h1

Musharraf in Hindsight

August 23, 2009

No explanation can adequately address the horrors carried out in Gojra Pakistan. But these horrors are newsworthy and have potential to serve as a lesson in uprooting such inhumanity. Rather than focusing squarely and vaguely on vast historical causation that might allow factions to commit these horrors, a closer look at multifaceted ways in which to uproot that causation by drawing on recent history is valuable.

Because in some ways recent events are repetitive of the country’s history of cyclical, civilian to military governance. Just over half of 62 years of Pakistani statehood have been spent under martial law (which is bizarre, though not entirely as alarming as it sounds). Civilian regimes have been notoriously corrupt and did little to bring about democracy when scrutinized beyond the cover of a “civlian” title. Given this backdrop and our long engagement with Islamabad, Washington’s lenses should be discerning when dealing with Pakistan. But events like Gojra, the Mumbai atrocities and relentless, daily plight Pakistan’s military and civilians face in uprooting terror from in and around their borders, consistently begs the question: what is still going wrong?

If we draw on recent events for explanation, there is one consistency: Since the War on Terror began, Pakistan was most stable under Musharraf with respect to security and international standing and since his departure, the economy is deteriorating.

Correlating these successes to Msuharraf’s tenure might come across as reductive, but it is tangible. Thus, to better formulate our strategy in Pakistan given the luxury of hindsight, it could be useful to revisit Musharraf’s policies by way of dispelling vociferous censures that follow him until now:

As a military leader Musharraf’s governance deepened the cycle of martial law ultimately not allowing a democracy to take shape in Pakistan:

  • Not necessarily: South Asian policy expert Anatol Lieven explains “All civilian governments have been guilty of corruption, election rigging and the imprisonment or murder of political opponents, in some cases to a worse degree than the military administrations that followed.” And the pool from which to select leaders post Musharraf offered little hope for anything different. Alternative options were extensions of the very leadership Lieven explains. They offered dynastic governance (Benazir Bhutto as daughter of Zulfiqar Bhutto) or perpetual subversion of democracy through maintaining a feudal system (Asif Zardari). In fact, the feudal system wherein masses of uneducated Pakistani’s are bound to a servile existence is what causes this kind of aristocracy to reign. This rampant subversion of Pakistani citizenry is a far cry from democracy.
  • Musharraf indirectly addressed this by privatizing news media. This profoundly affected everyday Pakistani’s by spurring, fresh news, views, ideas, occupations and attention independent of state censorship and interest. Something I took for granted until spending time in Karachi before Musharraf’s tenure (especially under Sharif’s government). If anti- Americanism was a problem in Pakistan, Sharif’s rigid and religious driven censorship of television, and print media certainly did not help while Musharraf’s policies, did.
  • On a side note: although media privatization  is eclipsed by other news out of Pakistan in the past few years, I cite this as Musharraf’s crowning achievement. I maintain that its effects will have lasting impact on ultimately allowing a viable democracy to take shape in Pakistan by way of a meaningful dissemination of independent and increasingly globalized information.

Musharraf should not be credited with the economic growth because it was driven by foreign support funds from the War on Terror which would have been collected from cooperation by any Pakistani government in power at the time:

  • Also while investments were “paternalistic” during martial law, economic growth actually did, “trickle down” as was seen in major cities. A more modernized standard of living through increased consumption and access to products reflected this economic expansion amongst all levels in society. For the first time in Karachi, I saw hired help, including chauffeurs who are part of the working class carrying cell phones and purchasing American DVD’s. Women were increasingly seen occupying positions in the financial sector and politics. So military paternalism, is sadly more productive than the civilian corruption that takes place because it means funds are at least circulated domestically, rather than driven out of the country entirely.

Now I’m not equating these specific instances of consumption and progress necessarily to full-fledged support of Musharraf, nor am I making a case for permanent military rule in Pakistan or condoning military corruption. However, such tangible developments amidst unfounded criticism and the reality of Pakistan’s history should inform Washington. A senior fellow on South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations perhaps prescribed this best in 2007:

Musharraf offers Washington continuity in the face of uncertain political transition. He is a familiar face, a leader with whom the Bush administration has established a sustained working relationship. Under even the smoothest possible transition scenarios, Musharraf’s departure would interrupt bilateral cooperation on military, counterterrorism, and intelligence matters for days or weeks—with uncertain consequences for U.S. security


In hindsight, this assessment is quite apt. Musharraf was an ally who provided results and continued to successfully expand our efforts in the War on Terror. Not just for U.S. interests, but for Pakistani interests in security and development. Had Musharraf not fired the Supreme Court judges and declared the state of emergency that wound up dismissing further justices, he might have maintained his leadership that is needed in Pakistan at this time. And I hope the Obama Administration takes this recent history into close consideration when formulating our ongoing cooperation with leaders in Islamabad.

ORIGINALLY POSTED @

Advertisements

13 comments

  1. A good piece indeed. I think it is important to note that Musharraf would not come back (taking cue from your assessment) since cycle of fragile democracy would continue where we can also expect a ‘prime minister in waiting’ Mian Nawaz Sharif emerging victorious in next polls. Musharraf was a gritty person but he had committed a gross error of not making a political constituency of his own just like Imran Khan. For arguments sake Musharraf could have led PMLQ from the front while establishing direct contact with masses. He simply could not come out of his ‘uniform’ mindset that ultimately resulted in his political demise.Imran could also had a leadership mettle via PML route as was made by ZAB in sixties and Mian Nawaz in mid eighties.These are lessens of history which a military/technocrat leader cannot understand.

