Pakistan: Can Musharraf survice?

January 25, 2008

It seems that the reign of General Pervez Musharraf is on its last legs. Musharraf has become the most detested president in the history of Pakistan. No longer are there progressives, liberals or moderates in his camp.

Musharraf is unloved even by most religious extremists. His policies have given them space into which they have moved aggressively. But Washington demanded that he suppress them to prove his usefulness to US imperialism and he did. However, he failed to please either Washington or the extremists.

The economic crisis has isolated him from the vast majority of ordinary Pakistanis, including formerly close associates. His traditional supporters among the Chamber of Commerce has evaporated.

Musharraf's comments about democracy during his nine-day European tour that began on January 20 has annoyed democrats inside and outside Pakistan. The comment that the "West is obsessed about democracy" was a direct insult to the people of Pakistan, but neither did his sarcastic taunting please his European friends. Gone are the days when he could talk nonsense and get away with it!

No Plan B

The brutal assassination of former prime minister and leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Benazir Bhutto, was a shock to many European governments friendly to Musharraf. The unprecedented reaction to Benazir's murder is shattering his image at home and abroad.

The US and British governments' Plan A for maintaining stability in Pakistan was built on an unholy governing combination of Benazir and Musharraf. This has come undone and there seems to be no Plan B. Has Musharraf outlived his usefulness to his imperialist masters?

Musharraf's repeated assurances that nuclear weapons are in safe hands and the army cannot be defeated by religious fundamentalists illustrates the concerns of European countries. His trip is to address these worries. However, his justification for imposing a state of emergency, deposing and arresting the country's top judges, arresting thousands and curbing the media will satisfy none.

In the face of the proposed 18 February general elections there are two political camps: those participating and those boycotting. The massive turnout at the boycott meeting by All Parties Democratic Movement on 22 January in Loralai, Baluchistan indicates that the boycott campaign is picking up steam. This was the fourth successive APDM mass rally in Baluchistan.

The Pakistan Muslim league-Q (PML-Q), Musharraf's favorite, is in absolute crisis after the recent shortages of food items, electricity and gas. The PML-Q candidates are the target of anti-Musharraf anger. The general perception is that if you are against Musharraf, do not vote for the PML-Q.

Unless there is an all-out rigging of the election, there is no guarantee that Musharraf's supported candidates will win. If PPP and Pakistan Muslim league-Nawaz (PML-N) candidates gain a majority in the next parliament, Musharraf will find it very difficult to repeat what he did following the 2002 election, when he bribed many PML-N and PPP parliamentarians to join hands with the PML-Q to form a majority government.

'Go Musharraf go!'

At the time, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Musharraf's military regime was supported by both US and European governments. But in 2008 he is isolated. It will be difficult for any parliamentarian elected on anti-Musharaf feeling to cross over to his camp.

Boycott or no boycott, the future scenario seems more and more problematic for Musharraf. His departure seems written on the front door of every home. Only another 9/11-like situation could alter his fate. Students are awakening and so is the trade union movement. That, combined with the pressure from the lawyers movement and growing participation by civil society, may succeed in pushing Musharraf from power.

Pakistan may take a page from their Nepalese brothers and sisters who recently brought down the monarchy. "If they can get rid of the King, why can not we do it here with the military dictatorship?" is the question many activists ask.

Let's do it the Nepalese way: with a peaceful massive movement everyone can get out into the street to insist: "Go Musharaf go!"

[Farooq Tariq is the national spokesperson for the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP), which is part of the APDM. The LPP is playing a significant role in the mass movement to bring down the Musharraf regime and is calling for financial assistance to assist its work from democracy supporters world-wide. You can deposit money in the account: People's Power Fighting Fund, Commonwealth Bank, 062026 1006 0743.]

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