MUSHARRAF- Good, Bad OR the Ugly?

By Majed Iqbal– The last few weeks in Pakistan have seen events unfolding at roller-coaster speeds. Starting from early November’s emergency imposition, to Nawaz Sharif’s election barring at the beginning of December. In between, a whole range of issues have been quickly dealt with to resume the endeavors of the existing Governing body to maintain power.

The silence of Western governments on the current events in Pakistan comes as no surprise as they continue to support the equivalent of Saddam and Mugabe of South East Asia. Whilst Western governments have been swift in preaching well rehearsed dialogues of freedom and democracy and talks of removal of dictatorships in their Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, responses to the crisis in Pakistan have been mild and somewhat muted.

Diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad could hardly believe what President George W. Bush said to anchor Charles Gibson on ABC “World News” Nov. 20. He described Pakistan’s President Musharraf as “somebody who believes in democracy” and declared: “I understand how important he is in fighting extremists and radicals.”

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visiting Pakistan prior to the emergency imposition spoke out about America’s position on Pakistan before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said “Pakistan is a country too vital to U.S. interests to ignore or downgrade” and that “Long-term engagement is the only option for the United States”

Other congressman present made similar comments. Gary Ackerman described Musharraf as a “necessary thug.” Whilst Dan Burton claimed “If we abandon Musharraf, same thing that happened in Iran with the Shah will happen in a nuclear Pakistan”

Indeed it is these very such irrational stances made by key International players in the region that are beginning to separate the water from the milk for the Pakistani population.

A nation who has been accustomed to a history of catastrophic rule, personality led Politics, corruption and outsourced governing of the country are now easily matching the pieces of this jigsaw. Is the governing body of Pakistan really trying to insult the intelligence of 165 million people?

America has secured its best bet to maintain the grip on Pakistan by forging the deal between Benazir and Musharraf. Hence the Stepping down as chief of army staff by Musharraf to hold just the post of Presidency highlights the lengths America has taken to exert its control. On his exit Ceremony Musharraf, displaying signs of emotion said

“I am bidding farewell to the army after having been in uniform for 46 years,” he said. This army is my life, my passion. I love this army, and this relationship will continue, although I will not be in uniform.”

And indeed the relationship will continue as Musharraf began the process of a shuffle in the army hierarchy, placing loyalists in top positions in early September. Six army major generals were promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and one appointed as chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

The new ISI chief, Nadeem Taj, Musharraf’s military secretary when the latter seized power in October 1999 playing a pivotal role in strengthening Musharraf in his early days and since been a staunch a staunch loyalist, took over from Lieutenant General Ashfaq Kiyani in October. Kayani then took over the empty post of Chief of Army staff.

Referring to his successor, Musharraf said: “I am handing over command to Gen Kayani, a man I have known for over 20 years. He has served under me and. I am sure you will be as loyal to him as you have been to me.”

Quite un-ashamedly, Musharraf has relinquished subservience to the most important duty of protecting the nation through the institution of the army and instead has positioned the players on the chess board to suit a foreign agenda.

Lastly and inevitably so, Nawaz Sharif was barred from standing in January’s general election with his candidacy removed on the grounds that he was convicted of criminal charges in the wake of his 1999 ouster by Pervez Musharraf. Treason and corruption are the grounds being cited. “How can elections be free and fair in these circumstances?” Syed Zafar Ali Shah, the vice president of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party asked.

Let’s ask Benazir that question. Will she not be also barred from elections with her track record of Corruption charges? Who cares! She’s already got the Presidential pardon. But which President? Was it the American one or the one from Pakistan?

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