Why I don’t miss Musharraf

By Samad Khurram

I have great respect for Salman Chima, whom I met in 2005 for my college interview, but I do not agree with his apologist defence of Musharraf in “Why I miss Musharraf” ( ).

Other factors notwithstanding, it was the Musharraf-gifted NRO which paved the way for our current dispensation. Without the NRO, many of those 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 official corruption. Though the NRO cleaned the beneficiaries’ slates, it has not altered their character, and hence our abysmal situation.

Mr Chima wrote that the NRO only forgave actions up until 1999, and that Musharraf did not want to protect his own self, and which proved his good intentions. This is wrong, because, firstly, the date was chosen to be such that Nawaz Sharif would not be extricated from the plane hijacking case. Secondly, Musharraf did not have anything to worry about as he was about to purge the courts of all those judges who could rule against him.

The writer suggests that there was no other option for the president on the Lal Masjid as the crisis had escalated beyond control. But why had the Lal Masjid brigade not been stopped immediately after they took the law into their own hands? Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain recently confessed that this was done so that it could become a diversion to the judiciary issue. Others have also confirmed the former president’s penchant for involving himself unduly in matters. Maj Gen Ehtasham Zamir has admitted that the ISI manipulated the 2002 elections. Jemima Khan wrote about her meeting with Musharraf where he offered many things to Imran Khan in return for support to the Presidency. And this newspaper has reported of allotment of military land to the JUI-F, obviously in exchange for its support to Musharraf.

As for the Lal Masjid siege, Gen Musharraf had said that there would be no negotiations with those who took the law into their own hands. This would have been fine had the president applied it consistently. However, a senior Taliban figure and 25 other comrades were released that same year in exchange for kidnapped Pakistani soldiers.

Secondly, what is suspicious is the large amount of alleged ammunition not used by the Lal Masjid militants. With conflicting claims from both sides, people did not know whom to trust. The arbiter in this case was the media, which was conveniently denied access to the area. An independent judicial inquiry into this issue would have helped set things straight, but that never happened.

As for the missing persons scandal, Mr Chima says that most of them are those who had voluntarily left their homes to join jihadi camps. The work of the Supreme Court on this subject, however, showed otherwise. Many of the missing persons had indeed been held in detention incommunicado and were not initially even produced before the apex court. The fact that the Supreme Court under Adbul Hameed Dogar has yet to take up even one missing person’s case does not mean that the problem has been dealt with.

And there are simply a whole lot of other misdeeds of Musharraf that Mr Chima has ignored. Who was responsible for the illegal “preventive” house arrest of the judges, the detention of thousands of political opponents and lawyers without any charge, the police brutality that was used to curb the protests, and the denial of basic rights to even minors in the families of political opponents, among others? According to the writer such acts can be condoned given the greater good that he has done. This only makes me smiles. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Zia apologist who claimed that the late general should be forgiven for whatever wrongs he did, he as he had done more good for Islam than any other leader in Pakistan and had strengthened the nuclear programme.

Given what he did to the Constitution and the actions he undertook, the former president should have been prosecuted under Article VI of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The writer is a student at Harvard University. Email: skhurram@ fas.harvard.edu

Source: The News, 13th January, 2009

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