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Archive for July, 2002

Righting Wrongs

Every government that comes to power, elected or otherwise, unfolds a platform to right wrongs, mostly of its predecessors. Military regimes are into righting wrongs far more than their civilian counterparts, declaring accountability as their major plank. For the civilian governments, in supercession to lip-service about food, water and shelter, etc for the citizens, restoration of democracy and democratic mores is the priority. The hapless public, alternately buffeted by subjective governance by both, are usually left to pray that their rulers practice what they preach. Musharraf’s reign has been by far the best of the military regimes to rule Pakistan. In the matter of accountability they have excelled themselves, but ironically because they did not exercise absolute self-accountability, they will be subjected to far more critical appraisal than their predecessor military regimes. While the President himself is way above reproach, the public perception will hold him accountable for a handful whose misdeeds he is not directly responsible for but by not severing ties with them he assumes liability on the “love me, love my dog” syndrome. The irony also is that some of the accountability may have little to do with corruption but feeding of motivated or misleading information certainly affected critical issues involving governance calling into question the President’s decision-making, which is Pervez Musharraf’s strongest suit. When the measure of this regime is taken, the tragedy will be that a far better than average governance will be tainted by the misdemeanors of a handful. History is as unforgiving to talented cousins as it is to errant aides with their hands in the government till, but does history remember these rascals or the person on whose broad shoulders the rascals went about their corrupt business?

The President has very little time left as an absolute decision-maker, he needs to make every day of the next 75 upto Oct 10 count. Pervez Musharraf is a keen student of history and a decisive man of action, he must conduct a quick appraisal of the situation that exists in the land, taking urgent and concrete steps to right wrongs that he must prioritize to set right. And above all, he must closely maintain the “aim” annunciated by him when the Army took over.


General Selections

Very few leaders have faced the series of crises that Pervez Musharraf has in his nearly three years of governance. As absolute military leaders in Pakistan go, he has been a cut above the rest and given that he took the ultimate risk of allowing a free print media, till several weeks ago he has had very good Press. Even the electronic media, Pakistan TV being within strict government control, ARY Digital being patriotically supportive and even though Shaheen Foundation pulled out its money and material support of Indus Vision, it was immediately replaced by frontmen of vested interest, has been very very supportive. Before the Referendum Gen Musharraf was a very popular man, and even though he was clearly the winner by far, a suddenly hostile media “took the laurels from his brow and cast it into the dust”, with apologies for paraphrasing Churchill describing Lord Wavell after Rommel had delivered to the victor of Abyssinia and Eritria a series of stinging defeats in the Desert in the Second World War. As we wound down the 90 days to the October elections and the “natives become restless”, the rhetoric will get rougher. The President will have to have a very tough skin to bear this verbal and written onslaught, particularly when it is only partly deserved. He deserves to have aides who will deflect the attacks rather than pursue their own crass commercial interests.

Lt Gen Tanvir Naqvi is presently the subject of intense political and media vituperation for his proposals concerning the constitutional amendments. While one holds no brief for this theoretical genius with a gift of the gab, one must give him his due, in the circumstances availing in Pakistan over the past 50 years, a major part of the proposed charges are relevant and necessary. Gen Naqvi is not street smart otherwise he would have realized that framing the amendments was only a part of his job, his major task was to sell the package wholly or in parts to a very skeptical public stoked with misinformation by vested politicians determined to maintain the status quo. Because of tactical mistakes made in the run-up to the Referendum the print media became suddenly hostile, assuming for itself the cause of the masses. It is no use doing the right thing, one must be seen to be the right thing. Selling the government’s viewpoint is now Nisar Memon’s domain and he has taken up cudgels quite effectively, supported efficiently by Federal Secretary Anwar Mahmood, a consummate bureaucrat who has been close, as every bureaucrat should be, to every regime that he has served. There is a duality of responsibility here because of the role of Rashid Qureshi who as the military Cardinal really runs the government media and manipulated Javed Jabbar’s ouster. This weakness for being a prima donna lies at the very heart of the military regime, the penchant for self-projection even at the cost of the person he serves. Leaving aside self-interest through proxies, if Qureshi is really loyal to his boss he should ask for another appointment.


