It would be funny if the fate of 160 million Pakistanis did not depend on it. I grew up hearing General Zia talking about justifying every stupid act of his on Islam and the nation. Now, it is Musharraf’s turn.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, said Thursday that he may renege on his pledge to step down as army chief of staff because “the vast majority” of the Pakistani people “want me in uniform” and fear that he would be weakened without it.
How did Pervez Musharraf find out the opinions of the vast majority when he can’t move around the country without a huge security contingent and closure of roads?
Musharraf said conditions in the country have changed since he promised in a nationally televised address last Dec. 24 to leave the army as part of a deal with opposition lawmakers that would allow him to remain president through 2007.
“It’s primarily the security of Pakistan, the internal conditions,” he said in an interview. “There’s too much happening around,” he continued, citing terrorist threats and potentially divisive battles over the sharing of limited water resources.
Yes, it is always the national interest that these generals have at heart, never their own personal ambitions.
But Musharraf, 61, said that whether he stays in uniform has “nothing to do with democracy,” adding, “It’s only the Western media, which is attaching, linking my uniform with democracy.”
So true! An army general running the country has got nothing to do with democracy.
Musharraf said he had not made a final decision about whether to stay on as army chief of staff. He said he was “still looking at the pulse of the people” and noted that he has until the end of the year to make up his mind. Musharraf pledged to give up his military post as part of a deal late last year with an alliance of Muslim fundamentalist parties, the Muttahida Majlis Amal, to secure their backing for constitutional changes that would effectively legitimize his presidency through 2007.
For the last several months, Musharraf has dropped hints that he is reconsidering his pledge, and other senior officials have started to prepare public opinion for a reversal that foreign diplomats and Pakistani analysts regard as all but inevitable. Earlier this week, the legislative assembly in Punjab, one of Pakistan’s four provinces, passed a resolution calling on Musharraf to keep his uniform, a plea that has since been repeated by cabinet ministers as well as by Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan’s new prime minister.
Musharraf hasn’t decided (right!), that’s why his underlings are making so many statements for him to stay in uniform.
In the interview, Musharraf bristled when asked whether he was reluctant to step down as army chief — and name a replacement — for fear that in doing so he would effectively create a new rival. “I know that the army follows me,” he said. “I know they are with me, and the next chief of army staff will be appointed by me. And he’ll be a person who is most loyal to me, obviously, so I don’t see this issue of the army being a center of power or being some kind of a competition or a tussle between me and the army.”
The real issue, Musharraf said, was “more in the realm of the perception of the people of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan think that the strength of a president is much more than the strength of a president out of uniform… . I know that the vast majority of the people, from all the mail that I’ve seen and all the telephone calls, do want me in uniform… . If their perceptions change that I have been weakened, maybe it won’t be good for Pakistan.”
Notice how he conflates his person and the country.
And as if that was not enough, there are reports of Musharraf planning to promote himself to Field Marshal.
Ending months of speculation, General Musharraf has informed the US and UK and his closest friends and advisors of his decision to promote himself to field marshal in October.
This last news item about the perennial lawsuit-filer MD Tahir is quite funny and sad in a way.
Advocate MD Tahir has moved the Lahore High Court asking the Federation of Pakistan to get rid of democracy and declare the country a kingdom with General Pervez Musharraf its first king.
Mr Tahir referred to several incidents of overthrowing democratic governments which had let the country down and said every time a dictator came into power sycophants people gather around him to guard their vested interests.
The dictator in order to keep his rule secure fully manipulates them through sham elections and people indeed favourite to him only are chosen, said the petitioner. The petitioner said this practice did not represent a true democratic will of the people but reflected the will of the people ruled by kings.
Mr Tahir said when politicians themselves wanted to see General Pervez Musharraf in uniform for an infinite time even after the constitutional deadline of December 31, the circumstances demand that Pakistan should be declared a Kingdom and democracy should be discarded once for all.
May be Pervez Musharraf will like to be king. But one thing is sure: he still won’t give up his army uniform.
UPDATE: Some gems from the New York Times:
Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said in an interview on Monday that his leadership was freeing his country from the menace of extremism and that this national “renaissance” might be lost if he kept his pledge to step down as army chief at the end of this year.
[…] Of his promise to serve only as the country’s civilian president after Dec. 31, General Musharraf said, “Yes, I did give my word that I would.” The step has been viewed as fulfilling his larger promise to return Pakistan to democratic rule, “but the issue is now far greater than this,” he said.
[…] “I’m sorry, I don’t want to boast about myself,” he said, “but there is a renaissance, there is a big change we are trying to bring about.”
Though he said he had not yet decided to remain army chief beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, he asked pointedly, “How did General de Gaulle continue in uniform all through his period as president of France, and France is a democratic country?”
Is Musharraf talking about De Gaulle’s leadership during World War II and the immediate postwar period till 1946? How does that compare to the Pakistani situation today?