Archive for August, 2008

Pakistan: Why PML(N) left coalition?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When writing my previous post, I feared – like many others – that unnatural alliance of PML-N and PPP will break apart soon. Though it was expected to fall since its birth yet everyone wished for its success, hoped that those who were voted for change will bring something positive in this country, believed that these politicians – not leaders – have learned while in exile. Coalition breaking apart and two major parties going their own ways has started politics like 90s –politics with full of hatred and vengeance.

Apparently, restoration of judiciary was the main issue between two parties – PMLN and PPP to part ways; this is what PMLN is advertising to get more fame and to score against PPP – one must admit PMLN’s tactics to use the power of media. No doubt Nawaz Sharif’s stance on judges’ issue has earned him great fame and popularity but this doesn’t mean that PMLN is a party of principles. It also doesn’t mean that PMLN decided to sit on opposition benches because judges were not restored.

Judges’ issue would have been resolved long time ago if both parties wanted; both PMLN and PPP needed it to be unresolved for other reasons. It never has been an issue of principles for Sharif and Zardari. However, today’s post is not about judiciary or judges issue – I will write about it some other time.

Since February 18th – to be more accurate, since March 22nd – both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are following two different outlines. Asif Zardari, with a script from America, was busy in strengthening its govt. and getting things in his own hands; reconciliation with MQM, alliance with PMLN, JUI and ANP, Musharraf’s impeachment and not restoring judges was all milestones for his long term plan. He has played his card very cleverly – though at the cost of his and his party’s popularity. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif, surprised by his party’s surprise victory in February 18th elections, kept his eyes on the next elections. His all moves, including his stance on judges’ issue, alliance with PPP – without sharing responsibility of govt. failures – and his statements against Musharraf and America, were all to be in-cashed in next election.

After getting Musharraf out, electing a non-PPP president and restoring Iftikhar Chuadhary – not judiciary necessarily – Sharif’s next move would have been call for early election but Asif Zardari had different plans. Zardari gathered parties together and mounted pressure on Musharraf – with approval of foreign stakeholders – and got rid of him. Once Musharraf is out, it was logical for Zardari himself to claim presidency; considering his plan to grab power in his hands and powers that still reside with presidency AND considering PPP’s experience with Farooq Laghari in 90s. However, PMLN could not accept Zardari (or PPP nominated) president unless the president’s powers are clipped – especially 58-2(B), the power to dissolve assemblies.

Letting PPP to get a grip at presidency – with so much powers – was in direct conflict with PMLN’s plan – the plan for early elections.

How?

Zardari – (Co-?)Chairman of PPP – becoming president will make sure that PPP govt. will not be dissolved using 58-2(b) – President’s power to dissolve assembly. And with Army recently getting out of politics, America’s support for PPP and Zardari sitting in presidency will make it almost impossible for PMLN to get into election before year 2013 – when current assemblies completes five year term. On the other hand, if – somehow – we go into early elections and PMLN wins, as it is expected with growing popularity, to a majority to forms the govt., it will be under constant threat by president house. Zardari sitting in presidency, with 58-2(B) powers to dissolve the assembly will not let PMLN play easily. This is why least acceptable option for PMLN was to clip 58-2(b) off before PPP installs its own president. So it will be like a catch-22 for PMLN if Zardari is elected as president with all the powers remaining with him as they were with Musharraf.

Understanding this catch-22 for PMLN, it is not hard to believe that judges’ issue is nothing (or least) to do with fall of coalition but it was about a president who can or cannot send current govt. home – when PMLN will be looking for it. If independent judiciary was ever important to PMLN, Supreme Court would not have been attacked under Sharif’s govt. – and by Sharif’s folks. If Chief Justice Iftikhar was any important to PMLN, it would not have nominated a Judge – Justice Siddiqui – who had thrown his own Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, out of office in 1997 – again under Sharif’s govt. Zardari’s broken promises also have nothing to do with PMLN parting ways from PPP as Sharif himself has a long list of his own broken promises – if one starts counting.

For people like us, it is all about politics of principles and about broken promises – that made coalition fall. And funny as it is that we – well, most of us – believe that.

Having said all this, nothing in this post justifies that Zardari is the right person for president to be elected. It also doesn’t justify any of the wrong doings of PPP – in present or past. This just to unleash PMLN – image that is hidden under untrue campaign of “principles”.

