Pakistan was created on a beautiful vision; a vision of freedom, a vision of a secular society, applying the Islamic principles of peace, justice and equality for all. Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated in his speech on 11th August 1947 that, ‘You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state’.
One has to wonder whether the celebrated Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah would weep today if they were alive to see the state of Pakistan. Would it hurt their spirit seeing their vision for Pakistan being distorted and abandoned by the current ruling political class?
‘Terror, dangerous, unstable’ are words of the norm when the international community describe Pakistan. It is a country in economic turmoil. It is a country ridden with terrorism. It is a country where sectarian violence is becoming rife. It is a country where fundamentalists and political parties alike are refusing to call Pakistani soldiers, who sacrifice their lives to protect the state and citizens, martyrs. Moreover they are handing terrorists, those responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians, the highest accolade in Islam. Even more disgracefully stating that a dog fighting America would be a martyr over a Pakistani soldier. It is with much sorrow I have to say that peace and stability in Pakistan seems only a distant dream.
Ironically however the situation very much reminds people of the year 1999. This was the year when Pakistan’s future seemed bleak at best. It was this very year when a man rose to the challenge to save his nation. This man did not take this challenge for his own personal gain or ego but sheer love for his country. He did not take this decision lightly but only when his hand was forced. The reaction of his institution to oust the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was due to Sharif’s treasonous act of attempting to murder their chief of army staff General Pervez Musharraf, in his mid air flight from Colombo. The facts of history are a matter of record and do not have to be repeatedly explained as cockpit recordings are accessible to anyone who doubts the circumstances surrounding the coup d’état.
What did Musharraf do for Pakistan?
Pervez Musharraf knew of the challenges he would face both domestically and from the international community embracing both with utter integrity and diligence. He embraced the vision of a Pakistan by both its philosophers and creators, Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He proved he was not only a great solider but also an impressive politician. He faced challenges head on with no fear of failure, despite the odds being stacked against him.
Musharraf took on all challenges ranging from economic to education, health, security and most of all the implementation of liberal values of freedom. Something which the so called ‘democratic champions’, could not and did not want to deliver during the so-called ‘democratic’ periods in Pakistan. I will highlight some of President Musharraf’s key contributions to Pakistan. I would love to discuss many more of his contributions but for this I would have to write a book.
His economic revival of Pakistan was not only appreciated by Pakistanis but also gained him incredible amount of respect from international economists. Freeing Pakistan from foreign debt not only stabilised the economy and country but created huge amounts of foreign investment on an unprecedented scale never seen before in Pakistan leading to economic growth. His ability to create employment as well as controlling inflation made him popular amongst the masses.
Regardless of this President Musharraf never glorified himself nor did he say it was a one-man show for which only he should receive credit. He selected the best Pakistani minds, who could do handle the pressures of each job and work tirelessly for Pakistan. Even with all the success he did not settle and did not say he was content with his achievements, which on the grand scheme of things were absolutely huge. He was never going to be happy with Pakistan until it was recognised as a key economic player internationally. He was not going to rest until inequality was reduced and opportunities limitless. There are many critics of his economic policies, who state that he created an economic bubble that only lasted as long as he stayed in office.
Musharraf’s opponents imply he was some sort magician that had the ability to make economic growth disappear the minute he stood down from office, like turning off a switch. However in reality, studying his economic policies will reveal that the downturn in Pakistan’s economy in the post Musharraf era was due to the incompetence and corruption of those who took over. He very much created sustainable growth and development.
National security and War on terror
It is unassailable that in current affairs the biggest critique of presidents Musharraf is his involvement in the US led war on terror. I hear constantly on some Pakistani news networks this was ‘not our war’, I very much beg to differ. I believe Musharraf’s decision to support the US was not only a monumental statement in showing that he understood diplomacy, but also he understood who the enemies of Pakistan were. The scale of terrorism we are seeing in Pakistan today from the TTP and associates is not because of President Musharraf’s alliance with the west but something that was long overdue. The enemies of the West and Pakistan are the same. Thus it was in all countries interest to fight these enemies in the name of national security. The inability of decision making, as well as the passive approach to these groups by the Pakistani governments in the last 5 years has resulted in these terror group regrouping and growing stronger for which Pakistan is bearing the brunt today.
