02. January 2005 · Comments Off on Musharraf Retains Control · Categories: General, Politics, World

Those who follow the Byzantine Pakistani political scene will consider this a must-read. Those who don’t will likely find it confusing:

General Pervez Musharraf has finally pronounced on the uniform issue. His announcement that he has decided to keep both offices of army chief and president of Pakistan was long in the offing, especially after the Senate passed the two-offices bill on November 1, 2004 and its chairman, Mohammadmian Soomro, in his capacity as acting president, deemed it fit to sign the bill into law on December 1 last year.

General Musharraf says he has not violated the Constitution and is only following the decision of both houses of parliament reached through a democratic process of majority vote. There is no point in trying to look into this claim since all sides are aware of how he swung this ‘democratic’ vote and the degree of probity of this exercise. Let’s just consider that he is technically right on this count. Even so, it is important to see if he has good reasons for doing what he has done since he chose to speak directly to the people of Pakistan.

From the American perspective, this is likely a good thing. Musharraf has, thus far, shown himself to be one of the more enlightened despots of the Islamic world, as well as someone the US can deal with. He has also proven quite skilled at walking the tightrope of Pakistani power. And, while our administration agrees with me, the BBC reports “uniform dismay.” But as could be expected, they exagerate:

Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, member of the executive committee of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), said the president’s speech had reflected the aspirations and wishes of the nations. He added that the businessmen were with the president. “The president’s speech will not only promote peace but will improve the country’s image abroad,” he said.

Mr Sarhadi said at this critical time, the president should keep both offices with him. “The president’s claim that trade with Afghanistan will cross $1 billion and the economy will get a boost will have a positive affect on the stock market and will attract foreign investment also,” he added.

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