By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Chaudhry Shujaat, the president of the Pakistan Muslim League Q which was created by Musharraf himself, has started to bad mouth Musharraf publicly. How ironic!
There is no question that a coup is always wrong. If we thought otherwise till 1999, we were thoroughly disabused of that notion in entirety by the experience of Musharraf’s rule. Neverthless the events of 9/11, American activities in the region and the eye ball to eye ball conflict with India in 2002-2003 gave Musharraf an excellent opportunity to rise above institutional handicaps and reform Pakistan according to his own professed liberal ideals. His speech of January 12, 2002 professed a liberal and enlightened vision for Pakistan and for this it was placed on the records of the US Congress with laudatory remarks by US legislators. It looked like the Islamic World had a new Ataturk who would restore the second largest Muslim nation to its founding father Jinnah’s ideals. Optimism was infectious and one could not help but be taken by Musharraf’s charisma and promise for change.
And then Musharraf went beserk. Instead of building on his reputation and citing the prevailing situation in the world to seek more time to implement more fully his secular vision he went on to hold a highly questionable general election which was manipulated to allow the pro-Musharraf PMLQ-Q win. While there were many capable men and women who rallied around Musharraf’s liberal agenda as well as people of integrity like Imran Khan who thought at the time that Musharraf was sincere, he chose to put his bets on Chaudhry Shujaat and his clan from Gujurat to lead his party. Every thing Musharraf did subsequently was a wrong turn based on wrong advice from this clan.
Every progressive action was subsequently retracted. Musharraf decreed that the passport would have no religion column – a restoration of the pre-Zia era when passports were secular documents for travel. He then backed out under pressure from Shujaat. Shujaat interfered with everything from madrassah reform to women’s empowerment bill. The last six years of Musharraf rule were peppered with disappointment after disappointment till he finally fired the Chief Justice and the rest, as they say, is history. Today almost a year after Musharraf’s rule ended, we are still where we were in 1999 or even worse- we are in 1999 without Benazir Bhutto and with Asif Ali Zardari. It just goes to show that a coup-maker may promise you the sun and the moon but the action of stunting constitutional growth means that all of that is a mere illusion.
There we must learn a lesson from this- don’t support coup-makers and be wary of those surround such coup makers for they are even more dangerous.