Monday, May 10, 2010

What's Wrong With The Idea Of Pervez Musharraf Running For Office?

So there was a little bit of guffawing and scoffing on Twitter at the news that Pervez Musharraf said he wants to return to politics, and is using his 200,000 Facebook fans as validation.

Here's my not-so-innocent question: what's the problem? If it's his record in office, then fine, no one's asking you to vote for him. But the idea of barring someone from running because they screwed up in the past is (a) fundamentally undemocratic, and (b) fundamentally unPakistani. We'd have no politicians left if we voted on past records. I don't see why we should have short memories when it comes to Nawaz Sharif but a long memory when it comes to Pervez Musharraf.

If it's his shredding of the constitution routinely and without remorse, then again we precedent: Nawaz Sharif's time as Prime Minister (particularly his second term) was filled with extraconstitutional and illegal steps in centralizing and arrogating power. And if you don't remember this, I have three words for you: Ameer. Ul. Momineen.

If it's the violence (May 12) and authoritarianism (November 2007 emergency), well, we have plenty of leaders, in all provinces, who have done exactly the same.

Really, the one thing that sets Musharraf apart from everyone else is that he did his thing in a military uniform. To which I say: yes, of course. Which is why we should welcome him joining "normal" politics. Recall that the most telling critique against Musharraf was not his record in office per se -- his approval ratings were above 60% until his fight with the Chief Justice in the spring of 2007 -- but that he took power in a coup, and governed the country as an unelected Army chief. So it's a little puzzling to me that people who made the critique would begrudge him the opportunity to be a regular old politician, in civilian clothes, with a political party (as artificial as that party would be, remember that even the PML-N, the country's second biggest party, was artificial and non-organic at one point).

I've always maintained that despite their records and unseemly natures, our politicians are the only ones we have. Hate Altaf Hussain? Can't stand Nawaz Sharif? Detest Zardari? That's fine, and it's your prerogative. But they are, for better or worse, part of the political process, and if we want to see "change", as it were, we should try to effect it through that very same political process, rather than revolutionary or unworkable ideas about throwing the lot of them out, and trying fresh faces (Exhibit A, Imran Khan and his one seat in 14 years). If you don't like Musharraf or his record, fine, don't vote for him. But the idea that it's somehow ridiculous that he should be part of the political process, legally this time, is itself ridiculous.

Postscript: the whole Facebook thing is beyond dumb. If you want to start a political party and run, fine. But please don't bring your Facebook "support" into this. If Facebook was an indicator of anything important, Megan Fox would be our Prime Minister.


takhalus said...

Megan fox for PM yaay!

Seriously where would Mush contest from? Karachi?

Kalsoom said...

Since I was one of the people "guffawing" over this, let me just clarify my stance on this issue - I have no problem with choice in the political process. If Musharraf wants to come back to Pakistan, deal with the NRO and BB issue, and run in elections again, that is his right. As you mentioned it is fundamentally undemocratic to deny him from doing so just because of his less than sparkly past, given that every other leader in Pakistan have histories marred by corruption, scandal, etc.

Do I think Musharraf coming back is a sad reflection on our lack of *new* choice in the political process? Yes. It is the reality though and I understand that.

My contention and guffawing was claiming that 200,000 fans on Facebook somehow provides some sort of political legitimacy to come back to the country. If you want to est your own political party and come back, fine. But don't ground it on Facebook fans, because that essentially means very little in terms of actual or real political support, particularly among citizens who actually vote in elections.

Asfandyar said...

For what it's worth, I have no problem with Musharraf running for office.

I would have a lot of problems with him getting into office though - as I suppose most people would have, if only for the simple reason that we'd see MORE army walas in posts not intended for them.

Umair J said...

I pretty much agree with what Kalsoom just said. The only thing i'd like to add is that if Zia were still alive and he decided to contest elections, we should have no issues with that either.

Ahsan said...

I think Umair, Kalsoom and I are in agreement here, though we emphasize different things. I'm more resigned to the "this is the way things are" idea than Kalsoom, but we both agree it's true. And yes, Umair, if Zia was alive and wanted to contest, who is anyone to stop him?


Yes, Khi probably.


Yes, good point.

Smci said...

Why not?

I mean all it says about the country, yet again, is that you are [by you I mean mainstream citizens] more than willing to throw the rule of law and constitution out the window for just about any Tom, Dick or Pervez.

Given that he's obviously never been convicted of a crime in any court, doesn't the fact that he committed treason by ousting an elected government somewhat stand in the way of him getting on a ballot?