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Pakistan: Why Musharraf was made to Leave?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Finally, he is gone; Musharraf announced his resignation in his televised address on 18th August. Since then people are celebrating his departure; many are dancing on the streets and distributing sweets – the very same people who did the same when he came into power in October 1999. The same people, who were cursing him for not resigning, for being confrontational and for destabilizing the country, are now calling him coward for resigning and not facing impeachment. Some hypocrites, who are supporting current Military Operation in tribal areas, are also accusing him for launching a War against its own people in FATA. Those, who have personal scores to settle, are calling shots for his trial. There is much have been said and much more will be in coming days but mostly with hatred, emotions and vengeance.

Only events in next few weeks (or days) will show if Musharraf was the reason for instability and only history will tell us if he did any good to Pakistan.

The question for now is, if he was indispensable and a strong American ally in “War on Terror”, if he turned Pakistan into a U.S. colony (as he is accused for) then why America let him go? If he was doing everything to achieve America’s objectives in the region then why he was gradually isolated and then shown the door? Why America did not want him in power anymore? If history is any guide, America never suspended support to their allies until the job was finished – like they supported Zia despite his all wrong doings until Soviets were defeated. Why this time Americans abandoned support for their best ally before the job is finished? (i.e. War on Terror)

As “War on Terror” is nowhere close to finish and America’s regional objectives are still not met, then there could only be two reasons that can make America to let Musharraf, their best ally, go (or make him leave):

  1. America found a better ally in Pakistan who can deliver more than what Musharraf was doing.
  2. Musharraf was providing resistance in meeting some of US objectives.

America would not need another (or better) ally in Pakistan if Musharraf was delivering all what they wanted. They would not have bothered dealing with many politicians when one man was giving them all they asked for. Finding a better ally only makes sense when the new ally can do better than what Musharraf was doing; though it will involve dealing with many people – people who are not sole authority either like Musharraf was.

However, if Musharraf was a resistance to some of American objectives then we need to understand those objectives first as Musharraf was not a resistance in “War on Terror”. America’s other strategic goals in the region are:

  1. Get strategic control in Afghanistan – to gain access to former USSR territory and its natural resources.
  2. Control China –Its economy is getting stronger and is capturing bigger international markets where US has (or had) control before. Also, China is increasing its fire power remarkably. China is widely seen as a new emerging power that can challenge America’s sole authority on this globe. America can keep an eye on China after getting control in Afghanistan.
  3. Promote India – India, that shares a long border with China, is only country in the region that can challenge China before it gets strong enough to challenge US.
  4. Neutralize Pakistan (or at least decrease its Military power) – To make Pakistan not able to challenge India and for India to focus on China ONLY. Pakistan has to be neutralized from its nuclear assets and its military strength has to be decreased in order for India to focus on China.

And these were the wider US objective to which Musharraf was not willing to cooperate. He was not willing to change Pakistan’s “Indian-focused” defense policy, he was not willing to corner China in the region and promote India for America’s regional interests. And for stability in Afghanistan, he has been accused many times for playing double game with America – for spending money to improve Pakistan’s “Indian-focused” defense; money that was given to fight with militants in Pak-Afghan border areas. New York Times, in this article says:

“Yet he also displayed a taste for military adventurism and sometimes reckless pursuit of Pakistan’s own goals, which were sometimes at odds with American interests.”

And also the same article mentions Musharraf as:

“Though Mr. Musharraf forged a personal bond with President Bush that assured American support for him even as his public standing declined precipitously, he produced only mixed results for Washington, increasing suspicions that he was playing a double game.”

“Yet for every decision that Mr. Musharraf calculated would help the United States, there were many that did not, leaving policy makers in Washington to wonder which side he was really on.”

Here it talks about him like this:

“For seven years, the Bush administration enabled Mr. Musharraf — believing that he was the best ally for the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He never delivered on that promise. And Pakistan’s people deeply resent Washington for propping up the dictator.”

Musharraf’s downfall started in 2004 when he refused to hand over Dr. Abdul Qadeer to Americans and then denied any kind of access to Pakistani nuclear scientists by international agencies. Since then the situation in Pakistan started getting worst and pressure started mounting on Musharraf; in FATA militants started re-grouping, in Balochistan an armed uprising was launched, Civil Society got active, NGOs started to assemble, Media turned against Musharraf etc. Since then, any mistake committed by General did not go unnoticed – like they did before – and we witnessed huge protest rallies where civil society, NGOs, student unions, media played a gigantic part – and intentionally (or unintentionally?) helped US plan to isolate Musharraf.

“A plan to Topple Pakistan Military” provides in depth analysis of America’s objectives in the region and details as to how events took place in Pakistan to isolate Musharraf.

