To Vote or Not to Vote

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Another dark period in Pakistan’s political history is shaping up, a history already tarnished by coups, political intrigues, judicial executions, civil war (s) and a dismemberment. Throughout these times of upheavals it has been our warriors in the Army who have been at the helm of the affairs directly or indirectly. Always above the law, above the constitution (and in reality above the country) these generals have held the nation at gunpoint. With the black sheep in the judiciary in complicity, the will of the gun-holder has held sway over the law of the land. The recent gimmick of referendum is yet another example of an unabashed attempt to sanctify the usurping of political power.

The people of Pakistan are too tired to resist, having seen it all, over and over again. —- the blunders in 1965, the shameful surrender in East Pakistan, the loss of Siachen and Kargil, the execution of an elected prime minister and the disgraceful retreat from Afghanistan and Kashmir. Now the people are being bulldozed into a referendum with pre-determined results, soon to be followed by a sham general election.

Like many of you I was also ecstatic on 12th October 1999, thinking that the era of one man show, corruption, subservience and dependence on foreign alms is about to end. But my word, what a huge disappointment this man Musharraf has been. The state media may be blaring in his favor and the state organized and army administered political gathering of hired-crowds may be pulling wool over some eyes. The real facts are contrary to the propaganda. Here is a fact sheet about Musharraf’s performance in the last two and half years. Please think over it before you decide to vote Yes for Musharraf. I am writing as a person who has been transformed from a Musharraf admirer to a disillusioned critic because of the following:

Dishonesty

The military justified the October 1999 takeover giving all sorts of reasons which we now realize are all bogus and just after thoughts. In reality Musharraf and his junta had mutinied against an elected prime minister when the former was legally dismissed for intriguing against the democratically elected government.

The state propaganda machine constantly reminds us of political cronyism in the past. Look at what is happening now? Since Musharraf’s take over, the top civilian posts in the bureaucracy have been flooded with hundreds of army officers. They are everywhere, in the secretariat, lucrative corporations, a dozen ambassadorial assignments, the governor houses, sports bodies and even as heads of academic institutions. Most of these army men have played their innings having retired from lucrative army posts with the accompanying perks. This is happening in a country where talented and qualified young civilians are running from pillar to post looking for their first job or groveling outside some foreign embassy seeking visas to immigrate.

Musharraf is crying hoarse over “corrupt politicians”. We all know they were corrupt, Benazir and Nawaz Sharif included. But we expected better of the military men. Instead Musharraf’s referendum campaign is being supported by politicians of extremely dubious character. The Chaudhrys of Gujarat (the notorious robbers of Co-operatives money), Farooq Leghari (who siphoned billions from Mehran bank) and Imran Khan (a pseudo liberal and a hypocrite). All of them are political rejects and are supporting Musharraf in order to get into the parliament through the back door. And look who is the master of ceremony for General Musharraf’s political meetings? It is none other than Tariq Aziz of neelam-ghar fame. Do you remember that he was once a die hard Jiyala of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then became a fan of Zia ul Haq, then an ardent supporter of Nawaz Sharif, even leading the invasion of Supreme Court in support. Now this turncoat has joined Musharraf. I leave you to judge Musharraf himself by the company he keeps.

Using the commando uniform of Pakistan army as a cover, Musharraf is addressing the state-managed rallies and making speeches trying to copy political leaders. The tirades against his political opponents and the false and grandiose promises do not suit a man in uniform, let alone the Commander in chief of Pakistan army . In this gimmickry he is defaming the already hugely dented prestige of the armed forces. If he thinks he is so popular why doesn’t Musharraf show courage by shedding the Army uniform and participating in an election as an independent candidate.

Violation of Constitution and Shredding the Rule of Law

Subversion of the 1973 constitution is high treason. The judiciary is a partner in this crime having given the generals the justification to rule by invoking the “rule of necessity”. If one of the generals was punished in the past no one would have dared to usurp power again. We the public, is also guilty because we get ecstatic when a civilian government gets dismissed by the army. But our memories are small. We forget that in this process only one crook has replaces another one.

Generals like Musharraf have consistently manipulated the political affairs even during civilian rule. They are the ones who gave the country all the rotten politicians of the last two decades. Remember the 10 crore Rupees disbursed by Generals Beg and Hamid Gul to create IJI? Since then all the subsequent civilian governments were created and dismissed directly or indirectly by the army. Nawaz Sharif was an army stooge so was Altaf Hussein. Benazir happily flirted with the army to get into power and to get Nawaz dismissed. Has Musharraf ever condemned these corrupt conspiracies by the army?

