Surviving Musharraf

IN A country that has seen better part of six decades of its existence under autocratic order, the smooth but belated exit of Pervez Musharraf has been nothing short of a historic achievement.

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Published: Thu 21 Aug 2008, 9:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

Democracy has triumphed and the army has played a crucial role in giving the nation a break for consolidation of the new democratic order. The onus is now on the coalition leadership to demonstrate farsightedness and unity to confront immediate and long-term challenges, which are dire and multifaceted.

The economy is on the down turn with galloping inflation, widening fiscal and trade deficit, flight of capital and near halt in foreign investment. The federation is under threat because of the insurgency in Balochistan and lawlessness in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. On both fronts, the army is deeply engaged in war against separatists, religious extremist, militants and terrorists. Relations with neighbouring India and Afghanistan have, of late, seen dangerous slide. Pakistan's Western allies are increasingly getting restive and more demanding regarding its role in the war against terrorism.

The relentless war for restoration of democracy and judiciary waged by the lawyers, civil society activists, a vibrant media and the common people ever since Musharraf's nemesis, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, said no to the dictator on the fateful day of March 9 last year, has come to a fruition. The emergence of these new centres of people's power and vigilance has generated new hope and optimism. The Pakistani society is in ferment and people are much more aware of their rights than before. Governance has thus become more difficult but as much challenging.

Much will depend on how swiftly the coalition resolves critical issues like restoration of deposed judges, Musharraf's replacement as president, and constitutional reforms to address the imbalance in the power equations created by Musharraf's odd concept of "unity of command". On February 18, the people had voted for a total change, socio-economic justice, genuine democracy, independence of judiciary and an end to terrorism. The alliance between the nation's two traditional rivals, the PPP and the PML-N, is the best thing that has happened to Pakistan in many decades. The future of this coalition and that of Pakistan is at stake. Pakistan's new leaders have to rise to the occasion and fulfill people's aspirations and deliver on the promises they made to the people.

The General's exit has coincided with an upsurge in terror attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan as well as in distant Algeria, North Africa. Maybe they are not related. But the exit of Musharraf should prove beneficial to Pakistan. Otherwise, the people would start missing the General soon. All this while the coalition leaders and others had blamed all of Pakistan's woes on the former president, holding him singularly responsible for not making progress on critical issues such as the restoration of judges, reining in of inflation and extremist violence. Now that Musharraf has disappeared, their continued failure will not be tolerated by the people.

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