FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Musharraf, Imran Khan and Overseas Pakistanis

by AYESHA IJAZ KHAN

Although their politics is polls apart, there is one thing that Musharraf and Imran Khan have in common. Both have more support abroad than within Pakistan . Pakistani expatriates, often disturbed by the poverty, lacking social welfare infrastructure and corruption they find on annual trips home, come back pining for “radical change,” a familiar refrain of Imran Khan’s support base. It was this yearning for radical change in fact that led many overseas Pakistanis to initially back Musharraf’s military coup against Nawaz Sharif’s elected government in October 1999.

To be honest, by late 1999, Nawaz Sharif had alienated most of his voters, in spite of the fact that in February 1997 he had swept the polls with a formidable majority. Draconian press controls, a dollar freeze that led the rupee to tumble, constant changing of army chiefs and a desire to become the ameer ul momineen (ruler of the faithful) which smacked more of an archaic kingship than a modern day democracy led few to shed tears for Nawaz Sharif when Musharraf announced a coup in mid-air and took over the reins of power.

Nevertheless, it was during the eight years of Musharraf’s military rule that Pakistanis realized the importance of well-functioning democratic institutions and the rule of law. A courageous two-year lawyers’ movement led to the restoration of a judiciary that now works independent of pressure from the executive and legislature. A vibrant and free press, initially supported by Musharraf’s government, was thwarted when it criticized the ruling regime. But the media, like the lawyers, refused to comply with unreasonable restrictions and fought for their freedom. Most importantly, for the first time in Pakistan ’s history, the military was openly blamed for the ills of society. A new and fresh transparency within Pakistan led many to conclude that democracy, with all its ills, is the best alternative and that in order to benefit from it fully Pakistanis would have to develop mechanisms to hold their leaders accountable. Thus, reform-minded Pakistanis have focused their energies on attaining an independent judiciary, a free press and a neutral army.

Yet, overseas Pakistanis, often unaware of how rapidly democratic institutions are evolving within Pakistan and how quickly the politics is maturing, are still searching for one-man saviours. A newly-formed London-based group called the “lovers of Musharraf” is looking to re-launch the retired general into politics. Comprising mostly of well-connected businessmen who had financially benefited from investing in real estate and the stock market during Musharraf’s time and are entirely unaware of the large sections of society who never saw the trickle down effect of his economic policies, not to mention the looming charges of treason against Musharraf for imposing a second martial law on November 3, 2007, think that Musharraf was the best thing that ever happened to Pakistan and must be brought back into power.

On the other end of the spectrum, are the Imran Khan supporters. For them, nothing in Pakistan has ever gone right. In spite of the fact that in a recent poll eighty percent of the country is supporting the military in its fight against the Taliban, the Imran Khan supporters continue to refer to it as “ America ’s war” and Mr. Khan insists that the Pakistani army is playing a mercenary role. His supporters deride the VIP culture of the politicians in power and constantly blame the west generally, and America in particular, for propping up corrupt leadership that does not think in the national interest because their own assets and children are abroad. Conveniently, they overlook the fact that Mr. Khan’s own children are also abroad and are, in all likelihood, being funded by assets abroad, even if those assets do not belong to Mr. Khan himself.

Within Pakistan however most potential voters are looking to the mainstream political parties to reinvent themselves. In addition to an assertive judiciary and vigilant press, several politically active pressure groups are organizing for change and yielding positive results. A few days ago, for the first time in Pakistan ’s history and owing to the efforts of some dedicated activists, a feudal lord, who had illegally appropriated village land, was forced to return it to its rightful owners, the Kashkeli peasants. In other news, President Zardari’s handpicked nominee for the Ambassador to Paris post was collectively rejected by the Foreign Office and several retired ambassadors. Since the members of the Foreign Service refused to accept the President’s choice, the Prime Minister intervened and reversed the President’s decision.

The Prime Minister, Yousaf Reza Gillani, is slowly but surely asserting himself. A conciliatory personality and not a beneficiary of the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance that has pardoned other allegedly corrupt politicians (including President Zardari), Prime Minister Gillani is trying to be responsive to the critiques of the press and the needs of the people. In a recent interview, he declared that he wanted to make appointments based on merit, and not on the liking of any one individual, hinting at President Zardari’s nepotistic style. Gillani also spoke out against a recent law initiated by President Zardari’s cronies that sought to punish those who poked fun at Zardari through text messages and emails. If there is one thing that can bring a government down in Pakistan , it is restricting free speech. It contributed to both Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf’s downfall. The late Benazir Bhutto never attempted to curb freedom of expression and yet President Zardari is slow to learn, but Gillani is an older hand at politics and were he to assert himself further, he would find support from many corners.

Neither is the close scrutiny of the public representatives limited to those in government. The opposition has also felt the heat lately, as one prominent Pakistani recently confided to me, “It has become very difficult to be a politician in Pakistan .” Four members of Nawaz Sharif’s party have recently been the subject of public disdain and there is considerable pressure on Mr. Sharif to expel them from his party. One of his party members has been accused of rape, another of harassing customs officials, and a third, a female member of the national assembly, has been caught on CCTV buying jewellery on a stolen credit card. While previously the rich and powerful could get away with much in Pakistan . Things are different today. With a media able and willing to disgrace and a judiciary with a mind of its own, the threat of accountability is far more real than it used to be.

The future of Pakistan ’s politics thus belongs to men and women from the mainstream political parties who are able to distinguish themselves from their colleagues and demonstrate that they really have the people’s interests at heart. It does not belong to fringe politicians like Musharraf and Imran Khan, both of whom claim to represent the silent majority but cannot prove it at the polls.

The writer is a London-based lawyer turned political commentator. Website: www.ayeshaijazkhan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ayesha Khan is a lawyer and author of “Rodeo Drive to Raja Bazaar“.  Twitter:  @ayeshaijazkhan  Website:  www.ayeshaijazkhan.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail