After joining the army and as its COAS, when he had seized power through a military coup d'état in 1999, fate had given General Musharraf an opportunity to change the destiny of this unfortunate nation, which Mohammed Ali Jinnah had chiseled out of the pages of British History, by building a separate nation for the Muslims of India.
His inspirational speech and his 7-point agenda and the slogan ‘Country Above All’, had rekindled the dying candle of hope in the country. To his credit, as the tenth President of Pakistan, the country attained respectable growth rates and established a generally favorable investment climate for over three years. Along with that came a growing middle class, a more aggressive media and a more assertive judiciary, as he brought about parliamentary reforms and inducted more women into the parliament.
However, the General’s downfall started when he appointed himself as President of Pakistan, while remaining the head of the army. This was then followed by a referendum in 2002, which allowed him to hold office for a further period of five years. Four months later, in a bid to stay in power, the General implemented 29 amendments in the constitution, granting himself the power to dissolve parliament and remove the prime minister.
In December 2004, Musharraf announced that he would not step down as top military leader, even though he had previously agreed to give up the position of head of the army at the end of 2004, contending that he needed to maintain his position in order to watch over anti-terrorist operations.
However, things began to go wrong for the General and his popularity began to plummet, when in 2007, he suspended the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for "misuse of authority”. The move triggered protests and accusations that he was trying to influence the court's ruling on whether he could run for another five-year term.
In 2007, Musharraf launched his Three Ring Circus, dressed in different costumes and hats. He went on a whirlwind campaign with his clowns and jesters from his rubber stamp parliament and won the presidential elections with ease.
However, the opposition parties cried foul and filed a challenge in the courts. In a desperate bid to save himself, he declared a state of emergency. He suspended Pakistan's constitution, replaced the chief judges and blacked out independent news channel.
This unleashed violent protests all over Pakistan and under pressure from the people and the West, he was forced to lift the emergency and promised re-elections in January 2008. He was pressurized by our ‘Allies’ to legitimize his leadership, by shedding off his army uniform and introduce the elusive democratic process in the country, by holding fresh elections.
To fulfill the shrill demands to hold free, fair and transparent elections, he had to open the doors for the late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan and participate in the elections, hence the NRO.
In order to win votes, he had to ‘compromise and make deals’ with the corrupt, self above all politicians, whom he had chastised when he took over. He was forced to discard his 7-point agenda, to compromise on the process of accountability and launched his political campaign with great fanfare.
He won the controversial presidential elections with a ‘thumping majority’, but the results were immediately challenged and unleashed riots and strikes across the country. Finally, to curb the violence, the General was forced to declare an Emergency in November, 2007 and suspend the Constitution of Pakistan. This was the beginning of the downfall of the General.
Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had immediately swung into action and declared the emergency unconstitutional and directed the armed forces of Pakistan not to obey any illegal orders.
Subsequently, the General sacked the CJ and ordered the 111th Brigade to enter the Supreme Court building, physically remove the CJ and other judges from the SC building and arrest them. The General also muzzled the independent print and electronic media, which he had encouraged initially and finally, declared an emergency.
However, due to the growing public agitation, on November 28, 2007 the General was forced to lift the State of Emergency and order fresh elections, scheduled to be held in early January 2008.
The chant of ‘Go Musharraf Go’ had echoed through the streets of Pakistan and had grown louder day by day. Finally, on Judgment Day, he had no choice but to bow to the will of the Awam and in the ‘larger interest of Pakistan’, was forced to resign with the words, ‘Pakistan ka Khuda hafiz’. He went into self-exile, like Nawaz Sharif, whom he had forced to leave the country, in 1999.
What followed is history and proves the point, that Man proposes, but God disposes. In Musharraf’s case, it was his thirst for power, his arrogance and his destiny. From the giddy heights of fame and success, he was brought down to earth with a crash and has been indicted for treason by the Special Court.
Instead of remaining a General, he had changed course and became a member of our ‘Corrupt Politician’s Club’ by becoming a political leader. His 7-point agenda, including accountability of the corrupt, was thrown into the dustbin. Over time his ‘Country Above All’ turned to the usual ‘Self Above All’ attitude and his compromises and adjustments replaced the Rule of Law.
The General may not be guilty of financial corruption, but he is morally guilty of betraying the trust of the people and failing to execute his 7-point agenda and instead pursued his thirst for absolute power, which corrupted his ability to take rational decisions and was ultimately his undoing.
Today, the all-powerful General, stands in front of the same judges, hat in hand, whom he had humiliated on the world stage and is being tried for treason, by the court and the very PM that he had dismissed and forced into exile when he had seized power.
He is now running like a criminal, from pillar to post, to find a safe place for himself. In a last attempt to save himself from the Day of Judgment he has now tried to find refuge in his hometown, Karachi, where he grew up.
The tragic tale of the rise and fall of the General is a classic example of how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and the old saying, “What goes around comes around”.
Hamid Maker. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).