February 24 , 2006
My support for Musharraf,
which I have always felt was a necessary evil
and nothing more, was based on my view that certain
critical reforms in Pakistan had to take place
that no elected government would ever contemplate.
They included abandoning the Taliban and the Jihadis
in Kashmir, privatizing the economy, opening to
India, dropping trade barriers, and reform of
the banking sector. They also included bringing
the debt burden under control, controlling sectarian
violence, and ending high level corruption.
These were all huge changes that Pakistani politicians
were not willing to entertain for a variety of
reasons. Many analysts have noted that state controlled
resources prevent democracy because elites are
unwilling to lose control of the assets (oil).
It was the huge state owned businesses that played
a similar role in Pakistan’s political economy.
Of the 25 largest businesses in Pakistan before
1999, my guess is that all were state-owned (WAPDA,
KESC, banks, steel, PTCL, PSO, OGDCL, NRL, PAF,
PIA, railways, gas companies, PPL, etc.). This
state-owned economy poisoned Pakistan the same
way state-owned oilfields poison the political
economy of the oil states. By unloading much of
these into private hands, Musharraf has transformed
Pakistan’s political economy, while also
boosting Pak’s growth rate to 7% per annum
At this point, I cannot honestly say that his
presence is absolutely essential. In fact, it
is time for Pakistan’s development to move
to the next phase, one that would mean true democratic
governance. As such, I think Musharraf should
announce that his government will step down in
September 2007, hand over to a caretaker and an
independent election commission, and the country
should have a free election. I personally think
that his record of accomplishments is solid enough
that he could certainly make a compelling case
for re-election. I certainly would vote for his
In order to have a real democratic transition
though, several structural flaws in Pakistan’s
constitutional structure need to be fixed. They
Lift the ban on floor crossing. All MNAs must
be free to vote their conscience and represent
the voters who elected them. Otherwise a Prime
Minister becomes a national dictator.
1. Define the role of the President. If he is
a figurehead, then he must lose all authority
over the government. If not, then the President
should be a nationally elected office.
2. The process for amending the constitution is
far too easy and must be changed to one that ensures
amendments take place after prolonged consideration
and truly reflect a national consensus.
3. Retain the reserved seats for women.
4. All political parties must have internal free
elections for head of the party. No “President
for Life” as Benazir Bhutto styles herself.
5. Before Benazir and Nawaz Sharif and other corrupt
politicians are let back into the process, there
should be a national truth and reconciliation
commission. Any corrupt practices confessed to
the commission will be pardoned, but if a politician
does not do so, then an impartial NAB should pursue
cases against him/her.
6. Term limits for all constitutional offices
including the President should be in the constitution.
George Bush, if he wishes to redeem his Presidency
and the rhetoric about democracy that he indulges,
should make clear to Musharraf that this is what
the US expects.
Musharraf by 2007 will have had eight years at
the helm, equal to two terms for a US president.
That is certainly more than enough time to make
a difference in the life of a society and nation.
I think that on balance he has done a remarkably
good job. He will leave Pakistan in much better
shape than he found it. He should have the good
sense not to overstay and lose his place in history
as the best leader Pakistan has had after Jinnah.Comments
can reach me at Nali@socal.rr.com