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US Can Play A Role In Making Pakistan A Moderate State

By       Message Muhammad Khurshid     Permalink
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The retirement of Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf from army will not solve the real problems being faced by Pakistan. The real problem in Pakistan is the non-existence of institutions. Corruption has almost ruined those institution, which exist. Most of the people are not clear who will play the role of saving this country, but all desire this. If this happen there will be a big change in the society. This is the only way of controlling terrorism. Actually corruption is the leading reason of terrorism in the society. The United States can play a big role in this regard. Just keep pressure on the rulers to deliver otherwise leave the chair. The rulers can do anything for power and money.

According to a newspaper comment, there is comment galore on how the civilianised general, Mr Pervez Musharraf, will fare as president in the five years to follow. According to one line of thinking, Mr Pervez Musharraf will begin on Thursday as a civilian with uncivil powers; the political crisis gripping Pakistan will not allow him any honeymoon period because he faces a wave of unpopularity at home and abroad and a raging controversy surrounding his disputed election; he also wields too much power, which is the main cause of the prevailing turmoil and promises a continuing confrontation with most political parties and other sections of society.

Even if it wasn’t General Musharraf and someone else had been president, the revival of Article 58(2)b is likely to cause trouble, as happened during the “decade of democracy” of the 1990s. But, again in the light of past experience, there may be trouble if the said article is removed from the Constitution as in 1998 when the powerful prime minister turned the tables on the army and dismissed an army chief and set himself up as a potential Amir ul Momeineen.

If this is our experience, is it instructive in projecting what will happen during the Musharraf presidency? What was the army doing in the 1990s that it is not doing now? What kind of army chiefs were then dominating the structure of the state, and what kind of political rivalry was hounding the two mainstream parties that alternated in power? What should one make of public opinion today as it dictates isolationism to the state, like the generals in the 1990s; and what can one say for the generals of today who want to keep the country out of international isolation, who want the economy to grow rapidly, and who favour a relatively liberal culture and freedom of expression in the face of Talibanisation?

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Talking of democracy, we usually fall into the error of recommending “direct democracy” which means doing exactly what the common man in the street wants. This was the first phase of democracy and was suited to ancient city states, but Pakistan became an independent state in the full glare of “representative democracy”, a system mediated by political parties that are expected to mix pragmatism with public passions to carry on the business of the state without damaging it. The beginning of this “mediation” in Pakistan is already in evidence as the main political parties refuse to boycott the January 8 elections even at the risk of being condemned by those civil society organisations which think and claim that the people of Pakistan want a total and consensual boycott.

But in the current situation no matter who becomes prime minister, he or she is not likely to be read out the “riot act” of conditions that General Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan jointly served to prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 1988, barring her from certain areas of domestic and foreign policies. All those conditions, isolationist in the extreme, are now not a priority in the new-look GHQ which in fact is no less pragmatic in domestic-external strategy than the civilians. For instance, both Mr Sharif and Ms Bhutto were ousted from power partly because they sought to normalise relations with India and were lukewarm on the jihad which the army was then waging in Afghanistan. What can be the new sticking point between the army, as represented by President Musharraf, and the potential prime ministers from the two mainstream parties? That is, apart from blatant interference in the posting and transfers within the army?

President Musharraf will most probably start sitting on files, in the style of the late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, if the politicians interfere unreasonably in the management of the economy. Indeed, if the PPP reverts to its state employment slogans and make pledges to this effect in its election manifesto, the business community will get alarmed. Any economist worth his salt will say that this policy will stuff whatever is left of the state sector enterprises with PPP supporters and destroy the enterprises. Therefore if the party actually begins this process after coming to power, President Musharraf can be expected to become obstructive. As for Mr Sharif, in the light of his past practice, if he begins to lean too heavily on the State Bank and private sector banks or the CBR to bend rules here and there, he could run up against opposition in the presidency. And so on.

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The “troika” which President Musharraf prefers has not worked in the past. But the alternative to it also hasn’t worked. Therefore, given equal odds, the new “troika” will probably run into real trouble over the National Security Council. Who will get the prime minister to accept the National Security Council after the accurately made observation that prime ministers in general prefer “consensus in parliament”, which they lead, to “consensus in Council”, where they are outnumbered? Will the president use Article 58(2)b against an incumbent prime minister and risk trouble with the judiciary as well? We have past jurisprudence telling us that a president today may survive for a far shorter time than Ghulam Ishaq Khan did after dismissing a government. For instance, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari had to go sooner or later after breaking his pledge never to use the Article. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Excessive punishments in Muslim world

The world is ringing with protest against a court decision in Saudi Arabia under which a young gang-raped wife was ordered to be lashed 200 hundred times. The wife, a 19-year old Shia, had stated that she met a man in a car in order to retrieve a photo of them together, having herself recently got married. Two men entered the car and drove them to a secluded area where others were waiting, and both she and her male companion were raped. Her husband has defended her plight, but the court first gave her 90 lashes for violating the strict gender segregation law, and on appeal increased the punishment to 200 lashes, as if in anger. Mercifully, the Saudi government has seen the error of the verdict.

In another case a court in Sudan has hauled up a British lady teacher for blasphemy after she named a doll in the kindergarten as Muhammad. The punishment for blasphemy is death but thankfully the Sudanese authorities say she can be let off if she repents and apologises. Although both cases will be treated with compassion in the coming days, the fact that Muslim judges are wont to hand down extreme correction is not compatible with the times we are living in.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur Agency, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is also (more...)
 

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