So many time the rulers of Pakistan have deceived the US adiministration, and they may know it, but still they have been relying on the same people.
Now some writers in Pakistan have floated the idea that General Pervez Musharraf is more dangerous than terrorists and militants in the tribal areas. If Musharraf really is more dangerous than terrorists and Taliban, then why shouldn't action be taken against all the Pakistanis who are providing support to him?
Musharraf has enjoyed the support of the entire Pakistani nation for seven years -- then what went wrong when the whole Pakistani nation rose against him? Most of the tribesmen think that Musharraf must remain in the office until the elimination of terrorism.
Just read the essay of one Afiya Shehrbano Zia: She wrote, What has sustained General Pervez Musharraf? Critics point to and blame American financial and political support. But that is only part of the answer. More importantly, Musharraf’s real success in surviving eight years lies in his unique ability to attract and co-opt elements from within the conservative and liberal camps simultaneously.
The conservatives legitimised his coup when, in 2002, they agreed to play the role of ‘elected’ members of a government put together through a rigged election. The liberals, on their part, rationalised and praised his dictatorship for gifting the country the freedom to sing and dance. Behind the smokescreen of economic progress, women’s empowerment and a ‘free’ media, however, lay the truth that they did not wish to acknowledge — that these were never ‘real’, independent or sustainable measures.
In fact, ironically, the biggest resistance to democratic processes in Pakistan has come from liberals who assume to espouse its cause. For this discussion, these can be divided into two (although not mutually exclusive) categories: lifestyle liberals and political liberals.
Lifestyle liberals depend for their information on sources such as television, foreign English-language media and their immediate intellectual social circle. Clearly, they have internalized the message that extremism is our core issue and the growing number of hijabs, beards and militancy are proof of this.
For this class, historical continuum is only measured by virtue of the jihadi factor of the 1980s and never in terms of the struggles for provincial autonomy and tribal identity that predate this phenomenon. They fear the country is overrun by terrorists pouring forth from madrassas, which must be replaced by lots of alternate schools, funded by charity money — precisely what madrassas are in the first place, though with the wrong faculty.
Hence, liberals in Pakistan wish to reform people rather than revolutionize institutions. The desire is not to challenge the status quo but merely tinker and improve within the given socio-religious and political system — even if it is led by the military.
Political liberals, who meander around the centre of the political spectrum, are now agreeable to what they call a staged transition, rather than complete transformation, from military to democratic rule. In tracing the history of civil society organisations from the 1980s onwards, the accommodative nature of political liberals becomes quite clear.
Whereas the 80s saw principled political resistance to military rule from a broad base of civil society organisations, the new millennium has seen a more willing acceptance of a seemingly moderate military dictator. This is not only because of the nature of a self-proclaimed ‘enlightened’ military state headed by Musharraf since 1999, but also because of the system’s ability to absorb many activists and social sector initiatives into the crystalline structure of Musharraf’s vision of a ‘moderate’ and liberal state.
Thus in 2000, some straight out of civil society organizations, optimistically joined his government while other ‘leaders’ of social movements have also participated in or lent ‘expertise’ on consultative commissions with regard to women’s issues. Some NGOs moved their entire efforts towards projects, such as enabling participatory elections within the military-headed ‘controlled democracy’.
Social activists have also accepted national awards from a military dictator; civil society organisations petition the president in uniform directly for intervention; and the private sector holds direct consultations with his prime minister and aides. All this lends legitimacy to a military-led state and is entirely non-democratic in spirit and procedure.
It is true that growing nationalist movements, and the suppression by state forces of these uprisings over the past eight years, has often made liberals uncomfortable. Even so, the regime reinvents itself as the moderate, progressive alternative to extremism and faith-based politics and this makes the business and social elite secure once again. Under the putative deal with the Pakistan People’s Party, the likelihood of further co-option will increase because military rule will now have a distinctly liberal (and as a bonus), feminine face.
Given the liberal-military nature of the anticipated Benazir Bhutto-Pervez Musharraf government, it is unlikely that the agenda for social, or for that matter economic, change will be any different to what it is now. So the question remains, what do we expect to transit to? As it stands, the country is beginning to sound like an over-sized NGO — dependent on foreign funds and run by professional consultants — whose future depends on its performance on projects in the field.
Prone to expediency, liberals today refuse to consider that democracy cannot be negotiated, bartered or controlled, for it is not a material ‘gift’. Neither can democracy be artificially inseminated through ‘deals’ and expected to develop in a conducive environment because democracy is the environment. It is not a concession to be dispensed at the pleasure of leaders.
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