Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pervez Musharraf is better than many Politicians

September 22, 2010
Dallas, Texas

Pervez Musharraf is better than many Politicians
By Saeed Qureshi
One quality that distinguishes Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf over other luminaries in politics is that while others usually take cover under the lame excuses and try to justify their misdeeds, he has the candidness to confess and acknowledge his wrong decisions. For instance, he has said many a time that his decision to first suspend and then sack the chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was essentially erratic. Also, he confessed publically too that the impostion of the state of emergency way back in November 2007 was not only unconstitutional but also politically incorrect.
It should be noted that it was a 12-member Supreme Court panel that on May 12, 2000 unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for 3 years from the coup date.
Again, in January 2004 Musharraf won a vote of confidence in the Electoral College of Pakistan, consisting of both houses of Parliament and the four provincial assemblies by receiving 658 out of 1170 votes. As such, his governance and remaining in office was legally and constitutionally justified.
Pervez Musharraf is coming to Dallas on October 15 to launch the local chapter of his political party, “All Pakistan Muslim League”. Here in Dallas he will meet various important people besides the media. He will also address a select gathering of his well-wishers, and party members. The announcement contained in a flyer says “DINNER WITH FORMER PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF AT 6:30 PM on October 15, 2010 HOTEL INTERCONTINENTAL ADDISON, TEX.” An additional line further elaborates the purpose of Musharraf’s visit to Dallas, which is “DINNER, SPEECH, and QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION.”
Barring a few controversial decisions, Pervez Musharraf has been successful in bringing about certain far-reaching reforms in Pakistan. Notwithstanding the urge to remain in power which human beings have in abundance because they are not angels, Musharraf’s era was relatively known as economically strong. His role in liberating media from the official strangleholds and empowering the women folks cannot be denied even by worst of his detractors.
Now as part of rooting out extremism and curbing separatist and fissiparous tendencies of regional leader like Akbar Bugti, he had to take certain unpalatable and tough decisions. In normal circumstances these decisions could have been appreciated but their positive side was eclipsed because of the extremely hostile propaganda whipped by his antagonist political parties and domineering clergy and fire-spitting religious circles.
Musharraf received the displeasure of the religious lobbies because of his 180-degree tilt and support for the American war in Afghanistan. Otherwise, these are the same religious elements that were part of the group that voted for him to keep both the offices of the COAS and the president of Pakistan.
If Pervez Musharraf were to make a plausible case for his return to Pakistan and take part in politics under the banner of his newly founded political party, “All Pakistan Muslim League”, his following achievements would stand in good stead for him.
1.He established 47 universities including the Virtual University, under the supervision of Higher Education Commission.
2.During his presidency, the poverty level came down from 34% to 24% while the living standards of the people improved considerably.
3.In early 2007, Mushrraf according to a survey was more popular than Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
4.It was during his time that “Women's Protection Bill”, was made a law in December 2006. The bill placed the rape laws under the penal code and removed the untenable condition of producing four male witnesses by the female victim to prove adultery.
5.His government increased reserved seats for women in both national and provincial assemblies. In the National Assembly, these were increased from 20 to 60. In provincial assemblies, 128 seats were reserved for women. This situation gave greater effective participation of women in elections and decision-making.
6.He abolished the separate electorate for the religious minorities and put curbs on extremist and sectarian groups.
7.According to Transparency International, Pakistan had improved its ratings during Musharraf's presidency, from being the 11th most corrupt country down to 41st, a significant image improvement.

In the backdrop of a hostile atmosphere in certain circles against him, former president will have to contend with formidable challenges both to his life and political career. It should also be seen how much public support he receives and which political parties would be ready to forge alliances with his party. He will have to go through an adjudication process, which can be prolonged. It is not possible to foretell if the courts would give him a temporary reprieve to indulge in practical politics or not.

The prime minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani sarcastically remarked the other day that Musharraf would be welcomed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. This is a very ominous statement. The Law minister known for his caustic sarcasm and pungent repartee said that those who want dictatorship were either in graveyard or in England alluding to former president Zia and president Musharraf, both army generals by profession.
But politics being a game of wits, scoring points, making alliances and shifting positions, no one can conclusively figure out whether Musharraf would be stuck in the roadblocks or move forward towards his political goalpost.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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