The Case For General Pervez Musharraf

Harshly criticized for quality defects, Theodore MacManus wrote the Penalty of Leadership in 1915 for Cadillac (a treasured part of every Cadillac manual for almost a century), later adopted by Elvis Presley and I quote: “The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy.”

Besides power and fuel shortages, business and employment down the drain, rampant lawlessness for breakfast, US drones for lunch and international media bashing for supper, Pakistanis also wonder whether or not Pervez Musharraf will be behind bars or with a noose around his neck in the days or weeks to come.

Probably few are aware that Musharaf grew up in liberal Turkey with a dog named Whiskey. Musharraf was a rare, open and nurturing leader in Pakistan’s landscape of looters and plunderers occupying the seats of power. As the state sponsored media rants against him, blaming him even after 4 years of power for all that ever happened to Pakistan in 60 years, one wonders was he really all “that” bad?

Fine, he toppled Nawaz in 1999, but wasn’t the country at the edge of financial default then? Commando that he is, skillfully maneuvered the country out of the woods, even his fairer opponents would agree! Name it, education, telecoms, finance, healthcare, everything skyrocketed. Common man was happy. World media was happy. World leadership was satisfied.

pervez musharraf
Pervez Musharraf

I remember in 1999-2001 when I was handling Nokia mobile phones portfolio in Pakistan and smuggling was rampant, it was with the direct support of Musharraf and his cabinet that we turned that situation into humungous income for the country by changing the laws in less than a few months! Thereafter, in June 2001, I wrote a critical letter to Musharraf on my assessment of his performance till then. I received no reprimand. In fact, I was called to the President’s house and given a run down on the challenges he faced and the bitter pills he swallowed. I don’t see that happening in many a “democracies” in the world today.

He made mistakes, every leader does, went to maddening extent to legitimize his stay in power with corrupt politicians, Lal Masjid and Baluchistan were both fiascos he could have handled with more tact, could have been assertive with both the US and the ISI to build lasting trust, didn’t reform the police or the judiciary at all with honest officers (what “got” him in the end) and above all, led a colorful life that alienated him from those who expected him to stay focused as the battle was not over (including the Army). He lost the battle, but did he lose the war? I think not.

Today, the government is leaving no stone unturned for a crime he logically had no interest to commit: the murder of Benazir Bhutto, who he invited, with Uncle Sam’s blessings, to form a government with an intent to stabilize democracy and save himself from Nawaz.

One is compelled to ask, who “benefitted” from her death and under what circumstances did she die? Was he, as the President of Pakistan, expected to stand guard with a helmet and rifle next to her stand or vehicle?

A President who faced numerous publicly documented attempts on his own life in a Talibanized and unstable country, when he couldn’t ensure his own security, how was he even expected to ensure the security of anyone else?

Who were the forces against Benazir besides the media proclaimed Musharraf? Why are the key institutions and forces aligned against Musharraf though warring internally! What is it that Musharraf is capable of, that they fear? In two words, “international influence” on global leaders, Bush, Blair, Howard, the King of Saudi Arabia, Chinese Premier, to name a few.

He is still the respectable face of Pakistan to the world; the powers that be hate that, to say the least!

Regardless of the motivations for Musharraf red warrant paraphernalia, one thing is apparent. The common man, in or out of uniform is still in his favor. The only contender, Imran Khan, unfortunately has little to prove yet, politically, administratively and globally, compared to Musharraf.

On Interpol arresting Musharraf, one needs to read the article by Ian Johnston earlier this year, where he cites many an example of oppressive and corrupt regimes using red warrants against political enemies – Musharraf seems to fit the bill fairly well, I suppose. Further, Interpol mandate clearly excludes it from “politically inspired” cases, hence; personally, I see little likelihood of a red warrant ever issued against Musharraf unless he goes out on a mad killing rampage henceforth!

His only hope, to me, is to build bridges with Nawaz and Imran – the two developmental politicians of Pakistan, who, despite their weaknesses, have given more to the nation than taken, and have more in common with Musharraf’s corporatized leadership style than the political mayhem of others. And like it or not, who have no hope without him, for 2013 will see Punjab divided between them; and PPP ruling with a majority in Punjab.

What the future holds for Musharraf is anybody’s guess. Pakistan politics is similar to their favorite sport, cricket, unpredictable until the last ball. Two things are clear though, the army won’t interfere and PPP (in power) will leave no stone unturned to keep the trophy of power, resources, gold, cash, wine, women, fame and terror, that is also known to some as “Pakistan.”

MacManus parted the Penalty of Leadership with “That which deserves to live, lives.” Will Musharraf live to see the light of day in Pakistan in his past glory? I think the people, not the “Brown Saheb” or Talibanized leaders of Pakistan know better…