Remember Pakistan’s Liberal Dictator?

October 4, 2010

Freedom through Dictatorship?

Freedom through Dictatorship?

Well, I called it: Pervez Musharraf is staging a return to Pakistani politics. Launching his new “All Pakistan Muslim League” (AMPL) party this week in a plan to return to the country, the former General will have to face a tremendously skeptical, increasingly hardened citizenry and even tougher adversaries in the judicial branch and opposition parties. In an Al Jazeera special report, Musharraf’s former Legal Advisor Ahmed Raza Kasuri insisted that should tacit approval come from the country’s military establishment and most importantly, with support of a “silent majority” Kasuri measures at 60-65% of moderate Pakistani’s, Musharraf will garner required support to win in future elections. Political analyst Imtiaz Gul insisted otherwise explaining not only would the military establishment be weary of backing Musharraf who cost them valuable political capital when he sacked the judiciary in 2007 and issued a State of Emergency, but also because he has “lost relevance” in Pakistan today.

Gul makes a valuable point: without relevance a political figure is climbing an uphill battle of garnering credibility, and because credibility is deeply intertwined with legitimacy, Musharraff undoubtedly faces a bumpy comeback.

But relevance is not necessarily an impediment to power in Pakistan since the current situation lends a valuable opportunity for it to be readily earned. Current President Asif Zardari usurped such an opportunity when his wife was tragically murdered and assumed leadership, riding the waves of sympathy that swept the nation to win elections. While that “relevance” is waning now, it was enough to allow him a seat of power for 2 years and actually shake off some of the “Mr. 10%” infamy, which is a far larger feat than what Mushrraf faces today.

While the main opposition party leaders Asif Zardari and Nawaaz Sharif are forever bogged by allegations of corruption, Musharraff’s criticisms revolve around issues of “democracy”.

His most vociferous opponents will cite his sacking of the judiciary, coup to power, and 9 year dictatorial reign as subverting democracy in Pakistan. But such criticism of Musharraf is both misleading and mostly hyperbole.

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.

Ironically, under the title of “dictator”, he brought forth more liberal triumphs than any other leaders in my lifetime. And it is important to not confuse democracy with liberalism. Fareed Zakaria makes this distinction in tweaking “Democratic Peace Theory”. His ideas are described:

“democracy is defined in terms of the process by which a government is selected. In contrast, “constitutional liberalism” is defined not by how the government is selected, but rather b the extent to which the society and its institutions protect individuals’ basic rights (to life, property, freedom of speech, and religion)”

Thus basic tenants of a such liberalism, to a fair extent were brought forth by Musharraf. And as political change seems imminent in Pakistan, if we continue looking to political theory one might advance a case for liberalism by way of identifying Musharraf’s opposition. If we take a voluntaristic view of government, wherein heads of states are integral parts of policymaking as opposed to looking mostly at system wide determinants of policy, one finds that not only corruption, but the fact that both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are part of feudal, landowning elites in Pakistan is meaningful. With that background, and likely subsequent value sets which are diametrically opposed to liberal notions of liberty and individual rights, Pakistan runs the risk of remaining socially, and economically stagnant under their leadership. Moreover, with the U.S. winding down our war in Afghanistan and shifting in to Pakistan, more than ever liberal ideals are needed.

No amount of drones, target killings or CIA intervention have yet quelled extremism let alone terrorism in Pakistan since 9/11. Modernity and liberalism are Pakistan’s best bet at framing a solution for the long run.

It cannot be an overnight shift, but it will require leadership that espouses liberal ideals. Because without credible experience in upholding individual rights and freedoms, only halfhearted appreciation will come for liberalism and even weaker attempts to implement them.

Is Musharraf the solution Pakistan is looking for? I do not know. But until new, more modern and liberal alternatives in political leadership are available, he just might be the best option now.




  1. i believe that mush sala cant return in pakistan till US give him security sheild, musharraf has lots of enemies in pakistan those who required his blood in account of Laal Masjid, Afia Issue, Drone attack permissions to NATO & US forces, Terrorism in pakistan, i believe that musharraf has no safe step in pakistan on any inch.

    he cant return to pak.


