The Internal Challenges Facing Gen. Musharraf

03 Nov, 1999    ·   281

D. Suba Chandran argues that the implementation of Gen. Musharraf's agenda for his regime necessarily involves the activation of democratic structures

Where does the military rule in Pakistan stand three weeks after the October coup? Gen. Pervez Musharraf, whose military coup was generally welcomed by the Pakistani people, has taken certain significant measures towards governing the country. What are the challenges facing Musharraf? Will he be able to deliver what Pakistanis are expecting from him? Or would he, following his predecessors' way, ending up as a military dictator?



Restoration of Democracy



Musharraf has not set a time table for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan , though he has announced that the armed forces would not stay any longer than necessary. Though the constitution has been held in abeyance, he said, it is only temporary and democracy shall be established soon. The international community has criticised Musharraf for not setting a timetable for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, but the people in Pakistan seem to be in no hurry regarding the same. In fact people outside Pakistan are more interested democracy returning to Pakistan than the Pakistanis themselves. 



The main reason seems to be the thorough dissatisfaction with both the major parties - Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and the Pakistan People's party (PPP). If democracy were to return, Pakistanis are afraid that it would bring the same set of politicians back to power. What the people expect of Musharraf is a thorough accountability process before the next elections and sincere structural reforms that would prevent the concentration of powers and allow for de-centralization of powers. 



However, Musharraf has clearly stated that the freedom of press would continue and the courts would continue exercise their powers and jurisdiction. With the people themselves not interested in the return to democracy in the immediate future, it can be assumed that Musharraf is under no pressure internally to set a timetable for the same.



Objectives of the Military Government



The military regime aim to achieve the following:



• Rebuild national confidence and morale. 



• Strengthen the federation, remove inter provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion. 



• Revive the economy and restore investor confidence. 



• Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice. 



• Depoliticise state institutions. 



• Devolution of power to the grass roots level. 



• Ensure swift and across the board accountability.



The objectives seem to have covered everything what Pakistanis have been looking for and have been welcomed by the whole nation. However, it will not be easy for Musharraf to achieve these objectives. To begin with, strengthening of the federation and devolution of power to grass roots level cannot be achieved without holding elections for local bodies, provincial and national assemblies. Rebuilding national confidence and morale is going to be tricky so long as people are reduced to being mere spectators without political participation. Ensuring law and order and delivering speedy justice involves reforming the entire system. 



The issue of accountability is even more complex. The accountability process cannot be focused only on the politicians and the businessmen who have plundered the nation but should also include the bureaucrats and the former military officers.



The greatest challenge to the military regime is how to undertake the economic recovery of Pakistan ? Analysts view that it would take years for the military regime to put country's economy back into the right path, but the question is whether the people will have the patience till then. 



Governance after the Coup - The formation of National Security Council



Musharraf has announced the formation of National Security Council (NSC) at the national level. Headed by the Chief Executive, the NSC will consist of six members - Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, a specialist each in the field of legal, finance, foreign policy and national affairs. A cabinet of ministers is slated to function under the guidance of the NSC. Accordingly Sharifuddin Pirzada, Dr. Mohammad Yakub, Dr. Attiya Inayatullah and Imtiaz Sahibzada were appointed as the civilian members of the NSC. Abdus Sattar was appointed as the Foreign Minister and Shaukat Aziz as the Finance Minister of Pakistan . These appointments were generally welcomed by the people of Pakistan , as they have served the country in the past and considered to be experienced experts and neutral.



At the provincial levels, Musharraf has appointed four Governors to govern the provinces. It is too early to decide how successful the new team would be in tackling the problems facing Pakistan .



Role of Religion



Musharraf, in his address to the nation has promised the minorities that they would "enjoy full rights and protection as equal citizens". The civil society in Pakistan and the international community will be thankful to Musharraf if he is serious regarding this aspect, especially in terms of curbing the sectarian violence and the influence of fundamentalists and put the country back in to what Jinnah envisaged.