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Adios, Musharraf!


With his piquant sense of humor, expansive personality, sartorial elegance, and secular bent, General Pervez Musharraf, who died in Dubai on Monday, was a man who was loved and hated in equal measure. A general who gave a relatively radicalized country the unique construct of “enlightened moderation” and was a paragon of rationale and liberalism, Musharraf will long be remembered for decisions that deeply impacted the body politic of the country for the years to come.

But more than anything else, the late general will be remembered for subverting the constitution twice and putting the superior court judges under house arrest. In fact, Musharraf’s imposition of his second emergency in 2007 earned him the dubious distinction of becoming the only military leader in Pakistan to receive a death sentence for high treason. His dictatorial rule was a bit of a paradox as it was mixed with a tinge of liberalism that went down well with the urban middle classes, but drew the ire of regressive forces.

But while the late general is painted by his detractors as a usurper of power, the fact that he was compelled to do so as his flight from Sri Lanka was not allowed to land in Karachi is barely mentioned. The events that ensued was the direct result of the ill decision taken by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif who sought to remove Musharraf as the army chief. But the action was resisted by the army leadership which then staged a coup to turf out Nawaz Sharif, which saw the latter being sentenced on charges of hijacking and terrorism.

Thanks to Saudi involvement, Mr Sharif and his family spent the next several years in exile in the kingdom, with the general taking full charge of the country’s affairs. The coup was hailed by some liberal sections due to Mr Sharif’s highly conservative predilections. The events of 9/11 changed the trajectory of this region, bringing it under the global radar, and the West became more than delighted to work with Musharraf to further its objectives in Afghanistan.

Musharraf recorded a number of commendable achievements during his eventful tenure. He created an air of liberalism in the country and launched the process of accountability, though the latter didn’t prove to be quite effective. He liberalized the Pakistan media, giving rise to a slew of channels and jobs, gave a highly workable LG system, and remarkably improved the country’s economy. Despite his notoriety as a the man culpable for the Kargil war, he championed peace with India, helping bring the two arch-rivals close to a settlement on the Kashmir issue.

Sadly, Musharraf’s golden era was also marked by a few glaring errors. Perhaps the gravest of the mistake was the abrogation of the constitution, which subsequently led to the Lawyers’ Movement that saw the general leave the chair of power.  For his political survival, he also formed unnatural alliances with the PML-Q in Punjab and MQM in Sindh. And after the brutal killing of Akbar Bugti in 2006, the situation in Balochistan exacerbated; the province is yet to recover from the after-effects of the Baloch leader’s slaying.

Gen Musharraf’s attempt to enter politics also flopped miserably as his All-Pakistan Muslim League continued to fare badly at the polls. Musharraf’s paradoxical era offers a plethora of lessons for the country’s ruling elite, and it can learn from many of his successes and mistakes.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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