  2. hopefully this event should add currency to imran khans campaign.


  3. I think that this is an American move to prepare for enlarging the bridgehead of their operation in Pak .On the other hand what are and who is pitching for peoples interest. Instability in Pakistan affects the entire subcontinent. This is the woe of post colonial era and must be sorted out by spreading awareness and educating on what direction people should take. They are too confused themselves . They need depoliticisation first .Religion in public affairs is an anethema to social salvation!


  4. Musharraf ruled over Pakistan as an absolute “monarch” for nearly a decade, and looted it with both hands. He resides in a Rs 30 Crore flat in London. His government lacked vision as well as planning. He collected sycophants around him and abused merit, plundered national treasury.
    He should be allowed to die peacefully in the West.

    It is true that Zardari and Nawaz SharrReef are much mnore corrupt and sly than Mushrraf.
    All three should be tried for Sedition and High Treason.


  5. very well written (Y) In my personal opinion i think since the regime change might come through electoral process, and as well all know the majority of Pakistan voters is in rural areas where literacy rate might be below 22% hence in my opinion the biggest challenge Musharraf and APML faces is the violent Jiyalas of PPP and Criminal Jutts of PMLN or else APML will have to join hands with feudal lords on temporary basis, which surely will not work out in longer run, Let’s see how many cards Musharraf has saved for PMLN and PPP so that he can checkmate them 🙂


  6. It is well known fact that the reign of Pakistan ceeded horse has always been in the hand of US.In other words only that man is impowered to rule Pakistan as Dictator or Democrat who has the blessing of US.Presently US is searching the proper man to replace Zardari who has lost his ceditablity to rule and has been declared now persona non grata (unofficialy). Mosharraf and his party is being used to give cover for the search of a sutable man having the backing of people in majority.The chapter of Mr Mosharraf is closed for ever.It was US under whose desire & design Mosharraf exit ocurred and Zardari came in. Again the same process would be used for Zardari’s exit.It is for you to beleive it or not


  7. i am sorry because i have no words to “insult musharraf” any more but i m just want to copy and paste the words of Mr. Shoaib Malik as i think that they suit on this topic very well.

    However, do you think that Zardari is a bad person for this country? Please compose another e mail with all the flaws and corruption he has made during his current tenure.

    It’ll be quiet obvious how incompetent and negative he has been for this country. I am sure you’d agree to it as well.

    Everyone even knew it before he came into power. But alas this is an emotional nation.

    Oh but wait, How did he come into power? Ooo.. that was because musharraf gave him ‘Presidential Pardon’. And why did he do it. To walk out safely.

    We are paying the price of that one bad decision even now. I know human beings can make bad decision but he made a BIG one to save himself.

    Wouldn’t you agree?


  8. ..well I think Musharaf, Zardari or Nawaz or any other politician are the puppets stamped by U.S, ‘WE’ as a nation(everyone)actually in need, need & expect from others(e.g politicians) nd acquires what we deserve for.. they played innings according to their or their master(U.S) requisites & walk off..
    Mr. Musharaf was good enough when we talk incidental progress in economic & growth sectors in recent past but now he gave his tiny pardon for killing us, Wouldn’t Let Him Even Gaze At Our Home!..

    (well done Zainab keep on…)


  9. Mr Umar is justified to say that all our known POLITICIANS are puppets in the hand of U.S.The Incidental growth in economy during Mush period of wich Mush boost all the time now a days,was due to massive uncontrolled non-accontable American Aid. before some else occupy the waitng job.This Aid was meant to increase his creditabilty & not the economy of this poor country. See now how much deep Pakistan is drowned in oceon of debt making it impossible for any succesive Government to survive with out further AID from U.S; I.M.F.,W.T.O. etc. With dry mouth & empty stomach how one can cry Mush Zindabad. If Mush Thinks or beleives that his creditabilty has increased many fold then he should come Pakistan immediatelely before any one else occupy the job due to fall vacant in near future.


  10. Zainab you have just did a great job by posting this article, i like your this way to write. hope to hear more from you 😛


  11. I hate this puppy.


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