February Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 13 years ago

The general is beginning to lose his shirt more often than not. His outbursts at public forums are becoming an increasing source of embarrassment.

At a media briefing in London, General Musharraf lambasted a former resident editor of Pakistan’s leading English national daily for having the gall to question him about the escape of one of U.K.’s “most wanted” terrorists from police custody in Pakistan.

What is so wrong about asking a man so obsessed with his war on terror, about the great getaway of a high profile prisoner who had been apprehended with considerable difficulty.

The president went to the extent of asking his countrymen to fix all Pakistanis — “Aik do tika dein,” to quote him — who resort to such style of questioning.

On another occasion, he hit out at his former colleagues — all retired generals — for asking him to step down as president. He referred to them as “insignificant” personalities who had been booted out by him.

The position at the helm demands some composure, a certain measure of restraint, but Musharraf seems to be flying off the handle and getting embroiled in unnecessary controversies.

True, the political scenario of the country is grim. Pakistan is passing through possibly the most traumatic and turbulent time in its history.

The war on terror has not played out the way Musharraf would have wanted it to. Baitullah Mehsud and Co. are hitting back with a vengeance. The army has lost some 1000 plus jawans; the locals who have suffered collateral damage in terms of human lives and property are livid and the people, in general, are accusing Musharraf of fighting the US’s war on terrorism against its own people. Ironically, the Americans are not ecstatic either — they are accusing Musharraf of not doing enough.

The general’s announcement of the election schedule has brought little relief. Accusations of pre-poll rigging by the establishment, the caretaker administration and the local governments are being hurled by the major political parties. In fact, one party has reportedly filed 1200 cases of rigging with the Election Commission.

In a vitiated atmosphere such as this, the election results, even if seemingly fair, may not be accepted by the leading contenders, thus inciting further turmoil. Meanwhile, the army, whose image has taken a real battering, wants to distance itself from the political arena and recoup some of its lost pride and honour.

So where does Musharraf go from here?

Going on the offensive against the media or retired generals is not going to help his cause. People are beginning to tire of the general’s glowing tributes to his own self on the achievements of his government even as the wheat crisis unfolds, electricity and water shortages hit the country and suicide bombings become the order of the day.

The writing on the wall is becoming starker by the day: it’s time for a change of guard at the top.

Will the general take a leaf out of the new army chief’s book and redeem some of his own lost pride and honour by exiting from politics and making way for a new dispensation — minus him in the driving seat?

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.