This is in response to Salman Chima’s column’s “Why I miss Musharraf”. I have great respect of Mr.Chima whom I met in 2005 for my college interview but I do not agree with his apologist defence of Musharraf.
Firstly, he is taking the current setup in Pakistan way too seriously. In the last year, this government has not done ONE single act that Pakistanis can be proud of. It neither represents the Pakistani people or the PPP and is expected to self-destruct in a few months. Many of us who are currently abroad get repeatedly embarrassed by comments such as “Isn’t Mr.10% your President?” or “What was he thinking when he was hitting on Sarah Palin before the media?” that some tend to shun all talk of politics and wish Musharraf back. This is the same educated youth that had actively engaged in political activism for the judiciary only months earlier.
Hence it is important to understand the buildup to the Zardari calamity so that such disasters can be avoided in future and not to let our loathing of the current situation raise Musharraf to a national hero. Other factors notwithstanding, it was the NRO which paved way for our current disposition. Without the NRO, many of those who are in power would be behind bars or in exile. To add to it, Musharraf also sent packing perhaps the only court that was bold enough to take action against the highest officials. Though the NRO may have cleaned their slates it has not altered the character of the beneficiaries and hence our abysmal situation.
Mr. Chima asserts that it only forgave actions up till 1999 and Musharraf did not want to protect his own self and hence highlights Musharraf’s good intentions. This is wrong for two reasons. Firstly the date was chosen to be such that his personal enemy Nawaz Sharif would not be absolved from the plane hijacking case. Secondly Musharraf did not have anything to worry about as he was about to curb the courts of all those judges who could potentially rule against him. Benazir was aware of this fact and left for Dubai during the onset of Martial Law as part of the plan. With an understanding reached with the political party expected to win the upcoming elections and with the judges subservient to the President, Musharraf had nothing to worry about. Today it is Zardari who enjoys a check-free Presidency that Musharraf had earlier envisioned for himself.
With regards to the Lal Masjid issue, the author suggests that there was no other option for the President as it had escalated beyond control. If so why was the Lal Masjid brigade not stopped immediately when they took law into their own hands the first time? Chaudhry Shujaat recently confessed that it was done so that it could become a diversion to the judiciary issue. Perhaps one could dismiss the words of Chaudhry Shujaat as a political statement but many others confirm that Musharraf had deliberately meddled with important events to retain power. Maj General Ehtasham Zamir confessed that the ISI had manipulated elections in 2002. Jemima Khan also wrote about her meeting with Musharraf where he offered many things to Imran Khan in return for support for the Presidency. News has also come of the secret military land allotted to JUI-F for their support to Musharraf. All of these corroborate that Musharraf did use many unlawful means to retain power.
Even if laying siege to the Lal Masjid was the only option, it still did not justify the use of phosphorus based weapons that a former associate of Musharraf, (late) General Jamshed Gulzar acknowledged were used in the operation. Again one could dismiss this as pure rumor, that Musharraf was a very peaceful and tolerant person but his speech on 12th May, where he defended the massacre in Karachi quickly forces us to look at the other side more seriously. The real contention that most of us have is with the loss of innocent live in the operation which could have been avoided by use of softer tactics such as cutting off water and electricity or use of tear gas to smoke the occupants out. Many do allege that water and electricity supply was disconnected, albeit too late.
Even then the cleric had asked for free passage to end the standoff. Given the hundreds of innocent people that died in the siege it would have been perhaps appropriate to give in this demand. However, Musharraf alleged that there would be no negotiation with those who take law into their own hands. This would have been a noble position had Musharraf remained consistent in his principles. On Nov 11th, Musharraf released Mullah Obaidullah and 25 other senior Taliban leaders in return for our own captured soldiers. The cleric could have been arrested later the same way Obaidullah has been. Obaidullah was later released in exchange for the kidnapped Ambassador Azizuddin. Such negotiations have happened in the past and are done by many governments to prevent loss of innocent life. An exception in this case suggests that this was not on principle but rather for some other reason (perhaps Chaudhry Sahib is right for once?).
Secondly what is suspicious is the large amount of alleged ammunition that was not used by the Lal Masjid militants. The cleric was not interested in surrendering but died without ever using the extremely large cache of ammunition that was recovered from the area. With conflicting claims from both sides the people did not know who to trust. The arbitrator in this case was the media which was conveniently denied access to the area. An independent inquiry in this issue would help set things straight which was never initiated by Musharraf. It does seem that Musharraf did have an interest preventing traversing eyes which undertones foul play.
Mr. Chima also points out that the missing people could have voluntarily left their homes to join jihadi camps. The work of the Supreme Court before the martial law shows likewise. There have been many missing people that had been recovered and produced before court. The government had been asked to prove their cases but they instead released them. Habeas Corpus must be extended to all citizens even those accused of any crime. The fact that the Dogar court has failed to take up one case of the missing people ever since its illegal inception, does suggest that not all is clean in the missing people’s case. If the intelligence agencies can prove the cases against them why do they have to bypass the courts. If they can not prove that the alleged are actually guilty do they have any right to keep them in custody? Being the all powerful emperor of the country with cronies in every department these people could not have gone missing without approval from Musharraf.
And there are simply a whole list of other crimes of Musharraf that Mr. Chima has ignored. Who was responsible for the illegal “preventive” house arrest of the judges, the forced jail on thousands of political opponents and lawyers without any charge, the police brutality that was ordered to curb protests, the denial of basic rights to even minors in the families of his political opponents, the orders for a shoot out on May 12, the police attacks on TV stations. According to the author such acts can be condoned given the greater good that he has done.
This only makes me smiles and reminds me of a conversation I had with a Zia apologist who claimed that whatever wrongs Zia did, he should be forgiven as he had done more good for Islam than any other leader in Pakistan and strengthened the nuclear program. Perhaps what was important for him was not as important for Mr. Chima. Who is to set the criteria for what is more important than something? How do you resolve such conflicts? These disputes could go on forever had their been no guideline for us.
That guideline is provided in the Constitution of Pakistan and the country’s penal code. These have laid down the principles to abide by and their relative importance. There are varying punishments for the degrees of crime and exceptions are noted. For instance the penal code understands that in the case of self-defence, the attacker could be killed. The infringement on the latter’s life is only permitted if an innocent would be hurt in the process.
There is one crime that is considered to be worse than murder, rape, kidnapping, arson or corruption – treason. This crime can not be exonerated in any circumstances and no provision for its protection are in the constitution. That is Musharraf’s crime and demands enforcement of Article VI of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The News massively edited it for space reasons (The News) and so you might not get the whole arguments I had written.