Demise of Pervez Musharraf

ByRameez Ansari

An entrepreneur


February 12, 2023

Demise of Pervez Musharraf

Rameez Ansari `looks at a
controversial figure

The demise of Pervez Musharraf was the most controversial head of the state of Pakistan since after the breakup it experienced in 1971. As had happened with all military rulers Musharraf came with a bang but went out with a whimper. The difference between rest of the military rulers was that after departure they faded away but Pervez Musharraf tried to make a comeback but did not succeed. He suffered ignominy when he was compelled to escape from Pakistan in dead of the night after every effort to get him exonerated from the treason charge. Consequently, signifying another difference he was subjected to litigation and was sentenced by the Peshawar High Court to death. Though this sentence was later quashed but the stigma of being the former army chief and former head of the state who was tried and sentenced would remain a significant milestone in the annals of Pakistani history. It is a controversial legacy that he has left behind deep imprints on the process of governance in the country.

It is now commented that the military takeover he undertook was for personal reasons though it was relentlessly propagated as a necessity to preserve national interest and the cohesion of the army as an institution and consequently it was emphasised that the army was saved from the clutches of irresponsible politicians. The takeover was quite controversial within the ranks of the general staff and these differences soon cropped up resulting in high level changes in the army high command. Throughout his tenure he remained on tenterhooks as he could not maintain the unreserved support of his institution. His weakness was also evident as he could not assume the so-called coveted title of chief martial law administrator and was compelled to accept a watered down and highly unusual title of chief executive that was neither here or there in terms of governance.

His grip on power was so tentative that he was forced to somehow obtain approval of the judiciary that was solicited through reportedly dubious methods that granted him an amazing three-year lease on power. Exactly like his military predecessors he tinkered with constitutional regulations and succeeded in clawing back the infamous article 58(2)-b that gave him the power to disband legislatures and sack democratic governments. He also seriously disrupted the formation and operation of civil bureaucracy through convoluted perception of his colleagues and this disruption badly rattled the civil administrative machinery of the government and caused fissures that have still not adequately healed. Similarly many state institutions were made to accommodate serving and retired army officers causing lopsided polarisation within structure of state.

During the course of controversial rule Musharraf violated the constitution twice and his policies throughout were a load of inconsistencies and it became clear that his only intention was to cling on to power. Though his whimsically authoritarian rule was interspersed with liberal reforms yet he failed to convince the country of his sincerity to the national cause. After deposing the-then prime minister and subsequently getting him convicted of hijacking the national airliner thereby endangering the lives of the passengers, he conducted a sudden turnaround and exiled the former PM and his family to the comforts of Jeddah. Musharraf found the field clear as Benazir Bhutto was already in self-exile and vowed to leave his mark on the country.

His rule was progressively getting more untenable until the events of 9/11 brought this region into the global spotlight once again, with the West more than happy to work with the president-general to achieve their goals in Afghanistan. His Afghan policy created more problems not only for Pakistan but also the region as the Afghan conflict raged on to more than a decade after Musharraf was dislodged from power. He was accused for allegedly pandering to the Western leadership and compromising Pakistan’s national interest on the altar of an exigency that prolonged his rule. The pressures of 9/11 however helped the advent of the media ecosystem but with his typical contradictory policies he cracked down on the media as it started criticising his rule. Another obvious contradiction was that despite his reputation as the man responsible for the Kargil debacle, he advocated for peace with India and shook hands with Indian PM who he refused to salute while his visit to Lahore during the tenure of the civil dispensation. The most potent difficulty he created for the governance structure was the National Accountability Bureau that operated on the convoluted principle of guilty-unless-proven-innocent rather than the globally recognised legal principle that is completely opposite of it.

Pervez Musharraf was hospitalised in Dubai for three weeks in June last year. It was then reported that he was going through a difficult stage where recovery was not possible and his organs were malfunctioning. His illness came to light in 2018 when the party he formed, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) announced that he was suffering from the rare disease amyloidosis. Amyloidosis is a group of rare, serious conditions caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues throughout the body. The build-up of amyloid proteins or deposits can make it difficult for the organs and tissues to work properly. It was reported that this condition had weakened his nervous system as at the time he was being treated in London.

Earlier in March 2014, Musharraf was indicted for suspending the Constitution in November 2007 and tremendous efforts were undertaken to get him out of this situation but the badly-bitten politicians dug their heels and insisted that the breach of constitution could not be condoned. In order to survive politically, Musharraf formed questionable alliances with the PMLQ in Punjab and MQM in Sindh thereby making almost all political elements his enemies who were keen to see him prosecuted. It was reported that his casual approach in ensuring security of Benazir Bhutto led to her unfortunate death that rocked Pakistan particularly Sindh. His contradictory policies also resulted in the Red Mosque debacle in Islamabad that very potently weakened his grip on power. Moreover, it also brought about two assassination attempts against him that he survived. His policies with reference to Balochistan exacerbated the federal-provincial relations particularly after the killing of the prominent Baloch Sardar Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006.

During his stint in power Musharraf antagonized almost all segments of the polity including the higher judiciary, and by extension, the lawyer community. The lawyers’ agitation became the proverbial last straw on camel’s back and Musharraf could not survive its jolts. This was probably the outcome of his lack of prudence and inflated ego as the arbitrary sacking of the incumbent CJ of Supreme Court could not be taken in reasonable frame of mind. He stayed true to his prurient belief in defying the odds but ultimately he failed in all his endeavours. It was progressively clear that the potency of his institution was primarily instrumental in keeping him in power otherwise he seriously lacked in governance capability. Defying common sense Musharraf returned to Pakistan as his inflated ego made him to over-estimate his popularity amongst masses but the acute paucity of his supporters coming to receive him at the airport took wind out of his sails and he was visibly embarrassed. TW

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