Military Rule Imminent in Pakistan

Written by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury


Since its independence in 1947, though India has already turned into a stable democratic nation in the world; Pakistan in contrary, though born on the same year and almost same hour, miserably failed to nourish its democracy thus frequently opening doors for military intervention. Many even compare Pakistan as a 'Failed State', where a notorious corrupt politician like Asif Ali Zardary [husband of assassinated politician Benazir Bhutto], could become the President of that country.



 Flag_of_PakistanIt is greatly apprehended that, Zardari was behind the murder of Murtaja Bhutton [Benazir's brother] as well as Benzir Bhutto.

Pakistan is now under the imminent threat of military intervention and at this point, Asif Ali Zardari and former military ruler General [Retired] Pervez Musharraf are at the focal point of Pakistani and global media. To assess the situation in that country, let us first of all try to know the background of Zardari and Musharraf.

Zardari, born in 1955 is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who served twice as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. When his wife was assassinated in December 2007, he became the leader of the PPP. It has been claimed that Zardari is among the five richest men in Pakistan with an estimated net worth of US$1.8 billion [2005]. Zardari's financial history was one case study in a 1999 US Senate report on various vulnerabilities in banking procedures.

After assuming the office of the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari managed to get all the criminal and financial cases brought against him cleared, by using his status and influence as Pakistan's most controversial and questioned politician. This is nothing new in Pakistan! In past too, a large number of influential figures in that country managed to come out of legal problems, simply by using political or otherwise influence.

In 1999, when Pakistani economy was almost doomed and country's very existence was in question, General Pervez Musharraf seized power from the democratic government of Mia Nawaz Sharif. On 18 August 2008, Pervez Musharraf resigned from the post of President under impeachment pressure from the coalition government.

Musharraf became de facto Head of Government [using the title Chief Executive and assuming extensive powers] of Pakistan following a bloodless coup d'état on 12 October 1999. That day, Mia Nawaz Sharif attempted to dismiss Musharraf and install Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] Director Ziauddin Butt in his place. Musharraf, who was out of the country, boarded a commercial airliner to return to Pakistan. Senior army generals refused to accept Musharraf's dismissal, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Sharif ordered the Karachi airport closed to prevent the landing of the airliner, which then circled the skies over Karachi. In the coup, the Generals ousted Sharif's administration and took over the airport. The plane landed, allegedly with only a few minutes of fuel to spare, and Musharraf assumed control of the government. Sharif was put under house arrest and later exiled to Saudi Arabia, where he resided until he returned again to Pakistan on 25 November 2007.

He and other leaders have subsequently been prevented from entering Pakistan. Although the disagreement between Musharraf and Sharif started from the day Nawaz Sharif ordered withdrawal of troops from Kargil it reportedly centered around the Prime Minister's desire to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict with India in the Kashmir region.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Musharraf sided with the United States against the Taliban government in Afghanistan after an ultimatum by U.S. President George W. Bush. Musharraf agreed to give the United States the use of three airbases for Operation Enduring Freedom. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and other Administration officials met with Musharraf. In 2004, the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf was nominated in the final list of hopefuls for that year's prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, which totals 194 candidates, as announced by the Nobel Institute. It is not the very first time that a suggestion of awarding the Noble Peace Prize to President Musharraf has been made from such an important quarter but seeing the very clear role being played by the Pakistani President in fighting terrorism against Al Qaeda and other extremist groups within Pakistan, several important figures and organisations have also begun supporting General Musharraf as the strongest entrant for the Noble Peace Prize.

On 12 January 2002, Musharraf gave a landmark speech against Islamic extremism, a few months after September 11. He unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism and pledged to combat Islamic extremism and lawlessness within Pakistan itself. He vowed, the government was committed to root out extremism and made it clear that the banned militant organizations would not be allowed to resurface under any new name. He stressed, "the recent decision to ban extremist groups promoting militancy was taken in the national interest after thorough consultations. It was not taken under any foreign influence".

In 2002, the Musharraf-led government took a firm stand against the jihadi organizations and groups promoting extremism, and arrested Maulana Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-i-Mohammad, and Hafiz Saeed, chief of the Lashkar-i-Taiba, and took dozens of activists into custody. An official ban was imposed on the groups on January 12.

At the same time as banning foreign funding of Islamic educational institutions, he made it compulsory for them to teach a whole host of additional subjects such as computing. This meant that many had to close due to the halt of funds from Pakistanis working abroad resulting in not being able to teach the additional subjects that he had made compulsory. Musharraf also instituted prohibitions on foreign students' access to studying Islam within Pakistan, an effort which began as an outright ban but was later reduced to restrictions on obtaining visas.

In 2004, he proposed "Enlightened Moderation" as an alternative to Islamic fundamentalism. On 18 September 2005, Musharraf made a historic speech before a broad based audience of Jewish leadership, sponsored by the American Jewish Congress's Council for World Jewry, in New York City. In the speech, he denounced terrorism and opened the door to relationships between Pakistan and Israel, as well as between the Muslim world and Jews worldwide. He was widely criticized by Middle Eastern Arab leaders and Muslim clerics, but was met with some praise among Jewish leadership.

On 13 September 2007, 300 Pakistani troops were captured by Islamic militants. Terrorists then bombed Musharraf's own SSG unit, killing 16, and launched rocket attacks in the North-West Frontier Province and Tribal areas.

Musharraf has been met by criticism. Zahid Hussain, Pakistan's correspondent for the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek and political correspondent for the Karachi-based monthly Newsline said in 2007 that despite Musharraf delivering to the United States, where Al Qaeda was concerned, he did in fact do nothing to eliminate extremism from the Pakistani society or to curb the activities of the Taliban. This is very natural, he said, because since 1994 Pakistan has very actively backed the Taliban and the military itself has Taliban sympathizers. Hussain also said that Musharraf was also criticized for his contradictory statements and, through which he sought to get support from both the Western allies as well as the islamist militants. Musharraf also "never took any action against those madrassas that preached hatred" and have been involved in fueling extremism. Hussain said that Musharraf did talk a lot about it and whenever there was pressure from abroad, he would announce some measures but these were not followed by any implementation. In other words, Hussain said, he failed to understand that one can not develop a moderate Muslim society unless the root cause of extremism is completely eliminated.

In 1999, under Nawaz Sharif, Revenue generation of around Rs.308 billion could not meet the growing expenditure requirements; with only an average of Rs.80 billion being spent on Public Sector Development Programs [PSDP] annually, and no visible project to boast about. From this Rs.308 billion around 65% was being utilized for debt servicing. In 1988 Pakistan's foreign debt was $18 billion, but at the end of 1999 it had accumulated to become $38 billion. A 100% increased burden on the already crippled economy. Public and external debt exceeded 300% of Foreign exchange earnings.

Musharraf then appointed Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive, as finance minister. With this appointment:

The vision and policies helped Pakistan come out of the list of Highly Indebted Poor Countries [HIPC] while setting it on path of prosperity, growth and economic reforms. The world financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF and ADB have been praising Pakistan for its reforms, fiscal policies and macro-economic achievements.

Under Musharraf's tenure, Pakistan saw exceptional setup of 47 universities, including Virtual University, under the supervision of Higher Education Commission. Most of the universities were of international standards.

When Musharraf came to power in 1999, he claimed that the corruption in the government bureaucracy would be cleaned up.

In 2001, according to a survey conducted by Transparency International, Pakistan was ranked as the world's 11th most corrupt nation. However, by 2002 Pakistan's rating had improved 13 places within the year, to be ranked 24th. By 2007, Pakistan was ranked 138th out of 179 countries, placing it as the 41st most corrupt country in 2007. Overall, under Musharraf's regime, Pakistan's rating improved by 30 places.

People of Pakistan are already fed-up [actually Pakistanis get fed-up with their leaders in power very quick] with the current government led by Asif Ali Zardari, and there is strong apprehension of re-emergence of military rule in that country. Various websites are already giving a comparison to democratic government and military rule of Pervez Musharraf, to clearly show that Pakistan was not yet a 'proper ground' for democratic practice.

According to latest scenarios in political arena in Islamabad, it is becoming rather clear that military intervention in Pakistan is very imminent. There is already visible difference between the political government and country's military administration as well as Pakistan's most controversial military espionage agency named Inter Service Intelligence [ISI]. Though ISI is blamed of patronizing and funding militancy domestically and regionally, it still holds tremendous influence inside Pakistan. Many political pundits are predicting military intervention in Pakistan by the end of 2010. If that turns true, it will surely be a bad signal for other nations in South Asia, where democracy is yet to attain solid shape as well politicians enjoying confidence and respect of the people

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