The third option - Syed Jawaid Iqbal - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What should be the course of action for Pervez Musharraf now? To start with, he should not take another impulsive decision and, driven by his unquestioned patriotism, land up in Pakistan one fine morning. The threats to his personal safety are too many.

He should move away from London and set up his camp office closer to home in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. While the basic infrastructure of his political party, the APML, is in place, it now needs to be joined by people who must be seen working more proactively and talking to the people on their leader’s behalf in a much more forceful manner. While Mr Altaf Hussain makes frequent statements on national matters, there is a lot that people in the MQM Rabita Committee also say and do to exploit the opportunity and further propagate their leader’s utterances.

It is also time for all those well-known names who are known to have a leaning towards Pervez Musharraf but who have been so often described by him as “fence-sitters,” to come off their comfortable perches and stand up to be counted as Musharraf’s supporters. If they are still waiting to find out which way the wind will blow, then they may soon find themselves blown off their feet.

As for the way forward, for once, it is judicious on the part of Pervez Musharraf to realise that he cannot traverse the political path alone. The people of Pakistan have been fed enough hollow promises under the current dispensation. Now they want results and for any political party to be able to deliver, it has to be an open and accommodative approach based on a concrete programme and a collaborative strategy with other likeminded political parties.

The APML’s interest in and sincerity about Pakistan’s current social and economic problems as well as future plans would be more efficiently reflected if it formed a proper central committee or shadow cabinet backed by a fully equipped research cell that should keep its finger on the people’s pulse, acquire information on a real-time basis and advise their leader on national policy formulation and other issues. They should keep him fully updated so that he can speak out more convincingly and with more facts on various issues concerning the country.

If Pervez Musharraf perceives himself to be playing a role in Pakistan’s affairs in the near future, he needs to change his approach and take politics much more seriously. He may talk to TV anchors about things that bring him out as a well-rounded person who lives life with all its verve and vitality but it does nothing to convince the starving masses that he shares their pain and sufferings – and is eager and willing to address their problems wherever in the world he may be.

If Benazir Bhutto could take a leaf from Altaf Hussain’s book and address party workers on telephone during her self-exile days, why can’t Pervez Musharraf do the same? His success will largely depend on his charisma, his political acumen and his party’s ability to counter the negative propaganda that has been unleashed by his opponents. To do this, he needs to develop a strong capability to address the people’s psychographics, playing on all the positives of his tenure and the tremendous gap that has now come about as those who followed him into office have comprehensively failed to deliver on all counts.

There is no doubt that Pervez Musharraf has many positives that could make a difference to Pakistan’s political future. He is respected in top circles worldwide, has a middle class background and is still acceptable to the army. He has in-depth understanding of the current geopolitical scenario and the players that matter, including the more balanced Taliban and the Kashmiris and he knows what role India, Afghanistan and the US are playing in the regional context. Being a moderate, he enjoys the confidence of the international community led by the US and EU.

It may be recalled that during his term in office, Musharraf advised the US to “engage” the Taliban. They did not pay attention then but now they are adopting the same strategy directly in Afghanistan and indirectly through Turkey. Had the US paid heed to Pervez Musharraf’s advice, Mike Mullen would not have said in his most recent visit to Islamabad that he worries about the syndication that has developed in the region involving organisations like the Haqqani network and Al- Qaeda over the course of the last three years.

The record of Pakistan’s economic performance in Musharraf’s tenure is also noteworthy. A recent substantiation of this has come in the Programme Note on Pakistan that the IMF issued on April 7, 2011. The opening statement of the note says: “...until the economic crisis of 2008, Pakistan enjoyed a relatively robust economic performance since 2001.”

Now Musharraf also knows how the government functions in this country and would not look like a novice should he gain access to the corridors of power again. He is an upfront and candid sort of person which is a great thing but what, in one’s considered opinion, he needs to add to his personality profile is the art of “political diplomacy – something that is absolutely necessary for success in the South Asian political scenario.

At present, Musharraf’s party, the APML, is like a stationery train at a platform with empty bogies and all the passengers loitering about because the engine is missing. Let’s hope that once the engine is attached (Pervez Musharraf’s changed political approach) and the whistle blows, they (the fence-sitters) would all jump in and the APML would gather steam towards its political journey.

When Pervez Musharraf launched the APML, he said he wanted to give another option to the people of Pakistan. Now that the people have had a taste of two options – the People’s Party and the Muslim League can he become the third option?


The writer is chairman of “Moderates,” a private-sector think tank. Email: chairman@

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