I think what some people are not fully grasping is that these groups are not fighting for freedom or against the US. Freedom fighters do not kill tens of thousands civilians. They are fighting to impose an ethos, a misinformed, ludicrous version of ‘Islam’ that no Muslim can relate nor adhere to. I can only describe it as evil, antithetical to Islam and against all human rights. I think anyone who believes that you can negotiate with these groups or they would be willing to negotiate is incredibly misinformed. Their views are clear-cut and in the public domain. They vow to fight until they implement their ethos throughout Pakistan and the Muslim world. This clearly means no peace, no reduction in violence unless Nawaz Sharif is willing to hand over the keys of Parliament to the Taliban immediately. The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud was not the US sabotaging so called peace talks that Imran khan claims, it was one less evil that Pakistan would have had to deal with. The West is not against Pakistan. Yes, all states to a certain extent care about national interests. However it is very much in the West’s interest in having a stable Pakistan, thus killing a terrorist can only be mutually beneficial for Pakistan. Therefore all these conspiracy theories are merely just disillusioned fantasist theories created by those who support the TTP and their mantra. I can only summarise Pervez Musharraf’s decision as the right one and in the interest of all Pakistanis. The instability of the security situation in Pakistan is a direct result of not tackling extremists the same way Pervez Musharraf had done and therefore resulting in thousands of civilian deaths.
I was born in the UK, I have lived in the UK, and I am patriotic to the UK, the country that has given me everything. I have been fortunate enough to have the joys of freedom throughout my life; something, which I admit, I may not appreciate as much as those for whom it is not a norm. For me if you want to call Pervez Musharraf, merely a dictator, he must be the most candy coated, kind, compassionate and liberal dictator in history. I have never read about or studied a dictator who does not only not oppress his people but then goes even further and implements liberal values of freedom. Those who know about Pakistani history know that before Musharraf’s era you could count the number of news channels in Pakistan on one hand, most of which were state owned. President Musharraf is very much a true liberal. He believed in a free press, and then made sure he made it possible, despite knowing the power it yields. Regardless he stuck to his principles and took the criticism that came with it. The irony being the same free press he created ultimately put pressure on him into resigning. Again something which he embraced and accepted as the will of the people and stepped down. He also championed freedom of religion and freedom of expression. This ‘dictator’ surely doesn’t sound like any other one in history. The only unfortunate factor that I can state in relation to President Musharraf, are circumstances leading up to him initially having to take power in order to save a nation in an ‘un-democratic’ way.
My view on President Musharraf is that he is a courageous leader, by no meaning perfect. If he were perfect he would not be a human being like the rest of us. Nonetheless he has been one of the greatest leaders Pakistan has had since the founding fathers of Pakistan. His message of peace, stability, equality and human rights elevated Pakistan to a well-recognized and respected state. Unfortunately a status that Pakistan has lost in recent years. I admire the man who had the courage to go back to Pakistan and fight for it once more. I can’t think of any other person who could sit in the background and watch all his hard work be dismantled for 5 years, yet still stiffen his upper lip and say ‘I can fix this again’. He has shown his democratic credentials that few can question, by willingly returning to Pakistan and facing the judiciary. He has faced all the politically motivated and fabricated cases that would of never have been brought in any other country but Pakistan. One thing I am sure of is that he does not mind, as the truth always prevails. A true person has nothing to hide. I am ecstatic to always witness how much support President Musharraf has regardless of a lot of media houses choosing not to publicise it. Pakistan needs a moderate, calculated, smart leader who understands diplomacy and is respected internationally like President Musharraf. He is an experienced politician who has led a country through the toughest of times. He is the only man on the Pakistani political scene who can control everything that Pakistan currently faces; it has been tried and tested. Thus he is needed for political stability of Pakistan as well as stability in the region. He is not politically immature, delusional nor is he politically lost, his vision has always been clear and he knows how to execute it. His realist attitude, integrity and huge amounts of optimism will always make him a popular choice for all Pakistanis given a chance. This chance was denied to him in the last election, which raised the question, if President Musharraf was so unpopular surely you would of allowed him to contest the elections? If he were as unpopular as reported, surely you would have allowed him to be humiliated and killed his political career once and for all. President Musharraf will always have many critics but I would not write him off just yet. May he the chance to serve Pakistan once more.