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General anaesthesia

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf seems to have dropped all pretensions of ushering in democracy.
None | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON MAR 21, 2007 03:14 AM IST

I am trying to ensure that a functional and sustainable democracy will exist in Pakistan.’ Those were Pervez Musharraf’s words last year in the United States while on his book promotion tour. He certainly has an odd way of executing this task, going by his latest attempt to sack the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court. Only he hadn’t bargained for the wave of support for Chief Justice Iftkhar Muhammad Chaudhury from the legal fraternity and political parties. To make matters worse for Mr Musharraf, Mr Chaudhury has sought an open trial to defend himself on charges of corruption and misuse of authority. If this happens, the General will be on the mat.

The real reason for this witch-hunt appears to be Mr Chaudhury’s strong stand on human rights. He has repeatedly intervened on the issue of those who have been taken into custody on suspicion of links with Islamic groups and then disappeared. Over 400 people have vanished from custody since Pakistan joined the US-led war on terrorism in 2001. Mr Musharraf seems to have dropped all pretensions of ushering in democracy. No one any longer believes that he is clearing the decks for ‘real democracy’ to take root in Pakistan. At the end of the day, he is a dyed-in-the-wool military man. He has systematically undermined all democratic institutions, barring perhaps the press that has refused to be cowed down by his intimidatory tactics.

Washington has so far been indulgent of the General’s antics and has overlooked his persistent efforts to subvert human rights and democracy in Pakistan. But goodwill for him is wearing thin. He has not been able to deliver all the tall promises he made to the US regarding its drive against terror. Islamic fundamentalists are functioning without any fear in Pakistan and the ISI has been far from cooperative with the US. Mr Musharraf’s move against the judiciary reveals a measure of desperation. He appears to be hitting out blindly against anyone he perceives as inimical to his agenda. If he had more foresight, he would have tried to strengthen democracy as this would have been the best insurance for his continuation in some or other public office. Today, he has proved a failure on all fronts. Not much progress has been made to resolve issues with India and within Pakistan, things are fast unravelling. Not an impressive record for a man who claims to have a vision for Pakistan that no democratic force has been able to deliver so far.

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