) says, were hardly democratic and were designed to ensure that he was re-elected each time therefore giving some semblance of political legitimacy to his power. Just like Musharraf now.

Suharto, like the Pak dictator, had any time for democracy. He did not have any intention of giving his people democracy, certainly to the extent his own power was undermined. Another commonality between Musharraf and Suharto is economic development. The late Indonesian dictator bought himself time by delivering the economic goods to the people. Musharraf too has been claiming credit for the turnaround of Pak scrip and unprecedented levels of forex inflows though mostly into the stock market.

A dictator is like someone riding on a tiger. And he doesn't know when to get off the tiger's back. Suharto is a classic example. He could have stepped aside and made way for democracy to take root in Indonesia. He did not do that because of the fear that he could be the first victim of prosecution once democracy and rule of law were established. Musharraf too is getting carried away by the TINA factor. Like many dictators around the world before him and like Suharto, he is justifying his every action in the national interest. In fact, he is projecting himself as the saviour of Pakistan who cannot relinquish his office till his mission is accomplished. What if my successors do not share my vision and spoil the good work, he has been asking in the recent days.

Options Before Voters

A close look at what he had told Geo News "Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Sath" shows the Suharto syndrome in action in Islamabad . "I think about retirement. It is easy for me to retire after eight years in office. I have no lust for power or wealth but I don't want to leave the country in dangers and turmoil. My departure is not in the interest of the country and a decision to stay in power is a difficult one but I accepted the difficult situation". He added: "I am not tired of working for Pakistan. I am ever ready to offer my life for the country. I don't ask people to favour me but want that they take into account facts and favour Pakistan. There is a lot to be done for the welfare of the masses though much has been done during the last few years".

Needless to say, it is time for Pakistan voters to make up their mind whether they want democracy or they simply want stability. If they want an advisory, they should turn to their neighbours, Indians who had demonstrated in 1977 that they would prefer freedom to bread at any cost and voted out Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose acolytes declared with full throat Indira is India. Because, giving up freedoms is too high a price for any nation to pay.

Undoubtedly very galling is the Musharraf effort to justify his determination to get elected from the lame duck Parliament by citing an Indian example. He is asking his interlocutors at home and abroad that if India could elect Pratibha Patil as President from a parliament which has just one and half years left, cannot he also emulate the neighbours' example. How a parliament with one and half year's life can be equated with a Parliament which has just a couple of months left to complete its term can be on the same footing. At least some one in his camp should have told him that his re-election bid has run into rough weather because of his firm resolve to seek the vote from a lame duck parliament.

To satisfy democracy purists, Musharraf is thinking about seeking vote of confidence from the next assemblies that would be constituted early next year. What a concession General! What a concern for constitutional propriety! If the West or any one is questioning his re-election bid, then they do not have knowledge about the constitution of Pakistan and the flexible way it works.

American Micro Management

Musharraf deserves kudos at least for one thing. And that is his frank admission that what mattered for him is the US help to bring around Benazir Bhutto. But some how Benazir is unwilling to acknowledge the US hand she has been seeking. May be she still believes, unlike the general, form and process are equally important for her survival as a political leader with democratic credentials. Musharraf doesn't have such botherations. Hence his remark: if the US wants Benazir and supports dialogue with her, there is nothing for him to be worried about. "I don't accept foreign influence or pressure; people are misunderstanding the United States role in the talks between the government and Benazir Bhutto. She and her party could help curb extremism in the country".

Benazir's tantrums on the presidential election and her fretting and fuming over the national reconciliation ordinance designed to clear her off all corruption charges exposed the hollowness of her democratic credentials like nothing else. Why she was so desperate to live with a General who is as unpredictable as the weather in the Thar desert remains a mystery. To a certain extent, her moves to share space with the General were conditioned by the thinking of the US of A.

It is a pity that Washington refuses to learn from its experience of micro- managing Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, sadly, it remains unmoved by the systematic subversion of the electoral system in Musharraf's Pakistan. Whether it is a parliament election or a local bodies election, the result is simply fixed. About it in the next article

This is the second part of a three part series on Pak presidential election.

The first part, "Credibility eludes Musharraf's bid for second term as President" appeared on Oct 2, 2007.

-Asian Tribune -

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