I mean I know he did run before, but hell, no one could prevent him from doing it then.

Can't the courts retroactively find him guilty of high treason, after having been forced to rule in favor of his coup 11 years ago? Or atleast grant an injunction barring him from running until his guilt or innocence on this matter is resolved?

Where the hell is Chaudhry when you need him?


On a different note, assuming he does return and form a political party. What's to say that Pakistan doesn't eventually become an Egypt-like, one party police state, where the military rules in the guise of a supposed 'civilian' leadership, headed by a civilian strongman?

Anonymous said...

YAY!!! we won yo. now please liveblog the semifinal against Australia...

Ahsan said...


There are three points here. One is, WILL he run/will he be allowed to run? With this judiciary empowered, we can safely say no.

Two is, should he be allowed to run if we lived in a perfect or near perfect world? The answer to that, as you indicate, is no.

But I wasn't dealing with either of those questions. My point was the third, which is should he be allowed to run given the rest of our political elite? To that I say, yes, absolutely.

TLW said...

deal with the NRO and BB issue

That would be the key issue. If he can dodge those bulets then he *could* return.

However there is the entire issue of high treason.

There is also the sad possibility that the system would not want anyone touching the treason issue, since it could open an entire factory floor of can worms, with Generals Usmani, Aziz and Ahmed indicted and the line running straight through anyone with a red tab during the Zia era, right into General Chishti.

That's a lot of brasshats who could be effected by a ruling on a potential charge against Musharraf for treason.

@ SMCI, are you the guy who on Foreign Policy's AfPak channel's review of Songs and Blood and swords made that comment about PPP's internal thinktank working on ways to slowly sideline the Bhutto dynasty?

Trying to find a silver lining in this whole Musharraf-returns-to-politics-argument; if Mush came back and took part in politics, it could act as a sort of deterrent against military coups, in that a man who was COAS joined the political process, and a paid up member of the establishment is working openly in the political process. Granted the last part could apply to Nawaz Sharif in the late ninties, but General Musharraf would be a former dictator conceding to the relities of an open democratic process. Which after Zia, and his own behaviour, would be a big signal to the officer class to finally accept democracy in this country.

Anon #24 said...

Musharraf is messing around. He is not going to come back. His intentions are solely based on re-affirming his famous maxim:
"Main darta nai houn"

By and by, can't believe you support Mush-man. He is worse than Sharif.

Smci said...

@ TLW I believe I'm guilty as charged. Either I'm exactly right, or I'm a complete moron. So make of my comment on AfPak what you will. That family just irks me so.

Anyways, I concede that this Mushy thing could go several ways. And not all of those outcomes are bad. Perhaps you're right. Perhaps it could signal to the military higher-ups that there is a democratic way to gauge whether the nation wants disciplined, albeit, jingoistic technocrats at the helm.

Haider said...

You're wrong Ahsan. Ameer-ul-Momineen is two words. With a conjunction or whatever else it's called.

mkj said...

I agree with Ahsan in general but I would like to add that I wish Musharraf would run for an office.

The military dictators claim to represent some sort of silent majority and a desire among people for a revolution/change. Their evidence is sham referendums. Again Musharraf is making a similiar argument here. Facebook fans mean Pakistanis want him back which legitimizes his regime.

I think we should dare him to run for an office. I would like his claims to be tested. We have had others (like Aslam Beg) before him and results show that our electorate isn't that stupid.

And if he manages to get to a high office through electoral process, probably we were already doomed whether or not Musharraf is allowed to return to politics.

Umair J said...

Im sorry but having facebook fans does not mean that Pakistan wants him back. At best its an indication that some Pakistanis like him the same way they like, (as Ahsan pointed out), 'Megan Fox' and 'I hAteZ gOiNg tO scHOoOol'

Hira Mir said...

This is a democratic country. I believe every1 should be given a chance to run for elections. The good part I witnessed in his time was that there were less terrorist attacks and that is the biggest problem oru country faces right now.

Ahsan said...

Anon#24: This has nothing to do with who I support or oppose. I wrote a very similar post when Nawaz Sharif was being disallowed from running and/or when he was deported. It's in the archives, but would take too long to find it.

Haider: Haha, sorry. My apologies.

MKJ: Yes, good point(s).

skunk said...

The guffawing is just due to the irony of it all. He ruined the country when he had absolute power and he says he's gonna do a better job when he will have to please everyone in the maneuvering that is inherent to a political system. Guy's got to much of a superiority complex to be able to ask the common for his vote.