Editorial: Soft landing for Musharraf?
A credible source in the high command of the PPP has said that President Pervez Musharraf is prepared to leave office in weeks and not months in order to avoid the possibility of any unpleasant confrontation arising out of any attempt to impeach him. Of course, the president’s spokesmen and party loyalists say nothing of the sort is planned and that the president intends to complete his full five-year term. It is also known that the PPP doesn’t yet have the numbers to go after him in parliament and that it might have to wait until next year when the senate elections will provide the magic figure. But given the common anti-Musharraf sentiment in Pakistan, an impeachment would be popular, to say the least. But the PPP says it would rather see him go with “some dignity” if he gives up the presidency voluntarily.
Meanwhile, the opposition, lawyers and a coterie of ex-army officers and bureaucrats are clamouring to have President Musharraf prosecuted for acts of omission and commission when he was in power. Mr Nawaz Sharif and his PMLN followers lead the pack seeking revenge for alleged personal and institutional affronts. Under the circumstances, President Musharraf would do the right thing by surveying the national scene, taking the pulse of the exaggeratedly negative passions of the people at large and decide on his departure well before any move for impeachment is made. We say this because there is a serious problem with an agreement within the ruling coalition on what to do with him once he is out of office.
The motivation behind any attempt by the PPP to agree to impeach him would clearly be its unwillingness to be seen at large as tolerating a personality that its own rank and file do not care for too much. And they have a reason for hating him. One can recall his own negative remarks about the party and Mr Zardari after having signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Unfortunately, there is now a competition in the country on how harshly one can criticise the president, and the PMLN seems to be winning against the PPP. Mr Sharif has made his mind public on what he would like President Musharraf to go through after being deposed. He wants criminal proceedings against him on charges of treason. But as soon as the nemesis descends on President Musharraf, other accusations will surely start piling up too.
The worst part is that President Musharraf’s own erstwhile protégés are now speaking out against him. And the two recent ones who came on TV to bad-mouth him once formed a part of his policy to overload the civilian system with serving and retired army officers on attractive salaries and perks and plots. In this context it would be fair to say that General (Retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kayani, one such greatly favoured recipient, has touched the extreme in his own ham-handed and dishonest way by recommending that President Musharraf be tried and punished for the 1999 coup, for Kargil, for Lal Masjid etc. No one has bothered to ask him why he didn’t resign if he had disagreed with President Musharraf’s policies. Indeed, no one has bothered to list the favours he received as a key member of President Musharraf’s team when all these events took place. Another general, General (Retd) Abdul Qayyum, who got the lucrative post of chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, has already recommended the registration of an FIR against him. General (Retd) Asad Durrani, who served as his loyal ambassador, and General (retd) Moinuddin Haider, who was his interior minister and also governor of Sindh province, are also in an unforgiving mood. President Musharraf did not listen to anyone when he was being advised not to bung the civilian bureaucracy with his buddies from the army. Now the same buddies are baying for his blood. Another gathering of retired generals has suggested an even more terrifying fate for him, notwithstanding the fact that many of them should have faced accountability for their own deeds when they enjoyed offices of power in the country.
The regime of President Musharraf had two generally accepted successes to its name — foreign policy and the economy — which actually started to sour gradually over a period of time till they reached collapse by the end of 2007. His foreign policy got stuck regionally when he could not decide to break the fetters of the old routine towards India despite his “out of the box” approach, and he kept losing ground against the rising tide of terrorism in Pakistan and its spill-over into Afghanistan. He also made a great mistake when he didn’t listen to criticism against Mr Shaukat Aziz, his finance minister and prime minister, for recklessly opting for a model of short-term growth that was unsustainable in the medium term. World Bank officials say that they told Mr Aziz that he would get into trouble with the energy situation following the high growth rate that the country was posting.
Therefore the fact that the PPP is willing to give him an honourable exit is good news because Pakistan has the reputation by now of fouling up all kinds of accountability. Both the mainstream parties did it to each other until their conscience forced them to repent. Pakistan’s foreign friends are already inclined to advise moderation in this regard. And once Mr Musharraf is gone from the corridors of power, the performance or lack of it of governments in the post-Musharraf period will finally help the passionate people of Pakistan to decide whether his role in the country’s history was wholly negative or partially positive. *
Second Editorial: Dr AQ Khan’s recantation
Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan told the US media on Tuesday that “he was not responsible for passing nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya”. He said he had introduced Tripoli and Tehran to Western businesses that provided information on building a nuclear weapons programme. But it is not too long ago — in fact it was in February 2004 — that he had sung a different song, that he had run a network that passed atomic secrets, equipment and technological advice to Iran, North Korea and Libya over a period of 15 years. He now says he had merely given Iran and Libya “small advice” on where to acquire the technology from.
This recantation is difficult to swallow for most half-informed people. But Pakistanis are likely to swallow it because he is after all the “national hero” and the great “mohsin” or benefactor of the population of Pakistan. The problem is that his latest “modification” is not going to convince anyone in the world outside, including the IAEA, where he is regarded as a big spider in the middle of a web of nuclear contraband at the global level. The coalition government may reinstate him — “restoration” and “reinstatement” is the passion these days — but it will have problems getting the world to accept him back as a normal scientist. *