Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

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

Pakistan: Election 2008, was it a revolution?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

18th February 2008, they day when Pakistanis voted for 8th time; some voted for whoever gave them more money, some favored their castes and voted, some were too scared to vote for anyone else but the “influential” candidate. Some were “hari” or “mazary” so they didn’t have much choice to vote for anyone except for their “feudal master”, some voted for whomever their family head told them to vote for and some couldn’t even vote as they found their vote casted before they went to polling station. Some, I believe, did vote for Democracy and to elect a new Prime Minister of Pakistan. However, around 60% of registered voters preferred to sit at home and not to vote for anything.

These are realities of Election 2008 that everyone knows yet our so-called leaders, analysts, TV-hosts and commentators called the election results a “revolution”. Why? Just that pro-Musharaf party did not win the elections hence results are a “revolution”? Does revolution only mean change of faces?

How we can bring a revolution when we ourselves are corrupt. When we don’t stop at the red traffic signal, when we are caught driving without license and offer “chai-pani” (bribe) to a constable before he gives us ticket, when we feel no hesitation in parking our cars right-under the “no parking” signs; we are being corrupt. When we bribe to get a legal driving license illegally, we are being corrupt. We are being corrupt when we pay someone just to bypass a queue and get our work done. Everyone around us is corrupt in his own capacity and in his own way; everyone from very poor to very rich, from a taxi driver to Mercedes owner, from vegetable seller to a landlord, from a worker to a factory owner, from a student to a principal, from a lower division clerk to a manager, from a daily wages labor to a full-time permanent govt. employee. We all, whenever and wherever we get a chance, deceive others, take advantage of others, benefit ourselves dishonestly and are corrupt in our own way. We are so in habit of these small (are they really small?) corruptions of ours that it has become a second nature of us; we don’t even consider it as corruption.

Our actions don’t speak what we preach about. We teach our kids to not lie but when a friend calls, we ask our kids to tell him that I am not home. We curse about India all day and then in the evening we watch Indian movie with whole family. And when our kids start talking like “taporis”, when they say “Fir” instead of “Phir” and “Khhoon” instead of “Khoon”; we blame India for infiltrating into our culture. We talk about helping poor but then we don’t pay our servants salaries on time. We criticize our govt. for poor public services but then we don’t bother paying any tax. We call ourselves Pakistani and celebrate Independence Day but, in rallies on 14th August, we hold flag of our Political Party and not of Pakistan. We disapprove our system for being corrupt and then we suborn the same system where it benefits us. We talk about equality and then we don’t like our kids to study in same schools where poor people’s kids study.

We are so much intolerant that we don’t have any place for having difference of opinion. If someone has same opinion as we do, he is patriotic like us or else he is disloyal to the country; no matter how factual and true his opinion is. We only believe in what we think; others either must agree to us or should get a label of “American agent”, “Non-Muslim”, “Unpatriotic”, “Dictator’s Ally” or “Not a true Muslim”. (And, funny, yet we want “Democracy”. Doesn’t it seem like Dictatorship?). More of our intolerance is that we don’t do this only to other nations or countries as Pakistanis; we do this as individuals, as small groups – groups that we are divided into for speaking different languages, having different casts & sects, for our geographical backgrounds, for our political affiliation. Every group (or individual) is our rival if it doesn’t agree to what we believe; there is no question about us agreeing to anyone who doesn’t belong to our group even if he is right. When we disagree with someone we just go out to the street and burn the buses, cars, public property, we block roads, we forcibly shut down the markets; this is our way of “peaceful” protest.

We do all this and then justify ourselves by putting blame on our system, rulers, leaders and anything but ourselves. We all are corrupt, hypocrite and intolerant and I do not believe that corrupt, hypocrite and intolerant people can bring revolution in any society, no matter how they voted and who they voted for.

Revolution is not the name of replacing corrupt rulers with other corrupt rulers. Revolution is the name of a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving. And we cannot bring Revolution unless we change our behaviors, unless we change the way we think at individual level.

Though its been 60 years we have been doing this as Pakistani but its still not too late to think about self-accountability and forget about the “accountability for revenge”, its not too late to change our behaviours, its not too late to become a Nation and put our small groups/political parties behind, its not too late to become realisitic and less emotional. No one ever helped us and will never help us unless we start helping ourselves; so far we have just blamed others for our own mistakes but now is the time to learn from our mistakes.