    Like


    • Interesting comments on Musharraf not developing a constituency of his own. Attributing that to the fact that Musharraf was a military, as opposed to civlian politician is really something to think about. Also, totally agreed on referring to him as “gritty”, i think that’s a very nice way of describing him….it encompases his hard working, direct, blunt, leadership supplemented by the military background. Very apt.

      Like


      • its a great article but i think there is a error in understanding atleast i beleive there is a misconception regarding freedom of press. as you wrote it was mushrarf go gave press the freedom that it deserve . i disagree with that statement .

        freedom which we saw during musharaf regime become apparent because of satellite revolution . world at large saw number of channel satellite in mid-eighties and ninties but in pakistan it came here after 2001 and with the result of that we saw many private channels.it is because of satellite technology became very cheap.

        but remember first private channel NTM was launched during BB’s government ,first FM station fm100 was launched during BB’s second govermnent . the freedom we had during BB’s was not comprable to any other tenure and its one of few areas where her credential stand above her father. the kind of reporting we saw with HEARLD Magizine , Friday times , and other .
        BAN of left wing newspapers like MUSAWAT was lifted , and how could you forget the stories we read in Frontier Post . and sadly in 1996 the day her government was dismissed we saw ban on Musawat,Friday times,Froniter post and other.
        you should ask senior journalist like Imtiaz Alam, Najam Sethi, Rehmat shah afridi, Hameed Mashriki ,Zahid Hussain ,Sherry Rehman the kind of freedom they had during BB’s government.

        Like


  2. I like your piece on Musharraf. I think I am one of the few people today who still openly acknowledge his achievements and my admiration for him is still the same as it was when he running Pakistan.

    I agree with you that by allowing media growth he created a 5th element that govern Pakistan along with President, PM, Army and the Judiciary. In the form of media there is a perpetual opposition in the country now and one which provides an immediate reflection of state of affairs.

    The few mistakes he made were:
    1) In his first few weeks in power when the photograph of him with his dogs appeared in the media and the resulting furore that followed he got a tad squeamish. In my opinion he should have appeared in the media with more dogs and told the Mullah brigade to get lost.
    2) He should have stuck to being a dynamic and yet benign dictator and not given two hoots about democracy. There was no need for Glastnost. Perestroika was enough. We needed more social freedom and less democracy. As democracy means just more of these politicians who should all be sent to pasture to put it politely.
    3) There was no need for a PM and Shaukat should have been kept only as the Khazanchi and nothing more.
    4) By having a Presidential form of government meant that Musharraf could have hired the best people to run the country with him. No need for the elected incomptents to be anywhere near the helm of affairs.
    5) Last but not least. Mushrraf when he came into power used to be very open about his admiration for Mustafa Kemal Attaturk. A couple years in New York I saw an interview of his on one of the networks and he his response to the question whom he did he admire the most was “himself”. I thought then that he had lost the plot. The aforesaid incident and the fact that he started to talk lot in first person singular to me meant that perhaps his days were numbered.

    All in all the way the pleasant lot is bringing Pakistan down to its knees means that in afew months most people would be wishing Musharraf could bring about his famous counter coup one more time.

    Like


  3. Interesting dimension, especially your opinion on policy #2.

    Like


  4. […] By Zainyjee […]

    Like


  5. A misguided piece eulogising Mush who had abosulte power for 8 years and left the country much worse off than we did his military coup. First few years of hope and media liberalization notwhithstanding what did it amount to in the end? A policy that has brutalised Pakistani society by terror attacks since 2001 divided the country and didvided politics further along sectarian lines. When Musharaf left he left Balchistan and Waziristan and parts of NWFP burning.and army as an institution maligned and being seen as a corporate/ Imperialist entity rather than a national saviour. when history judges Musharaf it will be on the basis of what he achieved in his 8 years of absolute power over a county. Did he strengthen the country any institution or only himself? Sadly his ordinances ,the black law called NRO that allowed Zardari to worm back into politics etc were all self seeking and hurt the country and so were his cynical attempt to whip the judiciary into submission but most of all he has left the country burning with ordinary people becoming fodder in a battle of stretegic supremacy between super powers.

    Like


  6. […] a complex situation, but Musharraff’s recommendations are rooted in a wealth of experience and offer details on a practical […]

    Like


  7. […] a complex situation, but Musharraff’s recommendations are rooted in a wealth of experience and offer details on a practical […]

    Like


  8. […] continue to progress by way of an expanding private media.  As per Musharraff’s reform in 2002, privatized Television channels have made extraordinary strides in disseminating information that is …, giving Pakistani’s a voice, and vehicle for change. Many consider the reinstatement of Chief […]

    Like


  9. […] continue to progress by way of an expanding private media.  As per Musharraff’s reform in 2002, privatized Television channels have made extraordinary strides in disseminating information that is … giving Pakistani’s a voice, and vehicle for change. Many consider the reinstatement of Chief […]

    Like


  10. […] The deficient part of such rhetoric lies in lacking recognition of liberalism. Notions of individual human rights and liberty, free trade, separation of church and state and religious tolerance are erroneously assumed to come only with democratic leadership in Pakistan. On the contrary, liberal policies extending specifically to women’s rights, fostering regional cooperation and trade, namely with India, opening domestic markets, such as free media and holding free and fair elections were successfully carried out previously by Musharraf. […]

    Like


  11. […] The deficient part of such rhetoric lies in lacking recognition of liberalism. Notions of individual human rights and liberty, free trade, separation of church and state and religious tolerance are erroneously assumed to come only with democratic leadership in Pakistan. On the contrary, liberal policies extending specifically to women’s rights, fostering regional cooperation and trade, namely with India, opening domestic markets, such as free media and holding free and fair elections were successfully carried out previously by Musharraf. […]

    Like



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: