Skip to content

Capital games – By Ayesha Siddiqa

  • by

mush288People wonder why the present government is not trying Gen Musharraf. Is it just due to its goodness of heart or is there something else that might be the cause of this apparently cautious behaviour?

Actually, there are two issues at hand here. First is the evasiveness of the prime minister. While not making any move to bring a case in court against the former general, Mr Gilani appears to be raising hopes by giving the impression to the people and various political parties that the former dictator may actually be tried in a court of law.

Second, perhaps the prime minister is not pursuing the case because he understands that there is far more to be lost than gained by any action against Gen Musharraf. We always tend to forget that there were actually three parties to the deal that allowed Benazir Bhutto and her spouse to return to Pakistan: (a) the Bhutto family and party, (b) the US and British negotiators and (c) the Pakistan Army which was ruling the country through its chief.

The former general left the seat of power with great reluctance and later the country as a free man — surely there must have been some guarantees allowing him to do that. The role played by his organisation in providing him an easy passage cannot be ruled out. Unfortunately, whenever democracy passes through a transition period we tend to forget, at least in Pakistan, that the army is a powerful force and negotiating power in the long term is not an easy task.

The organisation would certainly not want one of its own maligned and castigated publicly. After all, a public trial of one of its members is an embarrassment that no general who might consider taking over the state in the future would want. An institution which believes that it alone knows how to rule and has the best interest of the state at heart will never give up the option to return to power directly.

For all of us, who are constantly unhappy with the president, perhaps he is far more intelligent in understanding the power of the army and the wrath that the mention of Musharraf’s trial might invoke. One has to behave sensibly especially when there are skeletons in the cupboard that could be discovered. It takes only a few disclosures or controversies to malign a politician.

Just take the example of matters that are being brought up on the media in the past couple of weeks. First there was the controversy relating to the 1992 army operation. Why worry about Kargil when stakeholders are also accusing Nawaz Sharif of his involvement in the 1992 cleanup operation in Karachi? Has the MQM leadership brought this up so that the May 12, 2007 killings in the metropolis are disregarded, even though at this point there weren’t too many people questioning the MQM?

Perhaps, the idea was not so much about obfuscating its alleged wrongdoings as highlighting what could be questioned about Nawaz Sharif’s political behaviour.
The PML-N leader has the option of going public with what exactly happened in Karachi and disclosing the extent of the army’s involvement. However, he could also get bogged down in further controversy. In any case, the Karachi story is not the only one. There are others which involve financial scandals as the list of politicians, some of them very high-profile, who allegedly received funds from the ISI indicates.

Although this list has been published a number of times before, the issue here is why it has been brought up at this point. Interestingly, a revelation made more than a year ago by the US-based Pakistani author Shuja Nawaz in his book Crossed Swords that included names like Hafeez Pirzada did not get much publicity.

This is not to argue that politicians are not corrupt. In fact, the problem is that politicians in this country, like the military leadership, have engaged in questionable and compromising behaviour. However, the point being raised here is that it is only the stories of unfriendly politicians that are leaked or brought up again from time to time and then built upon in the media. So, the present PPP leadership understands the cost of exposing Musharraf who will certainly be protected by his own institution, a facility that others in this polity do not have.

A better option would be to get all politicians to clean up their act. For instance, the MMA government in the Frontier province used religion as a ploy against the federal government every time it had to bail itself out of a tough corner.

Clearly, there is always a list of favourite versus not-so-favourite politicians. The list, which is pulled out for the public eye, depends on who is not in favour with the establishment at a given time. This is a sad state of affairs where neither the establishment nor the politicians can be said to be above board. All that is left is for the stakeholders to play the game of survival.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.


Leave a Reply