Incompetence, Treachery and Cowardice

The operational plan for Kargil existed since the last 20 years at least. The strategy was not devised by Musharraf. After the initial success of the Pakistani soldiers, Musharraf lost many of the captured peaks because he failed to protect his troops from relentless bombardment by the Indian air force. This was poor planning or cowardice or both. As a result during the Kargil operation hundreds of Pakistani soldiers were martyred. This was a huge and wasteful loss of life. Nothing was gained in the end except humiliation. Yet in an interview, Musharraf said in his usual boastful way, “Kargil operation was a great military success”. What success did Pakistan or the martyred soldiers achieve? Musharraf should have been court-martialled for the failure.

The Kargil retreat was a face saver for Musharraf. He was party to the cabinet meeting which urged Nawaz Sharif to go to Washington and seek a political settlement. Yet he and his generals subsequently blamed the retreat on the civilian government. They didn’t they stage a coup before the Washington agreement. Why not then?

Taliban and Mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan were the allies of Musharraf. But in the aftermath of September 2001, it took just one phone call from Colin Powel for Musharraf to beat a disgracefully hasty retreat. According to another retired general “Musharraf lost the work of 22 years of Afghan efforts in half a minute of cowardice”. Suddenly the Afghan allies became the enemies. The religious parties who were strategic partners of Musharraf’s army, became “religious fanatics”. It is wrong to say that Pakistan did not have any other options. Even if confrontation with the Americans was not desirable, being their hand maiden was utterly disgraceful. Look at Iran how it has played its cards despite the declared animosity of Americans and the Israelis. The shameful manner in which an atomic power capitulated and the way Musharraf started to sing the American songs have squeezed out the little self respect that was left in Pakistan.

American Puppet

Never has there been so disgraceful dancing to the tune of Uncle Sam in the history of Pakistan. With Americans openly dictating their terms, occupying airbases, FBI checking and humiliating Pakistani Hajj passengers on board PIA flights, American troops roaming all over Pakistan and raiding cities at will. Even in the past history of Pakistani subservience to America, all this never happened. We are now worse than the banana republics of Latin America.

What did Pakistan get in return? Hundreds of Pakistanis were burnt to death in Qila-i- Jhangi, thousands captured and tortured to death elsewhere in Afghanistan and many more thousands languishing in American jails and those of Afghan thugs. Has Musharraf ever done anything to help these people. Has he ever said any word to condemn or even express sorrow. Tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians must have died during American bombing. Yet Musharraf provided bases to these killing machines against fellow Muslims. Traitors like Mir Jaffar wouldn’t have done a better job.

What happened to the historic financial gains that Musharraf and his parrot Gen. Rashid Qureshi kept promising the Pakistanis. Did the debt got written off? Instead we incurred huge losses to the county’s economy and industry, the investors have fled, and business confidence is in the dumps.

The real reason for this farcical referendum and Musharraf’s clinging to power is that the Americans want him to continue their agenda. The roll back from Afghanistan, Kashmir and the nuclear program is answerable to anyone within the country by a military man. Once the job is done and Musharraf’s utility outlived, he will be booted out. Remember Ayub Khan’s fate after writing “Friends not Masters”? Or even worse it may be Zia ul Haq’s fate.

Security Risk – Kashmir and Nuclear Program

Under American pressure Musharraf fired the heads of KRL and PINSTECH. Do we really know what is happening to the Pakistan’s nuclear program now?

Under American and Indian pressure, Musharraf withdrew the support to the Kashmiri mujahideen. Gone is the half a century of Kashmir policy. (Musharraf’s election rhetoric is a camouflage). The ground reality is that even Vajpayee has acknowledged Pakistan’s compliance on Kashmir. But India wants even more, since it has tasted Musharraf’s timidity. With troops massed on the border, India continues to threat Pakistan in a way it has never done in the last 57 years. In reply Musharraf continues to beg the Indians, pleading them to withdraw their forces, offering them “friendship” and asking them not to treat Pakistan as “dirt or scum”. What kind of army chief is this.

If a civilian head of state had done even one tenth of all this, the army establishment would have instantly labeled him/her a security risk and hung him with the lamp post. Now it is the Sipah e Salar of Pakistan army who is security risk to the country’s strategic interests and getting away with it.

