TRUTH AND CONTRITION

 By Brig Samson S Sharaf

Truth is the first casualty in war, but not due to any conscientious effort. The fog of war, lack of accurate information, limitations of judgement, fear and cognitive constructs thereof eclipse reality. Planning for the unforeseen, most dangerous and most likely is factorised. No plan works to perfection. Stereotype soldiers have a propensity at rigidity and err in applying timely and effective modifications. Such soldiers, with impregnable walls of exclusivity around them dry up from inside and regress. Soldiers, who evolve as they grow, apply correction courses and turn out to be good leaders. Pakistan’s military leaders were no different. General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf despite his initial sparks turned out to be no different.

USA produced over 31 soldier presidents amongst them great names like George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln to name a few. OnlyRichard Nixon erred. But then USA has some of the best institutional support mechanisms of the world, rallying a team that backs statesmen. Pakistan has none.

Pakistan lacks such a framework for both its military and civilian leader. The seesaw culture has produced opportunist, self-centred and family lineages of individuals who have patronised institutional corruption and social decay. Military or civilian, these leaders build a   megalomaniac aura around themselves at the cost of the state and people.

Pakistan’s never produced a leader who displayed traits of statesmanship. Military dictators lacked insight and foresight and were predisposed to see in black and white around their indispensable self. Despite judicial legitimacies and constitutional indemnities, military rulers lost their plots sans military corporate. Positive socio-economic indicators of their initial tenures notwithstanding, they fell prey to short term expediencies with long term ramifications. The wall of military corporatism and a select coterie of ambitious generals were invariably replaced by a group of evergreen advisors and sycophants who helped create grandiose narcissism of splendid isolation. Built around an autocratic self and absence of inclusiveness, this evolution ultimately overtook legal, democratic, moral or interpersonal commitments and, hence, the delusional impetus of indispensability.

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General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf self-belief that he has returned home to deliver is one such effect of delusionary impetus. Abandoned by fair weather friends and advisors, Musharraf is finally realising that he is neither indispensable nor impervious. Earlier, his concentric advisors pushed him to pursue drives like belief, aggression, lofty and imitated emotional expressions of compassion, sympathy, sociability, patriotism and morality to no effect. His political comfort zone alien to his soldiering career was treacherous. His dream of being indispensable to a vulnerable country he loved was fading away. This must have been his thought train on way to the court and later AFIC. Sick, he was finally going home.

In many aspects, General Musharraf’s coup was popular. Some of his fiercest critics could not hide their glee. Many politicians who were not from the traditional stock came out openly in his support. Even Benazir Bhutto tacitly endorsed the coup against a party that left no space for others. As airwaves swept, his popularity grew with his short lived Jinnahist mantle. The rising public approval took its first brunt with an ill-conceived referendum. His omnipotent nightmares of legitimacy were addressed by the Supreme Court. Rather than become a true reformist, he collected a rag tag of have-nots to forge his political constituency that failed and betrayed him. After the initial surge of his reformist agenda that bore fruits, he was moving into isolation, haunted by his legitimacy rationale. It haunts him even today.

Musharraf’s edifice was built on a house of sand. His advisors were small men unworthy of trust.  His re-appointed media czar never had the motivation of creating a sustainable media perception. His ISPR spokesman stuttered and lacked wisdom. Fake personal loyalties replaced professionalism. Old time pals of yore resurfaced. Tariq Aziz was given extensions but was effectively elbowed out in economic decision making by Shaukat Aziz and Waqar Masood, the incumbent Secretary Finance. Lt. General Hamid Javed was picked from oblivion to become his chief advisor and extended. There were other circles of advisors that revolved around his social contacts, bridge parties and admirers. Loyalists with loud mouths were side lined. Extended horses never had the steam and gusto. They were stereotypes who had nothing to offer.

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Perhaps, the worst was his handpicked Finance and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The military establishment was never in favour of him but was overruled by Tariq Aziz. The then DGMO Maj Gen Shahid Aziz himself a staunch Jinnahist never trusted him. Economic policies he framed were detrimental to Pakistan’s long term economic security. Between 1999 and 2002, Pakistan witnessed an economic revival mainly due to the Central Bank policies and money changers. But there were Trojans at work. IPPs with tax exemptions had recovered investments and begun remitting profits and outsourcing costs abroad. New energy manipulators had arrived. To ensure their windfalls, the supply of petrol, oil and lubricants had to be cartelised. PSO was reorganised to create a floating threat of a circular serpent that could devour the entire national wealth. Lt General (Retired) Shahid Aziz read the plot but was ignored. Small time entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector were diverted to consumer led cheap imports.  Consumerism with its euphemism of trickle down was the easiest method to gobble unsterilised foreign exchange. Remittances were grabbed back through rising import bills and consumerism. At a time when rupee needed appreciation, it was devalued. By 2007, when President Musharraf was pre occupied with the judiciary and elections, the bubble was ready to be deflated through the circular debt window. The rising inflation, resurgence of sugar and wheat cartels, energy crises and power failures created an anti-Musharraf sentiment. No government since 2007 has had the courage to look into this monster and rein it. PSO remains the holiest of holy cow being groomed for privatisation.

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At the other end are the rich ruling elites of this country with eyes on getting richer. Systemic reforms are anathema because they counter their financial interests. The land of abundance will continue to be sucked by elites while Musharraf’s trial offers a good diversion from problems the government is shy of addressing. It also gives them an opportunity to put their nemesis in a negative frame to widen the civil-military divide. Musharraf is a fodder to brew ascendency akin to Memogate. Despite calls of caution and rationality from most parties in the opposition, this indirect confrontational approach is a manifestation of the megalomaniac self. How many gates will Pakistan survive?

Treason in Pakistan’s constitution begs a new definition to include other methods of subverting a state than what Musharraf did in 2007. Truth and contrition is a much saner option towards making amends in history. If skeletons have to be undressed, it must be so, through the entire course of Pakistan’s opportunist constitutionalism. Otherwise, this entire exercise will turn out to be an ill-conceived witch hunt.

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