While Musharraf was being isolated, Hussain Haqqani’s long efforts in US to get Washington’s support for Benazir Bhutto started to flourish – Hussain Haqqani was a close ally to Benazir and her prime lobbyist in US . America, having decided to replace Musharraf with Benazir Bhutto, started to pressure him to start negotiations with Ms. Bhutto, provide her clearance from corruption charges and let her come back to Pakistan. Many believe that Musharraf went for a deal with Benazir in 2007 because he needed support to stick to the power but actually it started back in late 2004; when Asif Ali Zardari was released by Musharraf govt. after spending 8 years in jail (five of those were under Musharraf regime), when people first started talking about a deal between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, when Musharraf did not need to go into any deal to stick into power. It was in 2004, when America first started pushing Musharraf to negotiate a deal with Benazir Bhutto. In late 2006, after resisting America’s pressure since 2004, Musharraf started to break a deal with People’s Party (PPP) and it was long before Musharraf’s apparent downfalls started i.e. March 2007, – I said apparent because mostly Pakistani analysts link his downfall with his action to remove Chief Justice on March 2007. When PPP was secretly brokering a deal with Musharraf, through General Ashfaq Kyani – then ISI chief – and Tariq Aziz – a close Musharraf ally – the frequent un-resting events started happening in Pakistan in early 2007- Musharraf dismissing Chief Justice in March 2007 worked as catalyst towards his isolation. It was November 2007 when Musharraf’s popularity reached to its lowest.

Musharraf remained in power with immense pressure from America to bring democracy and was forced to doff his uniform and hold the elections. This time Musharraf was not allowed to get his favorable election results, like he did in 2002; rather these results were much favorable for America’s new ally – PPP.

After coming into power, PPP started to present itself as a strong ally for America, started to distance itself from China, issued an Indian favorable trade policy. Pakistan’s Military budget was openly discussed in the National Assembly for the first time, Beijing (China) is left without a Pakistani Ambassador, Prime Minister’s visited America before visiting China – opposite to all past ruler of Pakistan who visited China after they came into power – presenting a shift from China to America. Munir Akram- Pakistan’s representative in United Nation, who has been vocalist about Pakistan’s interests internationally and critical to US and Indian policies – has been replaced because India and US showed concerns about him. Hussain Haqaani was appointed as Pakistan Ambassador to US and “Business Recorder” reported his appointment as:

“In a clear indication to strictly follow Pentagon tailored-policy to keep on playing the role of frontline fighter against war on terror, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani government has called back Major General, Mahmood Ali Durrani (Retd) from Washington and appointed Hussain Haqqani as Pakistan’s ambassador to the USA”.

All this happened without any resistance (or little resistance) from Musharraf, however, when PPP govt. tried to clip ISI’s wings and brought it under Interior Ministry; a strong resistance was provided from Army and Presidency forcing PPP to de-notify its early notification.

This was when it was decided to remove Musharraf from the scene; an impeachment move was started and Musharraf was made to resign.
Soon after Musharraf left, New York Times quoted an American official saying, “Now as Musharraf has gone, there should not be any ambiguity about ISI’s role”.

And also, U.S. (and Britain) made sure that he is not trialed for any of his actions. If trialed, a whole new Pandora box will open revealing many facts and secrets that none of the stakeholders in America’s regional interests would like to be disclosed. Providing safe passage to Musharraf is in America’s own interest – it’s not just that America does not want Musharraf to be humiliated; after all he was not their best ally.

It is no coincidence that reports against Pakistan’s intelligence agency -ISI, Military, Pakistan’s nuclear assets, about militants getting stronger in Tribal Areas are continuously published in American media. It is also no coincidence that American warships are moving (or moved) from Gulf to Arabian Sea.

Accessing the Lagacy

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

By Cyril Almeida

NOW that he’s gone, his legacy will be debated. As the hysteria subsides and the political pantomime of heroes and villains takes a brief hiatus, the question many will have is: what did Musharraf mean for Pakistan? The answer: it depends and it’s relative.

It depends on what is good for Pakistan. Democracy? Then the general was bad for this country on Oct 12, 1999, and nothing he did subsequently could ever rectify that. The moral outrage of his latter-day opponents is a conceit. If Musharraf is at fault he is at fault for being a dictator, not for being a failed dictator — which is the crux of his critics’ complaint. A dictator is a dictator is a dictator. And no amount of subsequent goodness can ever overcome that.

