General in his uniform

THE issue of Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf 's uniform is turning into a major political issue. Musharraf had, in an address to the nation soon after his now famous referendum, promised to quit the post of the army chief by December 31 this year.

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Published: Wed 8 Sep 2004, 8:51 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:48 AM

But since then a lot has changed in Pakistan. And the country's political landscape has changed, too. And now the president is having second thoughts about getting out of his uniform. In an interview this week, he pointed out that 96 per cent of the Pakistanis want him to keep his uniform and remain as a president and the army chief. He then went on to argue that Pakistan's Constitution does not prevent him from holding the two positions. Predictably, the interview has the opposition up in arms. Jamaat-e-Islami has warned of an agitation if the General decides to retain his uniform.

What is it really that makes Pakistani leaders (who have risen from military ranks) to hang on to their military uniform? Because, traditionally it is the army that has been the source of power for all such leaders. Musharraf is no exception. Sans his uniform, Musharraf will be merely another politician.

But as someone who has often looked up to the West for inspiration, Musharraf would know democracy and military outfits do not go hand in hand. Either you are a soldier or a politician.It can't be both ways. Not done in a democracy. With the kind of challenges Pakistan has been facing at home and abroad, it's important it projects itself as a true, practising democracy. Of course, the general can continue to lead his country as the president. He is popular and has proven himself as an able administrator. It would do him and Pakistan a lot of good if he sheds his uniform bowing to tenets of democracy.

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