by Akber Choudhry
Pervez Musharraf is in a long line of enlightened leaders who came to power themselves — against ‘legitimate’ governments to restore the greatness of their countries — de Gaulle, Mao and Attaturk among them. The only justification for their moves is the legacy they leave behind. If they left behind a nation more optimistic, secure and progressive than they found, history will bless them, otherwise it will curse them. Musharraf sits apart from Azam,Ayyub, Yahya and Zia as the military ruler who did not impose martial law, did not suspend Parliament, did not muzzle the Press, and restored law, order and optimism to some degree. His legacy will now solely be his future performance on law and order. Under Musharraf, Pakistan has seen political accountability of some sorts, reliable economic infrastructure, free and multi-faceted media for the first time in 50 years. If these are not the fruits of democracy, pray tell — what are?
If the only democratic standard is the Parliament at Westminster and Congress in the U.S., then Pakistan is not a democracy. But if China is a democracy, and Russia is a democracy and Egypt is a democracy, then Pakistan is a hightly-evolved vibrant democracy.
A new generation of Pakistanis is taking over in Pakistan — young men and women born in Pakistan: who know of no other homeland other than Pakistan and for whom Pakistan is not ‘artificial’ and who did not witness its birth. They see Pakistan as a country of immense opportunity just as the Chinese and Indian population (that was once its yoke) is now its economic power. They see Pakistan as having immense geo-political influence and diplomatic savvy to hold its own in the community of nations. They are less inclined to engage in self-flagellation and they know that a positive attitude is the only key to success, all other factors being equal. It is these young men and women who will lead Pakistan into the future, insha Allah.
Anyone who believes that Pakistan has survived so far by the altruism of India and the Western Powers and by polishing its ‘image’ in front of them need not read any further as the real world of politics and power is far uglier than taught in political science courses.
CHURCHILL, BUSH, BIN LADEN
I have recently received documents from the British Commonwealth Office from the 1950s that were recently declassified. It paints a shameless picture of manipulation of Pakistan’s government and military by the Western Powers and the manipulation of the masses through a constant sense of inferiority and the vilification of the Religious Right (mullahs). I was no conspiracy nut nor a Mullah supporter, but I reach no other conclusion that the Mullahs were the thorn in the side of the Western Powers and the post-WWII policy of these powers was to suppress the Mullah by all and any means possible — in Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq etc.
It is surprising to see that whereas Bush will deal with Christian fundamentalists and Vajpayee will deal with Hindu fundamentalists and Sharon will deal with Jewish fundamentalists, it was a cardinal sin for a Muslim politician to deal with Muslim fundamentalists and Daultana’s dialogue with the Pakistani Religious Right sent the British into spasms; as the Iranian Revolution sent the Americans into spasms.
This all changed with 9/11 and Bush has reversed the policy of suppressing the Muslim Right and supporting undemocratic dictators. As much as we are apalled at the action of Bush & Co., it appears that they are not stupid. Condi Rice’s agenda for the next four years is identical to Bin Laden’s demands in 1998 — establish Palestinian state, remove dictators, allow people to express their free religious will, remove US troops from Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. is smart enough to understand that the only way to prevent the Muslim Religious Right from boiling over is to allow them to simmer in the general political cauldron. I present one proof in support of this theory: According to the US, Ayatollah Khomeini was the epitome of evil, whereas Ayatollah Sistani is the grand sage and kingmaker. What changed? The Churchillian doctrine has been replaced by the Bush doctrine. Yesterday, Hosni Mobarak of Egypt allowed multi-party presidential elections, paving the way for the political expression of the Egyptian Religious Right — and this was done at the express request of Bush and Condi Rice.
ARMY and RELIGIOUS RIGHT in PAKISTAN
The Army is one of the functioning institution in Pakistan and Pakistan is a martial state — like Israel of today, like Sparta of yore, or like the Turkey of Attaturk. Pakistan is not massive and surrounded by oceans like the United States. It is a country with a mixed ethnic identity, religious identity with the Arabs, linguistic and literary identity with Iran, and social identity with India. It is considered by India like Taiwan is considered by China. Indeed, Pakistan is a “precarious country” — and we have done quite well, thanks to the Army. The Pakistan Army has served its country well and is state-of-the-art in terms of strategic thinking, military planning and execution within its limited means. Yes, it has blundered at times, but East Pakistan was geographically and politically untenable, and Kargill was the shot in the arm it needed to move forward. Kargill could never have been a tactical move, it had to be strategic — and as Ayaz Amir points out — it underscored the futility of conventional armed conflict to both India and Pakistan, a very strategic outcome indeed.
Pakistani people are politically savvy and cynical, and they generally place their trust in the Army, and to a lesser degree, in the Religious Right, as is apparent from the recent election results. It is high time that the intelligentsia found the solutions to Pakistan within these institutions and not without. A country is not like a Meccano game where you can re-arrange the pieces at will, and Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz are trying to work within the frameworks that exist.
The Religious Right has proved itself to be politically viable through their unity and political savvy. They also have an internal accountability and limited checks against internal corruption like the Army. It is best to work with them rather than vilify and marginalize them.
THREE MAJOR GOALS
The three major goals facing Pakistan right now are linked with each other and linked to these two institutions: Property Law, Rule of Law and Social Enlightenment. Please note that I call them “goals” and not “problems”.
The Pakistan Military has to get out of the property business and property law needs to be re-examined and enforced, bringing down speculation, fraud and providing a workable economic structure of shelter for working people.
The existing power structures in Pakistan are tightly integrated with the SHOs (thanedaars) of the police and the “FIR” legacy. Police corruption is unacceptable, and the police force might have to be eventually disbanded entirely, and only the Army can accomplish that. Only the Military Police can prevent the occasional lawlessness of the Army officers, which trickles down into the general society. The fear of being caught is essential to a civil society — Western societies are not intrinsically moral (Montreal power outage of 1976 when half the city turned to looting) — and a genuine fear of the law is very healthy for the nation.
The Religious Right has to get out of the personal affairs of the people of the nation. Morality can be encouraged, immorality should be punished, but personal behaviour cannot be enforced. Also, the Religious Right can wage a “morality war” on the most immoral practices in Pakistan — extortion, bribery, abuse of women and abuse of the poor and helpless.
Draconian laws need to be implemented for crimes that sap the spirit and corrupt the soul of the country (see Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria). A judge accepting bribes should be hanged. A military officer abusing authority should be stripped of property and rank and exiled. A police officer involved in a false case should be jailed for life. A politican cozy with a foreign ambassador and passing State secrets should be hanged. This is what is known as “fasad fil ard” in Islam, and the penalties are similar in the most “enlightened” Western countries.
A few examples will be enough, but it has to be done — history tells us that the enlightened leaders that came to power themselves to rectify their nations had to do that, and were judged by that.
President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the world is watching and the Pakistani people are waiting for the Rule of Law. Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Muslims are awaiting your jihad for true morality and God is watching.