Friday, September 29, 2006

Serious Satire: Pervez Musharraf's Independence Day Address to Pakistan

A speech that Pakistan's dictator ought to make but never would.

Bismillah -Ar-Rehman-Ar-Rahim

My dear countrymen, Assalam Alaikum.

My greetings to you on the occasion of 14th August - the day Pakistan achieved its independence from the British and came into existence.

The country has witnessed a series of changes under my leadership since 1999. The newspapers write with more abandon, there is a splurge of private television channels, there are dozens of FM radio stations voicing independent opinions. Pakistan is truly reaching a level of democracy which it did not witness in the earlier so-called democratic regimes.

I have also spared no attempts to normalize relations with India. Pakistan wants peace with honor. It is essential for an everlasting harmony between the two neighbors that the core issue of Kashmir should be solved to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned.

My fellow Pakistanis, I have noticed that in spite of an all-round development, in spite of the rising indices of the Karachi Stock Exchange, in spite of our shining motorways which can shame our neighbor's infrastructure, in spite of our ample foreign reserves, the country appears to be less hopeful on reaching the 60th year of its independence.

There must be no confusion about Pakistan's success as a country. This humble man, who was born in Delhi and migrated later to a newly created Pakistan, went on to become the army chief and President. Certainly it is not possible in a nation which is not confident of itself.

Dear countrymen, on the seventh year of my rule, I wish to share some of my reflections with you. A country is bigger than an individual. The presidents die and are buried in the graveyards but the nation lives on. A good ruler might introduce far-reaching reforms but a responsible ruler has to make sure that the changes survive his power tenure.

Therefore I offer to resign as Pakistan's President and Army Chief at the end of this year. I also invite former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharief to end their exile and return to Pakistan and test their popularity by contesting elections and prove their honesty by fighting the corruption charges. I give assurance that this government would not interfere with the court proceedings and neither would it influence the national elections whose date would be announced later.

A true democracy consists not only of voting in a government in a free and fair election, but also voting out a government. This is a pleasure that has never been exercised by the people of my country. I propose to bring about laws in the constitution which would render it impossible for anybody to topple a government with undemocratic means. Stringent laws would be devised to guarantee that power changes are brought about only by the people of Pakistan or their representatives in the parliament.

Fellow countrymen, you realize well that what dangers are being faced on many fronts. There is unrest in the province of resource-rich Baluchistan. Al Qaeda is trying to spark trouble in the North West Frontier Province. India is threatening to target Azad Kashmir .

While I am prepared to accept the legitimate demands of the wayward leaders of Baluchistan and would make sure that the province receives its due share of development revenue from its gas reserves, I would not encourage any activity that might endanger the sovereignty of Pakistan.

As to fighting Al Qaeda and the threats from India, I propose to give a greater responsibility to the Pakistan army. There is envisaged a reduction in the role of Pakistan army in the day-to-day function of the administration so that more attention could be paid to the nation's security concerns. It is intended to completely phase out army's role in an arena which is rightfully the preserve of the civilians.

Finally, dear countrymen, I declare that Nishan-e-Pakistan - the country's highest civilian honor - will be awarded this year to Mukhtaran Bibi. She was an illiterate woman who took her rapists to the court, rather than hiding herself in shame which is normally the fate of victims like her. Later, with the financial help she received from her well wishers all around the world, she chose to open a girls' school in her village.

Pakistan is not honoring her to win a good impression in the international opinion, or due to pressure from any New York Times columnist, but to make a point that what happened to Mukhtaran was terrible and remains a world-wide scourge, but how our Mukhtaran responded was the essence of an unique Pakistani sprit.

Let the dreams of our founder leader - Muhammad Ali Jinnah - come true.

May Allah guide us on the path of truth and honor.

Allah Hafiz. Pakistan Paaindabad.

1 comment:

Usman said...

Mayank, I think it is only appropriate that there be a Pakistani's perspective on the subject of Musharraf.

