Independence Day musings —Syed Mansoor Hussain

What are we looking at then is a national orgy of recrimination, revenge and retribution that will make the Iranian revolution look like a walk in the park. Fortunately for Pakistan nothing of the sort is likely to happen. It is obvious that President Musharraf will leave shortly

When I woke up on Independence Day, I was feeling pretty good. It was a holiday so I had a chance to sleep in late and the weather was quite pleasant. Taking advantage of a day off, I decided to write my article a little early. The topic I had in mind was relations between Pakistan and the US.

I made my tea and started to go through the news on the Internet before getting down to serious writing. A suicide bombing in Lahore and many killed. The incident occurred when ordinary people came out to celebrate the night before the holiday and these ordinary people were the victims. Yes the policemen, the ostensible victims, were also ordinary people.

I decided not to write about US-Pakistan relations, especially with the Aafia Siddiqi case hovering in the background. As it is, whenever I think of the United States and Pakistan together, the famous song by Mary Macgregor comes to mind: “Torn between two lovers/feelin’ like a fool/lovin’ both of you is breakin’ all the rules.”

So, feeling like a fool, I immediately ceased and desisted and I did so today too.

I didn’t really want to write about the impeachment scenario since every newspaper and every TV channel is full of it these days. Almost reminds me of the Clinton impeachment drama, but this one sadly does not even have the salacious Starr report to provide some comic relief. This impeachment is only about serious crimes committed against the state and the people of Pakistan.

From what is being said in the press it seems that nothing short of a Nuremberg-style trial would do. Perhaps that is what we need. If General Musharraf stands charged with his crimes then all, and I mean all, the judges that accepted his different PCOs and validated his rule and all the politicians in different assemblies that voted for him must also be charged as collaborators.

And what about all those generals, federal secretaries and inspector generals of police that obeyed him without question? After all there is little that he did alone. So then why spare all those who helped him commit the crimes he is accused of? What about the host of ‘businessmen’, both in and out of government, that fed at the trough of his largesse; playing the markets, running land mafias, and making money in ways that I probably could not even imagine.

Maybe the list of collaborators should also include members of the press that were excessively slavish in their praise of him and his policies — let us dig up their all their old editorials and TV programmes. The only ones that clearly have no culpability are ordinary people and the rank and file within the army, the police and the bureaucracy that were so far down the food chain that they did not have the ability to say no.

What we are looking at then is a national orgy of recrimination, revenge and retribution that will make the Iranian Revolution look like a walk in the park. Fortunately for Pakistan, nothing of the sort is likely to happen. It is obvious that President Musharraf will leave shortly. The question is how. As far as I am concerned, it might be a refreshing change for Pakistan and perhaps a sign of some maturity as a nation that he is allowed to leave office with dignity.

More importantly if rulers, elected or otherwise, are always afraid of being subjected to retribution by their political opponents when they are no longer in power, then once in power they will wish to prolong their rule for as long as possible and thus willingly subvert democratic processes. Since the two most important politicians in Pakistan today are both victims of such retribution, I would hope that they do not wish to perpetuate that tradition.

And this brings to me to what I really wanted to write about today. No, not the US thing but rather about what happens after President Musharraf leaves office. My presumption is that he will leave before he gets impeached and that he will be offered some form of a dignified exit. So who will be the next president and does it matter? Indeed it matters tremendously. And here I am willing to go out on a limb.

Pakistan at this time needs as a president somebody who can help strengthen the PPP-PML coalition, who can use the presidential bully pulpit effectively to unite and mobilise the people against the twin threats of religious extremism and terrorism and who is acceptable to a majority of the people of Pakistan. In my opinion there is only one person I can think of that fits the bill and that is Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Sharif has impeccable pro-Islamic credentials; he has been prime minister twice and therefore perhaps is not too interested in that position. He wants to keep the coalition intact as long as his party governs Punjab. Most importantly he is our best retail politician at this time and has demonstrated his ability to connect with ordinary people. Who better than him to rally a majority of conservative Pakistanis against those that use Islam to terrorise and intimidate ordinary people.

And now to a very important observation. As Independence Day wore on, I realised that something was very different. No, it had nothing to do with a rising tide of patriotic fervour on my part. It was the fact that there was no load shedding! Just the fact that I could get up and make a cup of tea or microwave some goodies whenever I felt like it made things seem a lot better.

A suggestion: It would be nice if one day in the week, maybe Sunday, we could be treated to a similar day-long respite from load shedding.

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at

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