It is still a one man show in Pakistan.
President Pervez Musharraf, who threw out a
ruled for eight years and manipulated
the constitution to become the president for
the second term, still stands firm as the
political whirlwinds swirl around him.
Within the country, the two main political
parties - the Pakistan People's Party (PPP),
now being led by Asif Zaradari, the husband
of the assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto,
and the Pakistan Muslim League PLM (N) led
by Nawaz Sharif are demanding that he steps
down from presidency for free and fair
elections to be held.
Radical Islamic forces have been and still
are attempting to assassinate him. But the
former army commander is not budging.
Responding to demands within the country as
well as from abroad, particularly America,
that an international commission investigate
the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, he only
ask for assistance of Britain's
Scotland Yard to help Pakistani
Sri Lankans know the farcical value of
calling in Scotland Yard for such
investigations such as in the Lalith
Athulathmudali and N. Raviraj assassination
probes. In investigations of such
politically charged killings, the famed
investigators of Scotland Yard, ignorant of
local politics and procedures are reduced to
comical characters such as Thompson and
Thomson depicted by a local cartoonist when
they were here.
Parliamentary elections that were scheduled
for January 8 have been postponed to
February 18 even though both leaders of the
PPP and the MLM (N) wanted it to be held on
schedule because the sympathy vote for
Benazir and antipathy for Musharraf would be
great if elections are held early. But last
week the Elections Commission appointed by
Musharraf decided otherwise.
The President's opponents demand that he
steps down if free and fair elections are to
be held, and democracy and political
stability return to Pakistan while the
Federation of Pakistan is not to
disintegrate. Others say that Musharraf is
the only stabilising force able to hold the
country which has been wracked by terrorist
violence and Islamic extremism.
The battle lines, it is said are drawn
between the military backed government of
Musharraf and the 'moderate majority.' The
moderates declare that they would not settle
for anything less than genuine democracy.
They want doing away with the courts stacked
with Musharraf's appointees, replacement of
the partial interim government of Musharraf,
removal of gags placed on the media, release
of political prisoners and appointment of a
neutral elections commissioner for free and
fair elections to be held
During this entire political crisis the
military dictator has given away very
little. He gave up his post as army chief of
staff under pressure of the American allies,
restored the constitution he had suspended,
removed martial law and lifted the
Even though the liberal moderates now are
bitterly opposed to the President, it is
pointed out by political analysts that after
he seized power, the Pakistani elite
believed in his slogan of enlightened
moderation and did not consider him to be a
general in uniform. Musharraf, by his suave
ways and clever posturing both at home and
abroad, was considered an enlightened
When he staged the coup against Nawaz Sharif
in 1999, most civil society leaders welcomed
him, an analyst points out. His anti
democratic illiberal stances were ignored
and were considered as a 'liberator' when
their lifestyles were protected at the cost
of democracy, particularly after 9/11. This
influential section supported him for seven
years till the he clashed with the judiciary
and the lawyers took place.
Can democratic parties govern?
If free and fair elections are held it is
very likely that the PPP and the PLM (N)
would emerge winners particularly because
they have agreed to combine their forces.
But the combination of the two forces which
have been bitter rivals has never been
tested and whether a power sharing
government is possible, is anybody's guess.
A crucial issue that is ignored is that
whichever party that is elected will have to
toe the line of the army - the actual power
in the country. The army has ruled the
country directly for a greater part after
independence and even when civilian
governments were in power they had to toe
the army line.
Zulficar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father was
hanged by army strongman Zia-ul Haq, and
Benazir Bhutto was sacked twice from the
premiership at the behest of the army, while
Nawaz Sharif was thrown out in a coup by
Musharraf in 1999. Any other civilian
government is very likely to be subjected to
the same conditions.
But Musharraf still holds the reins and has
the backing of his former army colleagues.
Unless he is removed by an army coup or
assassinated, he is unlikely to be replaced,
however much liberal Pakistanis may wish.
Meanwhile the situation in Pakistan has
become an issue in the American presidential
election. While President Bush and his
administration continue to back their
faithful ally despite him becoming an
embarrassment, the Democrats are using
Musharraf against the Republicans.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party front
runner last week was severely critical of
the Pakistani President. She has accused the
Bush administration of giving a 'blank
cheque' to Musharraf and refers to the
'failed policies in Pakistan.' The
Democratic Party had made known its policies
on Pakistan at the primaries, analysts have
Perhaps it would be of interest to the Sri
Lankan government to study this aggressive
foreign policy that is being pursued by
Hillary Clinton, the front runner.
While Musharraf's anti democratic moves which
have President Bush tongue tied, is grist to
the mills of the Democrats, they have yet to
name a possible replacement. Bill
Richardson, a Democrat who is tipped to be
Hillary Clinton's running mate had said in
an interview that Hillary Clinton should ask
Musharraf to step down. But when asked to
identify a replacement, had failed to do so.
Hillary Clinton too had had a severe gaff
last week in the Wolf Blitzer Show when she
made a statement which implied that she
thought Musharraf would be contesting the