The Decade of Darkness: Democracies in Pakistan

Pakistan’s decade of democracy can be more aptly described as a decade of darkness. The era of democracy witnessed two democratically elected governments destroy the very fledgling democracy that brought them to power. The Sharif and Bhutto regimes were marred in corruption, economic stagnation, civil disorder and a culture of nepotism. Pakistan was on the verge of bankruptcy barely able to pay interest on 38 billion dollars of back-breaking debt. Critical government positions became a revolving door for unqualified party lackeys. The economy was in shambles, the youth disaffected and a middle class stretched to its limits. Karachi was paralyzed with fear, strikes, curfews, ethnic and sectarian violence. Economic indicators were placing Pakistan just above the ranks of Rwanda, Somalia and Haiti. This was the state of the 'union’ when general Musharraf took over the country. The ensuing seven years have shown Pakistan is better off with a goal-driven, result-oriented military leadership than a corrupt, self-serving, ethno-centric democracy.

Harvard alumnus, Ms. Bhutto, gave the people great hope after the incompetent dictatorship of general Zia-ul-Haq but her government was embroiled in corruption and civil disorder. So blatant was the level of nepotism that Ms. Bhutto’s husband, Asif Zardari, was appointed federal minister of investments. Mr. Zardari’s kickback schemes were documented in detail by various BBC specials. The urban centers of Sind were on the verge of a full-blown war between various ethnic factions. Journalists from Jang were beaten for unfavorable editorials in this sham democracy. Karachi’s law and order situation had deteriorated into a national nightmare. Pakistan’s fickle public was openly demanding for a military takeover.

The Sharif regime certainly did not fare any better. An increasingly authoritarian Mr. Sharif rewrote the constitution, demoted the president to a ceremonial figurehead, dismissed the chief justice due to corruption charges, coached general karamat into retirement and promoted some amiable fellow named Pervaiz. In short order, the democratically elected industrialist had effectively become king of Pakistan. His policies and expensive projects bankrupted the Pakistani treasury. Indian editorials gleefully pointed out the fact Pakistan’s per capita income had dipped to the level of sub-Saharan countries. An increasingly empowered India was prematurely celebrating the final death blow to the two nation theory. By the end of the 90’s, Mr. Sharif and Ms. Bhutto had ravaged the nation under the fa├žade of democracy.

It is inconvenient to recall these dire circumstances inherited by General Musharraf after his atypical coup d’etat of October 1999. This selective amnesia may be the result of 7 years of relative prosperity. Pakistan’s economy has experienced unprecedented growth of 6% to 8% for the last 6 years. The economy is experiencing the second fastest growth in Asia. If such robust growth can be sustained for another 7 years, Pakistan could be a transformed into a middle income nation. Per capita income has increased to 815$ which is the highest in the region. 10 million people have been rescued from poverty. Exports have increased by 22 per cent. For the first time in history, foreign exchange reserves have crossed the 13 billion dollar mark. In 1999, India’s foreign exchange reserves were 40 times higher than Pakistan. By 2002, this disparity declined to a more proportionate 8 times the reserves of Pakistan. External debt has been rescheduled and restructured. The tax code was simplified and a record amount was collected from loan defaulters and tax evaders. Revenue collection has increased by 22%. International attitudes about Pakistan have shifted dramatically attracting 2 billion dollars annually in foreign direct investment. FDI has increased by a whopping 120% versus the decade of democracy. Even the staunchest critics of Pakistan’s economic policies such as IMF and World Bank now praise President Musharraf’s economic initiatives. The man appointed by President Musharraf and credited with much of the accelerated economic growth is Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Not since Berkeley graduate Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has Pakistan been lead by such an astute and qualified individual. Mr. Aziz was declared Finance Minister of the year by EuroMoney and Banker’s Magazine in 2001. Mr. Aziz’s repertoire includes leading the global finance division of one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies. The Armani suited Shaukat could be living a life of luxury on some island resort after his illustrious career in banking. Inexplicably, he has chosen a life of repeated assassinations, suicide bombs and political mudslinging to become the principal architect of Pakistan’s economic turnaround. The pair has managed to do the seemingly impossible by attracting foreign capital to a country advertised as the epicenter of terrorism by foreign media. Development can be seen all over the country. A seven-star 250 million dollar hotel is being built in Islamabad by investors of Dubai’s Burj-al-Arab fame. IT and BPO exports, while small, are increasing yearly. Gulf Countries are investing heavily in President Musharraf’s vision for gwadar. The economy even absorbed a devastating earthquake, political tremors, regional wars, drought and floods. The Musharraf–Aziz tandem is a far cry from the days when Mr. Zardari was the caretaker of the country’s financial “interests”. Even the harshest critics of the military have reluctantly conceded that President Musharraf’s tenure has been the best Pakistani administration for decades. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is the restoration of hope and pride in a cynic Diaspora. Droves of Pakistanis have returned to their homeland with dollars, pounds and riyals in hand, further supplementing a growing economy. In a recent interview, an Analyst from the widely respected Economist magazine stated “he (President Musharraf) has made some sensible moves such as privatizing 5 billion dollars worth of state assets to bidders. Needless red tape has been removed, tax regulations and tax collection has been improved. If he is able to complete his objectives, history will smile upon him”.

