People Sick Of Sham Democracy
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Gen Musharraf enjoyed nine-year rule but Pakistan suffered. He was given a royal send off and is still enjoying life abroad but Pakistan continues to bleed because of his unpardonable sins. Had he put some steel in his back and warded off the telephonic pressure from Collin Powel, he could have saved Pakistan from getting trapped in nonsensical war on terror and getting burnt in its flames which are inextinguishable. In his eagerness to please Washington he in many ways harmed national interests.
His seven point agenda was well-meaning if it had been implemented religiously. After a good start he lost track of his original agenda and concentrated more on saving his seat than in ridding the country of its multiple ailments. He gave hopes to the people that he will introduce real democracy, but inanities of his King’s Party together with flawed concept of district governments and his autocracy produced sham democracy.
Notwithstanding Musharraf’s many negative points, some of his reforms were impressive. He had managed governance quite well and had effective hold over state affairs. He had kept GDP over 7%, and inflation and price spiral were within limits. Stranglehold of IMF had been broken, foreign exchange reserves had crossed $ 15 billion and economy was vibrant. Foreign investment was flowing in and level of exports had risen. Stock exchange was bullish and estate property was booming. Load shedding was minimal and daily commodities were available in abundance and business class was satisfied.
Corruption, cronyism, nepotism were well within permissible levels. NAB though at a later stage had become selective due to political expediency had recovered billions of rupees from the corrupt. Development works and work on mega projects were in progress. No corruption scandal surfaced against Musharraf. Pakistan broke the begging bowl by getting out of the clutches of IMF. According to World Bank, poverty was reduced by 50% on consumption led growth of economy. Percentage of people living below poverty line fell from 34.5% in 2001/02 to 17.2% in 2007/08.
Defence and research institutions were allocated heavy funds allowing them to carryout trials of missiles with regularity. Nuclear facilities were harmonised by placing them under NESCOM, Nuclear Command Authority established and nuclear doctrine based on first strike option and minimum deterrence formalised.
He was genuinely concerned about looming water problem and could foresee that coming years would prove devastating if water dams were not built. It was because of intense political opposition from political parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh that he had to shelve the Kalabagh Dam project, which was technically most feasible and economically most rewarding for all federating units. Although he could have still pushed his way through despite opposition by vested groups at the behest of India and earned a big feather in his cap, he approved Bhasha and Munda dams.
But for his blunder of locking horns with Chief Justice Iftikhar in March 2007 which triggered lawyers movement, his uncalled for support to Karachi mayhem in May and soon after ham-fisted Lal Masjid operation in July 2007 which ultimately led to his downfall, he would have still been in chair. The economic graph would have kept surging and. semblance of order maintained. There would have been no need for a secret deal with Benazir in July 2007 and issuance of unethical NRO to pave the way for exiled leaders to return. Within months his achievements were drowned in the sea of media war and he became the most reviled leader, thereby reinvigorating urge for return of democracy. It was argued that even worst form of democracy was better than military dictatorship.
Nature provided a chance to democratically elected leaders who sang democracy songs untiringly, promised to remove the negative effects of military dictatorship, pull out the country from the inferno of terrorism and to improve the lot of the poor. Their tall talk of democracy and welfare of the people was deceptive. They callously deceived and let down people of Pakistan who elected them with high hopes. The people didn’t see that the new lot led by Zardari had been brought to power by Washington and had handed over the keys of Pakistan to their mentors. Their objective was not to serve Pakistan and to allay the sufferings of the poor but to loot the country.
PPP leaders had remained out of power for 12 years and were itching to recommence their old practice of plundering national wealth with both hands. All the positives went into negatives within six months of takeover by democratic regime led by PPP. Foreign debt which was around $38 billion in mid 2008 has soared to $55.63 billion in 2010. The govt has no strategy to retire outstanding debt stock. Given the trend of borrowing, particularly to repay short-term loans, external debt is likely to rise to $72.162 billion by 2015/16. Poverty level started to shoot up and by end 2008 it reached 33.8% and in 2008/09 increased to 36.1%. Pakistan again fell into the stranglehold of IMF. The day Pakistani rulers spread their bowls before IMF; they compromised the sovereignty of the country. But for oxygen provided by the IMF, the country would have collapsed economically.
Rulers want to remain above law and to keep dragnet of accountability confined to have-nots only. They have no respect for law and superior judiciary. Morality, principles and values are of no concern to them. Despite their coffers brimming with ill-gotten wealth, their greed remains ravenous. They fatten their purposes by sucking the blood of the poor since the national kitty has already been emptied. Their wanton loot has reduced the country to a carcass in matter of little over two years. They keep sucking up to USA in the hope of receiving more aid and loans from IMF and World Bank under howsoever humiliating conditions to keep their prospects of plunder alive. Democracy is used as a ploy to cover up every wrong of the rulers. PPP-MQM-ANP alliance has presented worst form of democracy.
Quaid-e-Azam had dreamed of making Pakistan one of the greatest nations of the world. He had desired that evils of bribery, corruption, black-marketing, hoarding, nepotism and jobbery should be dealt with an iron hand and life, property and religious beliefs of all Pakistanis irrespective of their creed, caste and beliefs are fully protected by maintaining law and order. He wanted Pakistan to become a welfare state. Our current rulers are doing quite the opposite. They are deeply involved in looting the nation, and have allowed social evils to flourish.
The state and the society are fast getting disconnected. People are getting disillusioned with farce of democracy and with leaders devoid of moral values and fear of God. They detest their habit of lying, breaking and bending laws with impunity, defying apex courts, protecting the corrupt and criminals and indulging in vices. Grandiose lifestyle of the privileged class and their flaunting of wealth and power have incensed the deprived classes. Insensitivity of the rulers towards the plight of the poor, now caught up in worst ever floods, is making the people burn with rage. Within two years, the people have got fed up with squabbling and self serving politicians and are praying for return of military rule, which can ensure accountability, merit, governance and better economics.
The people are praying for a Messiah who can rid them of corrupt and morally bankrupt political leaders and provide them succour. They say that Musharraf’s nine-year rule was far better than misrule of political government. They find unscrupulous politicians unrepentant of their past mistakes void of acumen to provide good governance. This nation doesn’t need Musharraf or his type but a Khomeini type of ruler to ruthlessly cleanse the stables, restore pristine human values, usher in real democracy and convert Pakistan into a welfare state as envisaged by Quaid.
The writer is a freelance defence and political analyst