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CJ Iftikhar Case – A Historic Decisioin?

Monday, June 9, 2008


Now a days, Pakistanis everywhere are celebrating recent Supreme Court (SC) decision where it has reinstated its Chief Justice (CJ). Many people consider this as an “historic decision”; not because it has restored chief justice but it went against “government” despite its efforts to influence (if there was any) the decision. I am quite confident in saying that we all would have been shelling out our anger on SC if the decision was opposite to what it is now.
In our 60 years history there are many court cases where the decision was made in favor of “government”; and almost all of those decisions are considered “influenced” by “government”; and they were. Knowing this and the current situation in Pakistan (and of Musharaf which he himself created), if the “government” decided not to “influence” the SC to get a favorable decision then, in my opinion, government decision is real historic decision as it never happened before in our history. On the other hand, if “government” tried (which they would have) to “influence” SC but failed then one would want to know why?

It’s a general understanding after decision on CJ case, that our Judiciary system has become so strong that it can not take any “influences”; and hence the celebration. However, our recent history (last ten years) doesn’t confirm this but it gives us examples which show that our judiciary is still not strong enough to handle these “influences”. In this case, one would wonder how govt. “influence” in CJ case didn’t work. Was there any other Influence out there bigger than govt.?

I think there was, and it was created by CJ himself. (Also, i would like to add here that I am not at all a supporter of Musharaf’s decision of sacking CJ.).

My layman understanding is that when a case is in court, defendant nor the plaintiff (or people directly involved in the case) can publicize the case in any way which may impact court’s decision. Knowing all this, CJ visited everywhere across Pakistan addressing Lawyers (and Public). (One of his visit cost us lives of innocent people in Karachi). He created humongous support for himself (and for case against him) across Pakistan. Huge support from lawyer community, political parties and public created bigger “influence” than govt. and decreasing support for Musharaf also helped this. As a result, a “historic decision” came and CJ won the case. Congratulations!!!!

Many would call it a “movement for Justice” and not for CJ’s “kursi” but I think CJ exploited the whole nation in the name of Justice. If it was a movement for Justice, CJ should have started it when CJ Saeed-u-Zaman Siddiqui was sent home after he refused to put a legal stamp on Musharaf’s “take-over” as Cheif Executive in 2000, OR when one of his predecessor (CJ Irshad Hassan) raised flag of “nazria-e-zaroorat” in favor of army take over, OR before he took oath under PCO (when many other Judges refused to do so), OR before he gave a decision (in favor of govt.) on a writ against 17th amendment allowing Musharaf to keep Uniform after 31 Dec 2004 but NOT after he was made dysfunctional. Why CJ Iftikhar did not start this “movement for Justice” when Supreme Court was attacked in 1997, when CJ Sajjad Ali Shah was made to leave and his own colleague judges turned against him?
I see all those qualities in CJ which our “good” politicians have. It makes me think if CJ will become another “savior” politician for Pakistani nation, if yes, then he will have to maintain his popularity till then. He has already become as popular as Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif was (or Musharaf was at one time). And to continue his popularity, I won’t be surprised if SC will keep taking notices of things which affect a common person and/or things which can decrease govt. popularity (which is already decreasing). I don’t think SC (and current CJ) will ever take any notice of those who are sucking Pakistan’s blood like leeches, it won’t take notice of those who are ruining our next generations, it won’t take notice who are brain-washing innocent people in the name of Islam to become fuel for their evil desires, it won’t take notice of those politicians who are fooling this nation for 60 years, it won’t take notice because all these issues are secondary for a common pakistani. Our rulers (both politicians and army) have done enough to make a common person to not think about anything except worrying about basic necessaties like food. So CJ will not take notice of anything which doesnt give him popularity among “awaam”. In coming days, we will see opposition will file cases against govt. and SC will give decision in their favor in weeks (if not days) and this all will happen in the name of Justice. Having said all this, if these notices are not for popularity, and are based on sincerity then I am right to assume that our Judiciary has dealt with all cases pending for years and now have enough time to take notices.

