Monday, March 25, 2013

The Return of Musharraf

Former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is all set to return to Pakistan by March 24th, after the interim government takes over the reins of Pakistan. Listening to the numerous interviews being broadcast on Pakistani channels, one gets the impression that he fervently believes he will don his shining armor, mount his white steed and ride into the country to save it. But does he ever once pause in his righteous declarations to ask the question: Does Pakistan want him back or does he believe that Pakistan needs him back?

The Pakistan of today is a country rocked by tragedies on a daily basis. It is a nation cruelly divided along religious and sectarian lines. The rich and the poor are separated by an ever widening gap, and the middle class is slowly disappearing. Despite all of these tribulations, the people of Pakistan are resilient. They still look towards the future with optimism and courage. This one trait is repeatedly exploited, especially by eloquent, chest-thumping, yarn-spinning politicians.

When Musharraf left Pakistan,  it was considered a win for the democratic forces in the country, a country stunned and reeling by his draconian measures. At that time, all his actions seemed to be concentrated on securing maximum powers with the presidency and securing himself as the President. The NRO, the suspension of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, all contributed to events that led to his hurried departure before possible impeachment proceedings and in his wake he left behind a deeply divided and heavily armed people.

The government that followed proceeded to weakened the country further and now the people of Pakistan are, once more, ready to welcome as savior the person whom they sent into exile. Is this hopeless optimism  or is it surrendering to what may be considered the lesser evil?

For arguments sake let us not dwell in the past. Lets ignore the adage that those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Let us put the NRO, Lal Masjid and the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti aside and look at what Musharraf is promising now. Well, one thing we know for sure is that he promises to return to Pakistan within a week after the interim government takes charge and then he plans to participate in the upcoming elections.

Musharraf promises that,  given a team of citizens selected by him, he has the capability to put Pakistan on the path of progress within the year but he doesn’t outline any specific programs or the names of those he would wish to work with. When asked about his support in Pakistan, he invariable quotes the figures from his facebook page. He does not name potential allies, individual or parties. Either he has no plans or he is holding his cards close to his chest. But until the big reveal comes, at times, it seems that his entire campaign is held together with spit and prayers.

With all this ambiguity it is sometimes hard to put faith in a potential leader, especially someone who has been tried and been found wanting. But sometimes a political span becomes relative in its success or failure when compared to even worse situations. Sadly, Pakistan is at such a crossroads.

Musharraf does have his positive points. He seems to be unafraid of articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution which will ascertain his eligibility to be elected. He claims that he knows how to lead from the front and cites his performance in the army as proof. That is irrefutable. He says that he can bring Pakistan back on the path of prosperity without showing any specific plans and expects the masses to follow him. I have to commend his optimism and faith.

I, for one, am cautiously optimistic. He plans to give the people of Pakistan the option of a third party in the elections. He hopes that his return will give APML the boost that it needs to play with the big boys. That, in itself, will be positive development. I hope and pray that, even though he doesn’t admit it, he realizes that he did make a few mistakes when he held power. These mistakes should be key in formulating his new playbook. And even though we are used to giving everyone second--and sometimes third chances-- for once I hope that the one whom we chose as our saviour actually makes it his job to save Pakistan.

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