Hacking at the Ideology of Pakistan

Musharraf claims that he has a ” divine mandate” to rule Pakistan. (I wonder whether divine means America to him). Currently he is being showered with praise by the West as the great “visionary” the “bold leader” etc. etc. Like the famous character of a fly who was praised and trapped by a spider in Allama Iqbal’s poem all this praise has gone into Muharraf’s head. He is making a lot of senseless statements to please his masters. He is even attempted to undo the very basics of the ideological foundations of Pakistan in the name of modernization and progress.

Beggar’s Economy

A lot of hyperbole is being churned out about the bulging foreign reserves. Where is the money? The people are jobless, jumping off Minar-e-Pakistan in desperation. The electricity, telephone, petrol and gas is getting more expensive. The loan sharks like IMF and World Bank are just giving enough for Pakistan to stay afloat and continue to follow American dictates. The coming generations will have to pay back these deferred loans by selling more national interests.

In this background, Musharraf has increased his salary and perks many folds, the army elites continue to enjoy the allotment of precious land at throw away prices. State machinery and billions of rupees meant for poor Pakistanis are being utilized to hold Musharraf’s public meeting, bribing the journalists to sing pro-government songs and horse trading of the Nazims and councilors. Billions more are planned to be squandered to hold the referendum.

Law and Order

Past civilian governments were blamed and dismissed for law and order problems. Has the law and order problems become better now? Bombs are exploding in churches and mosques, doctors being killed in Karachi, missiles being fired in Islamabad, State buildings being put on fire. Extremists? Sectarian murders? Foreign terrorists? But where are the security agencies? No culprit is ever caught! Yet the two jokers in the military junta, Moin Haider and Rashid Qureshi continue to make ludicrous claims in the media.

Lack of Accountability and More Hypocrisy

Like all military rulers Musharraf continues to harp about accountability of the currupt. Why is this accountability only limited for the opposition politicians and civil servants. There is no accountability of the military. The disgraced characters in the Dhaka defeat are still alive but have not been punished, not even tried. The Hamood ur Rehman commission was hidden and only published partially after Times of India published it first. Then summarily dismissed by Musharraf. The army generals have minted billions in Afghan war. There have been dubious arms deals like the purchase of tanks and aircrafts etc with huge kick backs; never reported or investigated. Notoriously rich generals like the late Fazl e Haq or their inheriting sons like Ijaz ul Haq (reportedly worth US $ 250 million) and Akhtar Abdul Rehman’s sons (worth much more than Ijaz) are never mentioned. Why no accountability against these?

More shameful is the exemption of known pro-government political swindlers and crooks like Shujaat Hussein, Leghari and the likes.. The NAB is just a farce targeting the political opponents, the unconnected or making under-hand deals with the culprits.

National Despair & Sense of Betrayal

Pakistan had such high hope from Musharraf. He turned out to be a huge failure. There is no trust left in any leader. That is why no one bothers to come out on the street. The people are despondent, have lost hope and interest in national destiny and its politics. In the years gone by, we thought that the army can come and sort things out. Now we know that Pakistan has been betrayed again!

Conclusion

Given this background would you like to support Musharraf in this referenduméé.. Would you support a dishonest person, who has committed high treason, violated the rule of law, is a coward, an American puppet, an incompetent army commander, is a security risk, has hacked at the ideology of Pakistan, made it a complete banana republic, has miserably failed in maintaining law and order, has overseen spiraling of commodity prices while wasting public money on personal projection, has failed to hold his friends and colleagues accountable, indulged in blatant hypocrisy and media bombast and pushed Pakistan towards feelings of despondency, loss of self-respect, and disillusionment?

The truth is that whether you vote yes or no, the referendum will be rigged, the turn outs will be inflated and the ballot boxes stuffed. Who is checking them anyway. Musharraf has already announced that he will be the President for another five years (and maybe beyond). He has not even theoretically discussed the possible scene if he loses the referendum. You and me don’t matter. So why waste our breath. I can assure you that even without your effort your vote will be cast on your behalf.

Just one last story. A few days ago Justice Tariq Mehmood withdrew from the election commission that was asked to hold this farcical referendum, quoting it against the spirit of the constitution. The next day Musharraf asked the judge to retract his comments or resign from his post of High court of Balochistan. The proud man refused to bow and resigned instead. Salutes to him. I only wish there were a few dozen more like him. If Musharraf can twist the Judges who are overseeing the referendum, so blatantly, who can stop him from manipulating the referendum results. Me and you would not even be watching.

Please don’t be a party to this farce. Taking part in the referendum even to cast a no-vote will justify this fraudulent exercise. Just ignore it. This is the only way that the silent majority can express its itself.

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