Editorial : A hollow appeal - Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/02/a-hollow-appeal.html

PATRIOTIC generals alone can rescue Pakistan from the depredations of despotic politicians. At least that is what the public was urged to believe yet again on Monday by none other than the leader of a major political party in the country, Altaf Hussain. No, this isn’t a joke. Yes, it really did happen, again. Some, blindingly obvious, context here is necessary. First, the MQM. The party has been part of nearly every set-up, civilian and military, in Sindh and at the centre over the past couple of decades. The party continues to be part of the coalition government in Sindh. The party has declined to use its strength in the National Assembly to press for a constitutional change of government. Beyond protecting its own turf, there appears little the MQM is consistent about. When it is part of a military dispensation, the party talks about the trappings of democracy. When it is part of a civilian dispensation, the party calls upon ‘patriotic generals’ to ‘save’ the country from the very class of politicians the MQM has routinely partnered with.

Next, the question of whether generals, pat-riotic or otherwise, have any idea about how to ‘fix’ Pakistan. It isn’t a very difficult question to answer. For half its history Pakistan has been ruled directly by military dictators, while the other half has seen the military play a powerful behind-the-scenes role. If Pakistan today needs to be saved — as Mr Hussain has argued — then surely it needs to be saved from the group that has led and influenced the policies of the country the most. Logic and history would suggest that group is the army itself. Can the army save the country from the very problems the army must surely bear some responsibility for creating or perpetuating in the first place? Consider just the last round of military rule: does anyone really believe the country was better off at the end of Gen Musharraf’s rule? Moreover, the fa├žade of democracy erected by Gen Musharraf consisted of the very ‘feudal lords’ — the King’s Party aka the PML-Q — the MQM is so opposed to today. Perhaps the MQM would also do well to remember the treatment meted out to its workers by the army in the 1990s.

Finally, hollow as the appeal to the army may have been, it does underline that there is always a threat lurking. Thankfully, this time a majority of the mainstream politicians in Pakistan appear to have understood that bitter infighting only helps strengthen the non-democratic forces. How-ever, constant vigilance is needed: the non-democratic forces will not accept defeat so easily.

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