Now this is an established fact - the real ruler of Pakistan is President George W. Bush - so now most of the tribesmen have the right to ask him why they are being subjected to violence and terrorism. Bush must answer this question from his servants in Pakistan. Morally, this is the duty of Bush and his colleagues to provide us security. We are also human beings and have the right to enjoy all the facilities as enjoyed by the people of other parts of the world.
If the present rulers cannot deliver they must be changed. According to Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa: the country, some of us will claim, is on its way to normalcy and democracy. The President has taken off his uniform and exiled leaders have been allowed back into the country. Now all that is left is for elections to take place and the emergency to be withdrawn. According to one prominent PMLQ leader, Pakistan is on its way to normalising political life.
Such a perception is in sync with the argument of the transitionists who believe that the only way to normal politics is through the route selected by the country’s General-President.
The general had always said that he would not surrender power under pressure, that he should be allowed to choose the right time for shedding his uniform and allowing contending political forces to play any role.
He has to be taken seriously because, as transitionists argue, the current balance of power favours him rather than anyone else.
The now retired General Musharraf had threatened to impose emergency if he was pushed to the wall which is precisely what he did. He has now extended the date for removing the emergency until December 16 which is a day after the last date for political parties to withdraw from elections.
The general showed his power once and he could do it again. The only difference is that now he is no longer the army chief. Surely, the army would be tired of showboating along with certain political parties on General Musharraf’s behalf. They would not fancy the prospects of playing second fiddle to the former chief’s wishes.
But the issue under consideration is whether the civil society should be challenging him at all. Is it worthwhile to wait until conditions improve such as better macroeconomic figures, more socioeconomic development which will naturally lead to, it is assumed, greater socio-political progress? This is the path to democracy as chosen by city-states like Singapore. The formula is that economic prosperity will bring about a more just society. So, why challenge the general prematurely and make him take defensive measures? The power lies with him. As my friend Ejaz Haider has argued in one of his columns, resisting the general will invoke his wrath and block the way to democracy.
What I have gathered from his argument is that democracy is defined as allowing the electoral process to continue so that a liberal parliament comes into power. A combination of liberal political parties with a liberal head of the state such as the present president will ensure a better Pakistan. One can agree with the objective of having a liberal Pakistan but it is difficult to agree with this particular definition of democracy.
Democratic politics is not about adult franchise but a political process in which marginalised groups also get a chance to build stakes in the political system without the state taking positions in favour of one or the other.
The threat to liberal Pakistan is not necessarily from the mullahs but from the state supporting extremist elements and partnering with them to fulfil certain narrowly defined military-strategic objectives. According to Charles Tilly, the process of democratisation depends upon insulation of public politics from categorical inequalities which can be ethnic, sectarian or even ideological.
The issue of whether one should challenge the general or not because of the present balance of power stems from what particular approach one adopts in analysing the question. One could take a ‘strategic studies’ approach according to which an assessment revolves around power politics or a broader historical and political approach. The approach narrows the analysis down to assessing the balance of power. Surely then it is not wise to challenge the man at the helm of affairs.
However, it is important to see the long cycle of history rather than the narrow dimensions of military strategy. Societies can suffer for long durations before they are able to bring about the needed change.
So should then people concede on this principle? (to this approach?) That is a moot point.
Even if we were to use the strategic studies methodology, it is too simplistic to assume that General Musharraf took off his uniform due to the goodness of his heart. It was a combination of external and internal forces that prompted this change. The international community understood that there would be a lot of instability if Musharraf did not take off his uniform. And this understanding in the international community was reinforced by the protests brewing in the streets.