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President should reverse some of the reversals

It is quite a familiar phenomenon all over the world that when dictators in the under-developed or developing countries-specially those with the might of the military behind them, take over – they usually begin with a heart-warming commitment, that it is their topmost priority to take all necessary steps on urgent basis towards the sacred goal of transferring power to the people’s representatives. We in Pakistan have a long history of this phenomenon. It all started with Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s takeover of the country in October 1958, and the last act of this drama hit the headlines in October 1999. In between came General Yahya Khan and General Ziaul Haque. The first named General was forced to pack up in conditions which led to a catastrophic break-up of Pakistan. The second named extended his promised 90-day monitoring role and rule to over eleven years before his plane exploded in the midair in mysterious circumstances. The last one in this ‘series’ was General Pervez Musharraf who, of course did not begin his reign with a vow to hand over the country back to its elected representatives, and was courageous enough to speak out his mind and to lay down his agenda of reform and nation-building, on the completion of which depended the country’s full return to democracy. A partial return, however, was organised through general elections in October 2002, and it was widely believed that in the subsequent elections, the long-awaited restoration of full democracy would take place. The year 2007 was to be crucial in this context. It has turned out to be crucial indeed – but in a direction quite opposite to the one that was envisaged. None of the events that took place after the sun of the 8th March 2007 set, and that of the 9th March 2007 dawned can be regarded as positive indicators of great things to come. The people of Pakistan were shaken out of their high expectations and booming optimism by the thunderbolt of the Mini Martial Law that was conveniently named as an Emergency. Everyone had been full of hopes that the President had realized that the people now wanted ‘MORE DEMOCRACY’ rather than less. It was not to be. The declaration of the state of Emergency on the 3rd of November 2007 was quickly followed by a massive wave of countrywide arrests and a full-scale demolition of the Judiciary and the Media. It was written in the stars of the outgoing parliament that it should crown its culmination with an unprecedented endorsement of the suspension of the country’s constitution. General Pervez Musharraf has, during his long reign, done quite a lot to feel proud of. The standards of tolerance that he set were quite remarkable. The media that eventually went after him was his own creation. The Judiciary that he eventually decided to destroy was his creation too. All the judges were either appointed or approved by him. It was ironic that he was forced or persuaded to take the fateful action of March the 9th, 2007 which ultimately led to all the reversals that Pakistan’s proud march to full democracy has suffered. I’ll be among those men who are likely to be grieved by President Pervez Musharraf’s fall from a place of distinction in our overall history. He is a man with great guts and grit. He has leadership qualities too. He should not be lost to Pakistan’s future on account of the shocking steps he has taken or has been led to take. He has a role to play, and one hopes he realizes sooner than later that this role can only be played if he hastens to create minimum acceptable conditions for truly democratic elections the results of which would not bring more shame to the nation. A great moment of shame we have already witnessed with the British Foreign Secretary’s near-ultimatum that President Pervez Musharraf must lift the Martial Law in ten days i.e. by the 22nd of November 2007. One wishes the President wouldn’t have waited for such ultimatums – to do what simply needs to be done.

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