Athar Osama September 23rd, 2007
By: Athar Osama
In October 1999, when General Musharraf came to power in a coup and declared himself the Chief Executive of the country, he was met by a silent nod of approval by his 150 million compatriots. He charted a six point agenda that included broad-based accountability of those who had plundered the country’s wealth and political reforms that would rid the country of the shackles of “professional” politicians–which many of us, ordinary citizens, thought was a euphemism for a mix of political and land-reforms aimed at weakening, if not eliminating, the hold of feudal and family dynasties from the country.
I, for one, like many of my compatriots was willing to give the General a chance. The resolve that Musharraf showed upfront won him kudos and inspired a hope–a very naive hope, though–that when the General finishes his Supreme Court mandated 3-year tenure, Pakistan would be in a much better position to develop true sustainable democracy than before.
Then something predictable–something that I had not foreseen then–happened. Musharraf regime took a course that is far too similar to the 2 or 3 (depending upon how you see it) military regimes in the past. It is important to look at and understand this general pattern because I think it makes a very important point that many of us, Pakistanis, have not fully understood and assimilated.
Today, as Musharraf seeks to have himself elected for a second term, it is useful to ask a question: Is military rule the solution to Pakistan’s problems? Is Musharraf any different than his predecessor generals? Answering these questions is critical to charting a new course of democracy in Pakistan for it will address and counter the argument at the very center of the ongoing political saga and the impending presidential elections in Pakistan.
In this article, I would demonstrate, I hope, that military dictatorship in Pakistan’s context has repeatedly proved itself to be incapable of either providing sustainable and stable governance or for solving the country’s long-term problems.
Therefore, when military generals force the civilian rulers out on the pretext that the latter have played havoc with the governance in the country and that they, and only they, can set things right, that makes a seriously questionable claim given the experience of 33-year military rule in Pakistan.
I will argue that there is a clear “pattern of failure” associated with a military regime that can be divided into three phases.
In the first phase, the regime comes to power and seeks legitimacy for it by making promises of cleaning up the mess and announcing a reform agenda. By the time the second phase begins, the regime is losing steam, legitimacy has remained elusive, and demands for return to civil rule are beginning to appear. This leads to creating a civilian face for the regime. The third phase really sees the crumbling of the artificial civilian order and last-ditch attempts by the regime to hang onto power. Continue Reading »