Time to step down

By Manzoor Chandio
Written on March 31, 2008

PRESIDENT Musharraf and Chancellor Metternich of the Austrian Habsburg empire have much in common. One of the most remarkable features the 19th-century European statesman and the 21st-century Pakistani leader share is that both saw themselves as unrivalled.
Therefore they believed they must rule for as long as they wished.
Metternich said of himself: “There is a wide sweep about my mind. I am always above and beyond the preoccupations of most public men … I cannot help saying to myself about twenty times a day: how right I am and how wrong they are.”
He also thought of himself as a kind of lamp or beacon which helped people find their way around. Metternich emerged on the political horizon when Europe was in deep trouble and ideas of nationalism and liberalism were gaining currency.
He wanted to preserve the ancien regime (the old aristocratic order) which expected people to be submissive and conformist. He hosted the Congress of Vienna to preserve the old order but failed.
Musharraf also emerged on the scene in troubled times. Initially he ruled through the establishment’s age-old formulas: the doctrine of necessity and PCOs.
He began his rule as the country’s supreme executive authority and enjoyed sweeping powers as chief executive, chief of the army staff and president.
After 9/11 he became the defining feature of the Pakistan government, leading to a dramatic change in the country’s relations with the rest of the world.
He became a friend of the United States and joined hands with President Bush in his war on terror.
Musharraf managed to gather every self-seeking politician he could find to support his regime. Now they are no longer in a position to protect him.
The MQM, for instance, has changed its stance by supporting the coalition parties which are demanding Musharraf’s resignation. He held a referendum and managed to get a friendly parliament elected in 2002. But now there is a new parliament in place and it echoes with slogans of ‘Go Musharraf Go’.
Like Metternich, Musharraf depended on the law-enforcement agencies to prop up his office. The spies of the chancellor haunted and jailed many prominent Hungarian and Italian nationalists because they were regarded as agents of change.
Several hundred nationalist and liberal activists disappeared during the Metternich regime. The Musharraf government killed Nawab Akbar Bugti and Balach Marri and jailed Akhtar Mengal and Dr Safdar Sarki.
Several hundred nationalist activists arrested during Musharraf’s rule are still missing. The killing of Baloch leaders in merciless military actions led to the resurgence of the nationalist movement.
People gave their verdict on nationalist lines in the Feb 18 polls.
The Sindhis and Seraikis voted for the People’s Party, the mohajirs for the MQM, Punjabis and Hazaras for the PML-N and the Pakhtuns for the ANP.
The nationalist parties in Balochistan had boycotted the polls. Had they not done so, the Baloch surely would have voted for them. Now the PPP is forming a government in the province for the first time.
The Austrian chancellor banned many books, newspapers, journals, plays and even paintings because they were propagating a nationalist Europe. He targeted intellectuals such as professors, writers or students. Musharraf targeted intellectuals by banning many TV channels and their programmes.
He declared emergency rule, imprisoning the lawyers, political activists and civilians who criticised him.
Metternich championed the social dominance of the aristocracy. He believed the aristocrats would safeguard the old order. To preserve the old order, the Musharraf government introduced the local government system to empower feudal lords.
In Sindh, he even created fiefdoms by dividing districts to accommodate landlords who could not gain power in the existing districts. He wanted the feudal lords to act as his proxies and exercise their authority over the people.
He even went a step further than Metternich when we compare the two against the backdrop of the judicial crisis in Pakistan. He eventually bulldozed the judiciary and incarcerated several judges and the chief justice.
His one-upmanship ultimately threw Metternich into complete isolation. This thinking not only destroyed him but also the ancien regime he wanted to preserve.
Finally, he resigned when a mob stood thundering at the door of his cabinet. Almost all political parties in the country are demanding Musharraf’s resignation.
What is he waiting for? For the day when the mob will knock at his door?


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