Despite the dire predictions of his many detractors, Pervez Musharraf will be credited by posterity with a number of positive initiatives/actions, a few more than others, viz (1) having called the Indian bluff despite having the whole Indian Armed Forces camped for six months on our borders, remaining calm and cool in not blinking under the most hostile external environment in the history of the nation and (2) carrying out accountability, if not fully at least nearly across the board. Apropos of the President’s comment about nuclear potential giving Pakistan strategic balance with India the main reason for avoiding war, the Indians fell over themselves in calling it as “nuclear blackmail”. There was an embarrassed silence a day later, when the consensus candidate for the Indian Presidency Mr Abdul Kalam, soon after filing his nomination flanked by BJP’s Vajpayee and Congress” Sonia Gandhi, said that the reason why Pakistan and India did not go to war was because of “nuclear détente”. Already proving to be a bit of an unguided missile, how long before this muslim is labeled as an ISI operative?
The military regime’s calm under a flurry of ultimatums and outright threats avoided panic in our own population. My touchstone was the many up-scale farmhouses in Bedian adjacent to the border near Lahore, no one evacuated. Conversely India had built up such a war hysteria that when the Pakistan missiles were test-fired in early May, sheer panic swept through the Indian population at the belated realization that no Indian city was safe from a Pakistan counter-attack. The bulk of foreigners in India voted their confidence in India with their feet, clogging the airports in a rush to exit. Over the past few months, investment into India has dried up. For Pakistan where investment is confined to burgers, shakes, french fries and ice creams, not good for health in any case, it hardly matters. The Indians finally got their sums right, calculating that their commercial losses far outweighed their political and diplomatic profit in browbeating Pakistan and trying to label us a “terrorist State”. Before any sensor could be put on the LOC, Chief Monitor Fernandes surmised that infiltration cross-border had almost ceased! Thank you, George, for providing the comic relief during a period of extreme tension!
Having faced down the adhoc partnership between India and our Coalition “partners” internationally, the President for good measure also called the bluff of the ARD and associates domestically but there remains a dire need to show national unity in this moment of crisis. However grave the provocation and howsoever unrealistic their demands, the President needed to go the extra mile in getting all the politicians, hookahs included, under one roof. It behooved a consummate team player like Musharraf to realize the value of putting national togetherness on international and national display.
Gen Musharraf’s strong point of being very loyal to friends also happens to be his Achilles heel. If Osmani and Mahmood had not been so arrogant and so full of themselves, this country would have been in real trouble. At least Mahmood was honest. As a myriad number of leaders before him (and one daresays after him), the President tends to be blind to the faults of some of those who have his ear in extremely sensitive matters. While bad advice may be bad enough, when rendered by those whose vested interest lies in lining their own pockets and of those of their friends, kith and kin at the cost of the State, then it becomes a problem, and an acute one at that. As much as an Emperor distributes largesse, one bearded gentleman gave away choice Defense Housing Authority plots (including an amenity plot) to friends and favourites, the strength of the regimental tie prevailed over merit. In another incident, one such friend was officially received by a far eastern Pakistani diplomatic post, imagine their surprise in discovering that the gentleman was really on a “drink and debauch” jaunt. Absentee landlordism is not confined to feudal circles; front men are being used for corporate circles. When I first came into business, an experienced person advised me to stay clear of selling Boeings and owning shares in the electronic media, they are the most public of secrets in the business world! How can any ruler know about shenanigans of his close associates unless his intelligence chiefs brief him? Very few have the courage to report on the inner circle, they know all about the shooting of the messengers bearing bad news. It is important for every ruler to have a small intelligence sub-unit as an Internal Affairs Department, headed by an blunt and honest man not afraid to tell the boss the truth as it is and dedicated only to the clearing up the rumours surrounding those persons close to the ruler. And after due enquiry assessing the allegations to be either unfounded and false or verifying it to be the truth and giving it over to NAB to punish them, whoever they are. If the ISI, MI and/or IB cannot tell the President what is happening under his nose, it is not surprising, in their convoluted way they are being loyal to the person of the President, conveniently forgetting that by failing in their primary duty to report without fear or favour on friend and foe alike, history will be harsh to the ruler after his rule when his motivated successors will use all their viles to embellish and portray the truth as false.
A few factors need to be applied equally before the law, prime among them severe punishment for perjury and false witness, particularly prosecuting officials who not only give false evidence but misuse their positions of power. NAB’s weakest point is that it left the superior judiciary and the Armed Forces remain out of its ambit, it therefore lacks the complete and absolute credibility NAB deserves in the eyes of both the intelligentsia and masses. Those affected by NAB have utilized this “selective exclusion” to their benefit in demeaning NAB’s impartiality and integrity, the touchstone of its entire edifice. NAB having set a wonderful example without precedent in the entire world, developing and developed countries included, Pakistan cannot afford the undercutting of NAB’s effectiveness. While agreeing that the superior judiciary and the Armed Forces should have been kept out of its area of public cynosure, NAB should have completed an initial investigation and given their findings over to the two departments respectively to carry out further investigation and prosecution themselves, publicizing conviction if any rather than the process of investigation and trial.
A senior civil servant who is not only a friend but one deserving respect as a thorough professional was recently asked to intercede in an between two parties, formerly partners, in a dispute. One of the parties had total control of the accounts and was not allowing the other party any access to the accounts or a full reconciliation as per the signed agreement between the parties. Since recalcitrant the party was his responsibility he should have had no problem with the ordering of such an examination by a neutral auditor. However, he is in a bind! He has two bosses and his real boss (the one who maters) has been giving protection to the party hiding its accounts but nominally subordinate to the civil servant. Understanding the injustice done to the other party, he sought instructions from his ministerial boss. A great “Reformer” the minister may be, he is a realist also. His instructions were clear and unambiguous, do everything according to “the rules”, that is bureaucratize for shelving the issue! The rules do not anywhere rule out a full examination of the accounts, but in the words of legal counsel, it will open a Pandora’s Box. Whither NAB now? I challenge NAB to intercede, apportion blame and punish whichever party is guilty, if nothing else, then for perjury, whichever party is lying.
The developing world has numerous instances of arrogance and corruption. To Pervez Musharraf’s credit, he is remained free of even the hint of a scandal. The taint of corruption has fatal implications for leadership. As was seen during the Referendum, which he won with great majority, a few bad fish sullied the whole pond and allowed his detractors to demean the whole process. Despite all that he has done and stood for, public perception in the future will focus on the outright graft of the corrupt handful if these continue near him. This would sadly besmirch the reputations of one of the most honest and brave rulers in our history.
Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).