Musharraf was right – But who can trust him anymore?

After the October 12, 1999 coup, I for one, fully supported General Musharraf against the onslaught of the Commonwealth and the US administration, who made clear that they cannot do “business as usual” with a dictator. The reason for supporting the General was obvious: the determination he showed to clean the Augean stables.

Fast forward from 1999’s promise of “across the board” accountability to the deal with Benazir Bhutto and the so-presented National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) of October 2007, and we see the same General making a U-turn on all that he said, promised and felt proud of.

The love for power, the feeling of indispensability or opportunism to some extent is understandable. However, what makes one lose complete trust in General Musharraf is what he not only said time and again but also wrote down in his book to make it part of history and his legacy. Dictation by practical or prudent motives is one thing, but going against one’s eight years’ record of consistent statements, a show of determination to root out corruption and combat the forces of instability is quite another.

Even if we limit ourselves to General Musharraf’s book alone, still there is plenty to show us the true character of the General for which no justification holds ground.

Starting on page 78, Musharraf writes in his memoir, In the Line of Fire: “The four changes of prime minister involved two cycles of alteration between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Never in the history of Pakistan had we seen such a combination of the worst kind of governance –” or rather, a nearly total lack of governance –” along with corruption and the plunder of national wealth.”

Let us assume that before making a deal with Benazir, Musharraf had somehow guaranteed that the twice tested Benazir won’t get involved in corruption and plunder of national wealth anymore. The question that arises is of the basic human rights. We know the country is comprised of two main classes: the feudal lords and elites and the masses. However, aren’t the deal and the NRO officially confirming that Pakistanis are not equal citizens any more.

On page 185 of his book, General Musharraf told the world: “In the area of economic governance our main endeavor was to level the playing field and close loopholes that favored a select, privileged few. A transparent, uniform across the b¬oard system replaced the ad hoc system of regulations, which dominated our decision mak¬ing in the 1990s. Accountability mechanisms were strengthened, and people found guilty of corruption were taken to task irrespective of their status and connections. This deterrent effect has reduced corrup¬tion at the higher levels of policy makers.”

Where did across the board system go? Musharraf told a private TV on October 10 that NRO was not meant for the entire Pakistan otherwise matter would worsen. What does that mean. It shows he was either lying, or was not sincere when he said, “accountability mechanisms were strengthened, and people found guilty of corruption were taken to task irrespective of their status and connections.”

Everyone knows that People’s Party’s manifesto has not changed. Benazir is still the chairperson for life. And the party remains what Musharraf described as a ‘family cult.” What national interests lead Musharraf to change his mind? In displaying his contempt for PPP and Benazir, Musharraf went to the extent of calling them fascist. He wrote: “The People’s Party has always claimed the progressive and liberal ground. If this claim was taken at face value, it was the logical first choice for the coalition. It was a good opportunity for them to demon¬strate that they were truly liberal and not just a family cult that practices fascism rather than liberal democracy, as when this party was in power in the 1970s. But all efforts by the PML(Q) to work with them failed, for the sole reason that Benazir Bhutto would not countenance anyone else from her party becoming prime minister. She treats the party and the office like a family property.[page 175]

Has the PPP transformed overnight from a “family cult” that practiced “fascism” to a party that will promote democracy in Pakistan? Or, is it the General who actually changed his mind and embraced the same cult and its fascist ways? Or, is it so that he was not telling the truth in the first place? Since PPP is what PPP was, it leaves us to look for answer in the later two possibilities.

The General told the world that Benazir and Nawaz were ” the heads of two significant political parties – the Pakistan people’s Party (PPP)) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). And because these parties were run like dynasties, candidates who could pro¬vide alternative leadership were none existent or mere pygmies. It did not appear practicable to maintain those parties alone. Something more had to be done.”[page 165]. What more did the General do after eight years in power: made a deal with the same dynasty of the PPP? Is this all he could do to save Pakistan after eight years in power?

Remember how proudly Musharraf was telling us that when he took power, he knew that freedom was “needed to be spread to everyone.” However that needed “a system that could produce true democracy.” He elaborated on page 164-65 that to ensure such a system: “Former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, who had twice been tried, been tested, and failed, had to be denied a third chance. They had misgoverned the nation.

Furthermore, they would never allow their parties to develop a democratic tra¬dition, as was clear from the fact that neither Benazir Bhutto’s nor Nawaz Sharif’s had held internal elections. In fact, Benazir became her party’s ‘chairperson for life’ in the tradition of the old African dictators! For both individuals, legal cases were pushing against them. All I had to do was make clear that the charges would not be dropped. Benazir Bhutto had already run away from the country and absconded from the law during Nawaz Sharif’s regime.”

So, here we go. Today he drops all charges against Benazir Bhutto. Moreover, to shut mouths of other criminals, he had to grant across the board amnesty –” a nose dive from ‘across the board accountability” to blanket amnesty as if all the criminal charges were related to plundering Musharraf’s personal property, which he could pardon anytime he wanted. Was he lying when he said he had made sure that the “charges would not be dropped”?

Besides all that, isn’t he reviving what he called ‘the tradition of the old African dictators”? On page 169 of his book, Musharraf is on the record to have stated: “We established a rule that no one could be president or prime min¬ister more than twice, whether the terms were consecutive or not and whether either term had been fully served or not. Many people thought this law has been brought in to prevent Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto from ever becoming prime minister again. This is partially true, although their crimes should disqualify them in any event. But above all the new rule was enacted to encourage new blood to compete …”

Did Musharraf forget all these statements and Banazir’s crimes when he was out there to make a “power-sharing” deal with Benazir? Or, is it that he was lying in the first place? Or, that he doesn’t care if he says one thing and does another?

Musharraf was right in his analysis, statements and promises. However, his deeds prove him to be part of the same corrupt league. The story in today’s newspapers about Musharraf being one of the 499 owners whose farmhouse spread over 2500 acres of land worth Rs 75 billion in the suburbs of Islamabad simply confirms this conclusion.

Other than those who have some personal or global totalitarian axe to grind, with this proven track record of glaring contradictions and brazen lies no one can trust General Musharraf anymore.