But the people cheered on the dictator when he first arrived, so we need to descend from lofty ideals to more pedestrian measures: was he good for politics? No. Forget his seven-point agenda, his four-point strategy and his eight-year regime for a moment. The most devastating, straightforward assessment of his effect on politics is a statement of fact: his last rites as a politician were read by the very political leaders he sought to bury eight years ago. Coming full circle cannot be a success, especially when it is the opposite of the plan. The three-stage transition to democracy that Musharraf laid out eventually became a three-step ouster of himself.

So shall we conclude that he was bad for Pakistan then? Not on that basis alone. The people of Pakistan have alternated between rejecting and accepting their politicians. Yesterday’s heroes are today’s villains and vice versa. Musharraf’s problem is that dictators do not get a second chance. To assess his eight years on the basis of his ignominious end would be to fall into the trap of the politicians’ good/bad binary. The people do not see the world in those terms; they appreciate shades of grey. And the people clearly want something more than goodness from their politicians. But what is that something more against which the Musharraf era can be judged?

At first blush economic growth is a good measure. Polls and anecdotal evidence suggests the state of the economy is a key indicator of the public’s level of satisfaction. Not coincidentally, the economy was one of the pillars of the Musharraf era. But it is a very tricky exercise. Should the Musharraf era be assessed in comparison to what was achieved in the 1990s or on the basis of the resources that were available to the general in the 2000s? And how does one account for heightened expectations? In the 1990s governments aspired to a five per cent growth rate; today it would be received with great dismay. Then again, the governments of the 1990s would probably have killed to have the monetary inflows that a confluence of politics, war and a liquid global economy gave Pakistan this decade.

Besides what good is growth if the people are not invited to the party? Poverty rates matter. Until recently, before inflation engulfed the country, there was a fierce debate on the number of poor. Economists are worse than politicians, so the debate quickly became arcane. Yet, for those who followed the debate, what was in dispute was the rate at which poverty was decreasing, not whether it was decreasing at all. So what is a good rate of decrease in poverty? The answer: it depends. It depends on how much you hate the general and love the poor and how you judge Musharraf for what he could have done against what he did do. Numbers are quickly engulfed by politics.

It’s all moot anyway now that inflation has shattered lives and dragged more people into poverty, some may argue. True — to an extent. Follow the new debate and it quickly becomes apparent that there is actually a consensus on what needs to be done to guide the country out of the economic crisis. If the present government fails to implement sound economic policies, can Musharraf be made to shoulder the entire blame? And will it undo his record over eight years? Yes, if you hate him; no, if you are more circumspect.

Whether Musharraf was good for Pakistan is also a relative assessment. And about overcoming stereotypes and simplifications. Take Messrs Sharif and Sharif. Nawaz is one of Pakistan’s most popular politicians but he has his fair share of detractors. He’s the military’s creation. There are charges of corruption against him. He is accused of breaking the law. Shahbaz, on the other hand, has no significant detractors. Even his worst critics acknowledge that he is a fearsome administrator and a tireless worker. Yet, by virtue of being Nawaz’s brother and Abbaji’s son, Shahbaz benefited from the same money and power that Nawaz is accused of having amassed illegitimately. But Shahbaz gets a free pass because he gets things done rather than make promises.

And take a look at ZAB, the country’s greatest populist. Was he not catapulted to stardom by being an obsequious young man who served in the cabinet of a dictator? Yet he is celebrated for using that springboard to do something else: awaken the countryside politically. The PPP is considered the country’s most liberal, secular party. It was and is. But ZAB’s law minister piloted a bill through parliament that amended the constitution to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims, shattering any notions of secularism. BB, derided as the ‘daughter of the West’ by critics, signed off on the Taliban policy in her second term in office.

The people know these shades of grey; it’s the politicians’ narratives that are devoid of grey. Dislodging Musharraf was a political act that of necessity was portrayed as a battle between good and bad. But the public knows that good people can make bad decisions and bad people can make good decisions. Which does the country need more: good decisions or good people? Both are a luxury the people know they cannot have. That complex matrix of decisions good and bad, right and wrong is the only space in which Musharraf can properly — and honestly — be assessed. And honesty demands we acknowledge that any assessment can never be objective because the issues are too important, the stakes are too high and we are too close to it all.

What is good is that Musharraf is gone. To a genuine democrat he was never welcome in the first place. But to assess him on the basis of that ideal is meaningless because the people themselves have rejected that touchstone. There is a more prosaic reason to welcome his departure though: Musharraf was the product of our system; his mistake was to believe that its constraints were not applicable to him.

source: Dawn News