A bird that won’t fly

Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf launched his political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) in London on Friday. Describing himself as a “ray of light” in the “darkness that prevails in Pakistan”, Musharraf offered himself as a political alternative to the people. This is the same man who stifled the political leadership in the country and sent Mian Nawaz Sharif into exile while not allowing Benazir Bhutto to return from her self-imposed exile for eight years. Only after Ms Bhutto reached an understanding with him in 2007 was she allowed to come back, paving the way for Mr Sharif to return as well.

At the launch of the APML, Musharraf tendered an apology “to the whole nation” for the mistakes he made during his tenure. Maybe it is time to remind Mr Musharraf of the long list of mistakes he made during his tenure as army chief and president. Musharraf’s Kargil misadventure is no secret. It brought the country to the brink of war with its neighbour. On October 12, 1999, General Musharraf subverted the constitution and ousted a democratically elected government through a military coup. The judiciary validated the coup. Musharraf vowed to cleanse the political system of corrupt politicians but soon after formed a political party full of those same corrupt quislings he was so contemptuous of. He introduced a flawed local bodies system a la Ayub. Musharraf started a military operation in Balochistan, which subsequently led to the abduction, torture and deaths of many Baloch activists. The botched Lal Masjid operation cost many unnecessary lives. The killings of Balaach Marri and Nawab Akbar Bugti are attributed to Musharraf. His despicable remarks on rape victims – Mukhtaran Mai and Dr Shazia Khalid – that “if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped”, were a slap in the face of his so-called liberal and secular credentials. While neglecting the real economy, Musharraf followed a consumer demand model and his privatisation policy led to nothing but corruption and a false economic bubble. The attempt to oust a sitting chief justice of Pakistan, imposition of emergency, crackdown on media outlets, dual policy on terrorism, providing safe havens to the Taliban are but a few of the ‘mistakes’ the former dictator made.

As a citizen of Pakistan, Musharraf has the right to launch a political party since he resigned from the post of the army chief in November 2007 and thereby has fulfilled the condition of a two year hiatus before entering the political fray. But there are serious charges against him. If he wants to make an entry into politics after nine years of authoritarian rule that led this country into further chaos, Musharraf must come back and face the music first. The APML may have Iqbal’s shaheen (eagle) as its official logo, but it seems this is a bird that won’t fly.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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