Politically, President Musharraf has taken some courageous actions. Who can argue with his u-turn against misguided extremists in the post 9/11 world? The Talibanization of Pakistan has been reversed. Feudal lords, the scourge of Pakistan, are feeling the wrath of the military. Ethnic and sectarian violence is relatively subdued despite the best efforts of covert foreign intervention. Semi-literate mullahs that misinterpret Islam by preaching hatred have been arrested. An open exchange of ideas is taking place in a vibrant media that enjoys unprecedented freedom. He has walked a tightrope and chosen a path of sanity by joining the world against extremists evicted from the Sudan and Afghanistan. No international forum is spared without a mention of Kashmiri and Palestinian struggle.

The Musharraf administration has reformed many public services and upgrades to the social sector. Roads and infrastructure are being upgraded and local governance has improved. 400 million dollars is being spent on renewable energy. Karachi is visibly cleaner due to energetic and youthful local governance. 100 million dollars is being spent on the Karachi mega-city project. While previous administrations have paid lip service to development of the smaller provinces, President Musharraf has converted words into action. A record amount of the national budget has been allocated for the smaller provinces. An intelligent and coherent strategy has been put forward for the development of an energy, transportation and trade corridor from Gwadar to Central Asia. 3 major pipelines (TAPI, IPI, QP) are being pursued to transfer energy to thirsty neighboring giants India and Pakistan. Makhran highway among other infrastructure projects has been seen through completion. Money has been poured into education although much of the funds are stolen by a corrupt lower-level bureaucracy. Educational reforms introduced by Chaudary Pervez Elahi in Punjab are being adopted nationally to check corruption. While previous administrations have bickered endlessly over water and energy y shortages, President Musharraf has undertaken the initiative of building dams and reactors that will cushion the nation from energy outages, droughts and floods.

This is not to say Mr. Musharraf’s resume is free of blemishes. Undoubtedly, President Musharraf has made several mistakes and these errors in judgment are dissected regularly in countless editorials. A hastily organized referendum was certainly a major mistake. Propping up a theocratic MMA was another. The kargil fiasco is widely attributed to then General Musharraf. Incursions into Wana have done nothing but expose the federation’s weakness. Unnecessarily blunt and insensitve comments about Mukhtar Mai is yet another blow to our already battered public image. Purchases of expensive, high-maintenance F16s from a notoriously unreliable supplier is yet another mistake. Pakistan’s economic losses due to the American invasion of Afghanistan were underestimated thus undercutting foreign aid. However, Mr. Musharraf’s vision, reforms and track record far exceeds that of his so-called democratic predecessors. While previous military and democratic leaders have been self-serving failures, President Musharraf has actually strengthened many of the institutions required for a proper democracy. By all accounts, Pakistan was headed on a nose-diving trajectory. It was resurrected from the depths of failure by the astute leadership of the current military regime. From restoring civil liberties, empowering women and minorities, promoting education, upgrading infrastructure to reviving the economy, the statistics are indisputable. The general has been good for the country. Some day, we will have a true democracy. Until that day, we will choose an honest military man over ineffective, authoritarian 'democracies'.