In near future, I dont see anything good happening to Pakistan and CJ Iftikhar would be one of the main reason for it.

Pakistan’s Savior Army, Politicians, Judiciary or Nation?

Monday, June 9, 2008


Today, Pakistan is passing through a critical phase where it is facing so many challenges both inside and outside. Our politicians claim that only they can take Pakistan out of these current crises, whereas our Army claims he has solution of all issues of Pakistan. On the other hand, Judiciary is active in taking notices and trying to make us believe that it will not allow any un-constitutional business. Everyone presents himself as a “true” savior but no one cooperates with others to become a savior.

Who is our savior? Army, Politicians and Judiciary; can we trust any of those?

Our politicians remind me of Ghulam Muhammad and Iskandar Mirza who did not let our political system stabilize. In their 7 years tenure, 6 Prime ministers and 2 assemblies were dismissed. They remind me of Bhutto and Mujeeb who couldn’t come to an agreement and ultimately split the country. They remind me of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif who are known for their corruption and never let each other work for the country. Those were our politicians who first appointed Ayub Khan (COAS) as defense minister and told army that it can be part of govt. Politicians (not army) imposed first martial law in this country and also celebrated Army take over in 1958, 1977 and 1999. Those were also politician who invited army to take control in 1977, 1993, 1997 and 1999. They were also politicians who enjoyed military rule and took their fair share. When I look back in our history, I can not find any single example which gives me confidence to trust these politicians.

How about Army? Army ruled this country for 32 (out of 60) years. General Ayub, General Yahya, General Zia and General Musharaf all are dictators of army regimes. Although, every time army took over it was because of our politicians but Major General Akbar Khan (Chief of General Staff at that time) prepared first conspiracy to take-over Liaqat Ali Khan govt 1951. Once in power, all army dictators tried their best to remain in power as long as they could. None of these army generals let political system stabilize. Army is also equally responsible for losing East-Pakistan. It happened under army regime when people were brain-washed for jihad and were fueled into afghan war. It was an army dictator who introduced Kalashnikov culture to this country and we are still suffering with it. It’s happening under army govt. when our army forces are fighting against its own people. (It’s another debate as to why this is happening).

Can our judiciary be our savior? Judiciary who provided legitimacy to actions of Ghulam Muhammad, Zia-u-Haq, Ishaq Khan, Farooq Laghari for dismissing assemblies? Judiciary who introduced “doctrine of necessity” when Iskandar Mirza and Zia imposed Martial Law; when Ayub Khan and Musharaf took control of this country? Judiciary whose judges turned against their own Chief Justice? Judiciary who allowed every single dictator to amend constitution? Judiciary who is exploiting this nation in name of Justice and playing in hands of opposition (although many wouldn’t agree with this)? If this Judiciary would have given historic decision in 1954 when Ghulam Muhammad’s action of dismissing assemblies was challenged in court or would have not allowed Ayub Khan by introducing “doctrine or necessity” we might have had a different Pakistan.

I see none of these as a “savior” of today’s Pakistan. I think only a “Nation” can save this country. Nation, not “Awaam” and currently we are not a Nation. We are “awaam”, common people, divided into many groups. We are divided into sects, casts, parties, languages, classes etc. Speaking different languages and supporting different parties doesn’t make us “awaam”. It also doesn’t make us “awaam” if different people come from different backgrounds. It makes us “awaam” when these groups do not unite for National Issues, when we prefer supporting our individual groups and put our country behind. When we think all groups are illegal, criminal, unethical and dishonest except us. Today, we are considered more loyal to our party if we are more cruel, violent and critical to other party. The more we criticize other group more we get popular in our own group. Today, our leaders want us divided so that they can rule. Every politician in our country has only one line agenda; to become part of government and suck this country.

Jinnah was a great leader who united this “awaam” into a Nation and was able to get this country for us. Today, we need to get united again as Nation and this time we will have to do by ourselves. We need to get united for Pakistan and not for Musharaf, Benazir, Nawaz Shareef or any other. We need to change our behavior from violent to tolerant so that we can listen to opinions different to what we believe. We need to learn how to sit together when it comes to our country. Reacting violently to everything and bringing people to streets will make things only worst.

We have a beautiful country but need a Nation for it.