Asian experts react negatively to Musharraf’s uniform retention
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The reaction among South Asian experts to President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to remain in uniform continues to be negative.
Ms Teresita Schaffer, head of the South Asia programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Sudies, when asked how she viewed President Musharraf’s announcement, replied, “It’s now official, if not surprising that President Musharraf, plans to continue as chief of the Army. He persuaded the parliament to make it legal. At one level, this does not matter very much. Musharraf would in any case have retained most power in the country’s political system. Even if he had stepped down as army chief, he would have named the next chief, and would presumably have been able to sack him in the unlikely event of major disagreements. But the fact that the decision to stay on does not significantly change the power equation in a way makes it all the more disheartening.’
According to Ms Schaffer, “Musharraf has argued that he needed to retain both posts in the interests of continuity. Surely he could have assured continuity while holding one of the jobs and retaining the power to name the other. His unwillingness to part with any of the multiple sources of power he holds, in a political system already dominated by himself personally and the army institutionally, makes it clear that he does not want any civilian person or institution to expand its share of public power in Pakistan. This is why Pakistan’s civilian political institutions remain stunted, and it helps to explain why so many Pakistanis are utterly cynical about political life and politicians. The key question for Pakistan’s political future is: Will Pakistan’s civilian leaders and institutions have the wisdom, the persistence and the boldness to find another way to become a major factor in the country’s public square? That task has now become more difficult.”
Dennis Kux, former US ambassador and author of two noteworthy books on India and Pakistan, told Daily Times in answer to a question, “The final announcement is not a surprise since Musharraf had prepared the ground over the past months, including the passage of necessary legislation. Having said that he intended to take off his uniform and now that he is actually doing the opposite is hardly a sign of confidence on his part. How this will play out will have to be seen. Perhaps, it will be accepted with a shrug of the shoulders by the political world. After all, the ‘referendum’ in 2002 did not cause much stir. Perhaps not. But with times relatively prosperous in Pakistan, the sense of grievance and upset that brought Ayub down three decades does not appear to be at hand.”
K. Alan Kronstadt, Analyst in Asian Affairs, Congressional Research Service when asked for his reaction, said, “I suppose this widely expected decision could be considered wise given Pakistan’s current circumstances, but clearly the United States had viewed the President’s retirement from the army as an important step toward full civilian rule in Islamabad, so the longer-term implications are not clear and may even represent a setback for the process of democratization.”