Pakistani politics in the grip of the military

President Pervez Musharraf must be harbouring bitter-sweet feelings about the latest ruling from Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
It says that Saturday’s election, in which he looks a certain winner, can go ahead.

President Musharraf survived partly thanks to the international political conjuncture. Ironically when the World Trade Centre was crumbling on 9/11/2001 to the horror of the world, Pt Musharraf saw his star rising as the US saw in him a key ally in its fight of Al Qaeda. He made friends with it but internally he made a lot of enemies especially among Al Qaeda groups which made many attempts on his life. Musharraf must clearly know that his power isn’t guaranteed by his alliance with the USA as that can spark even more protest at home because of anti-Americanism and internal problems. While he has grip on the military, he can’t have full grip on the political parties opposed to his rule and enjoying popular support. Such parties at least play the role, even mildly, of check and balance on his rule as he can’t dissolve them or turn Pakistan into a dictatorship. To be fair, the Supreme Court has been decisive on many crucial moments like the re-instauration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. This in a way shows the independence of the justice system in a country ruled by a General.

Pt Musharraf has been lucky in ruling Pakistan for a long time, a country where leaders are easily toppled or defeated in elections. Pakistan looks like a bomb ready to explode in view of religious extremism and popular discontent erupting from time to time, the latest are the bloody incidents of the red mosque in which hundreds died. A political agreement between him and his political opponents can diffuse the tensions at least for fair elections in which democracy is the winner.

Musharraf can be a charismatic leader but ex-Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto can be more charismatic if she has better messages to sell to the disenchanted. Maybe her “alliance” with Musharraf will cost her her credibility making her look as a politician seeking just power without caring to make power return solely in the hands in the civilians who can be elected by having people behind them and not the military. There will be something looking amiss in Pakistani politics as long ex-prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is set aside, making him the next challenger or the current trouble maker through his supporters.

President Musharraf was lucky to keep in power for 8 years, a record by Pakistani standards. He should set the record by returning the country to full democracy. The military ethics won’t allow him to use fraud to stay in power. Either losing or winning through democratic elections he will be at least credited with saving the country from complete chaos, should all political tendencies use their bases for an all out confrontation, to the dismay of the USA for which Pakistan (a nuclear power and a strong base of Muslim fundamentalists) should be kept stable at all costs even if it comes to persuade Musharraf to leave power under the pretext of presidential elections.


  1. Hisham said,

    October 6, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Good post Abdelilah,
    I think that the Pakistani people are the main looser in this murky equation

  2. Abdelilah Boukili said,

    October 6, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks Hisham for the comment.

    It’s queer that Musharraf was re-elected while his case is still hanging at the Supreme Court. The vote was just a formality as the Pakistani people weren’t consulted in the first place.

  3. Hisham said,

    October 7, 2007 at 11:20 am

    You’re spot on!
    And did you see the utter hypocrisy of the western governments about this story. While they bombarded the media (فرعو لنا دماغنا) with highbrow declarations on Burma(where there is a real problem… I’m not questionning that) shedding crocodile tears about the banned protesters (did you hear a word Abdelilah about an antiwar demonstration which will take place tomorrow in London and which the police didn’t allow to converge towards Paliament Square and which the BBC has totally ignored), they just turned there heads away from Pakistan where a stooge dictator (who owns nuclear weapons by the way) is clinging to power at the expense of his own people’s will and more importantly at the expense of world peace.

  4. Abdelilah Boukili said,

    October 7, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Hisham, The protest are being covered by the BBC:

    As for the elections in Pakistan, in politics what matters are interests, not principles. Burma is portrayed as a dictatorship openly by the USA because its military is allied to China. All is a question of political equation.

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