Misconceptions about NSC

In his address to the nation last Friday the President touched briefly on Afghanistan before turning to the major event in the future, the general elections on Oct 10, 2002 and the proposals for constitutional amendments thereof for good governance. He was extremely eloquent in elaborating the concept and mechanics the next day at the editors briefing. While the complete subject requires profound analysis and debate, one would like to concentrate on the fundamental misunderstanding of the concept and role of the National Security Council (NSC) as proposed in Pakistan and in vogue in other countries. This misconception badly needs to be corrected, at the moment we are jumping to conclusions because of misnaming of the entities, at least in the Pakistan context.

In the political sense, the NSC, as being proposed by the President, is an 11-member body composed of the President, the PM, the Leader of the Opposition, the four Chiefs Ministers and the four Service chiefs. This NSC would give the Armed Forces an indirect role in governance and act as a escape valve to avoid military intervention in the future. This would also put some restraint on the President in using his arbitrary powers under clause 58(2)b of the Constitution. Given the history of martial laws and dismissal of the PM (twice each Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif), there needs to be a mechanism to serve as a check and balance between the President and the PM. Critics say that the proposal gives too much power to an indirectly-elected President, they conveniently forget that in a parliamentary democracy the PM is also indirectly elected and derives his strength from the same source that gives the President the mandate also. As for giving the Armed Forces a role in governance, the proposal does not give any role in day-to-day governance but in fact mandates a monitoring function expressed as a minority (4 members out of 11) in the NSC.


The Advani Identity

For once ISI is off the hook! By assuming the appointment of India’s Deputy PM, Advani has discarded the charade of who is the real power in the country. The source of the defamatory article in TIME magazine recently about Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee should not have been a mystery, who else stood to benefit other than Lal Krishan Advani? In conducting a pre-mortem of Vajpayee (the whole anatomy was laid bare), TIME reporter Alex Perry had an impeccable source, for good measure his interrogation by Indian immigration authorities shored up his credibility. That Advani’s warped muslim-hunting personality should have his finger (aided and abetted by madcap Defence Minister George Fernandes) as the final authority on the nuclear trigger is scary. Compare the Advani “virility” to the doddering TIME portrayal of “senile” Vajpayee and the thought becomes scarier, this man not only has the penchant but the necessary venom and ruthlessness to initiate a nuclear holocaust in South Asia at the slightest pretext without any inhibitions or qualms whatsoever. His former daughter-in-law, who also served as his confidential secretary for many years, has chronicled his devious, vicious ways in a signed affidavit in a court of law.

India’s democracy prides itself in never have lived under the tutelage of the uniform, as if this is somehow different to being under absolute authoritarian rule under civilian garb, were Hitler and Mussolini army generals? And when Indira Gandhi declared emergency, what happened to India’s democracy? Germany’s Nazis could never be as virulent as India’s Rashtria Sevak Sangh (RSS), incidentally both have Swastikas as their cult’s symbol. Eminent Indian columnist Kuldip Nayar says that Advani, to quote, “is an RSS hardliner and a vociferous exponent of Hindutva Doctrine”, unquote. In layman’s terms, Advani is a charter member of a extreme right wing socio-political religious grouping that not only believes in the Hindu religion’s absolute supremacy over all other religions, it does not permit other religions to even co-exist. And they say fundamentalism exists in Islam! Despite being in numbers many times less than the Hindus they ruled, Islam’s millennium supremacy period is particularly galling for the RSS. When it came to the matter of sacking Gujerat’s muslim-killer Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Vajpayee, supposedly very secular, not only succumbed to RSS pressure within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but labelled most muslims in India as “potential terrorists”.