Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday 15 December 2007

The greatest beneficiary

Pakistan’s new civilian president, retired General Pervez Musharraf has announced a parcel of measures to lift the state of emergency he decreed on 3 November, just in time to ensure that next month’s general election will be seen as ‘free and fair’. The five presidential orders, according to Dawn’s Nasir Iqbal, are:

Revocation of Proclamation of Emergency Order 2007, Repeal of Provisional Constitution Order, Revival of Constitutional Order, Establishment of Islamabad High Court and grant of pension benefits to judges who had either refused or had not been invited by the government to take the oath under the PCO.

Talking to media personnel at the Supreme Court, he [Musharraf] said that with the lifting of the emergency and the repeal of the PCO, all fundamental rights would stand restored and the media would be the greatest beneficiary.

What Musharraf doesn’t mention is that, as Keith Jones reports on WSWS,

On Tuesday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued a warning to the country’s private television stations, most of which only recently resumed broadcasting, threatening them with heavy fines and their personnel, including journalists, with jail sentences of up to three years if they violate a ban on live broadcasts or violate new regulations imposed during the emergency that forbid airing “anything which defames or brings into ridicule the head of state.”…The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists called the Pemra order “an attempt to silence the free media” and emasculate coverage of the election campaign.

With a Damoclean sword dangling precariously above them like that, Pakistani journalists will doutless derive great benefit from the sense of responsibility it imparts.

Although ‘deposed judges, including Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, would be granted pension benefits’,

“All judges of the superior courts who were not invited by the government to take oath under the PCO, or those who had declined to do so, will not be restored at all,” the attorney general said.

So there is no further danger of unruly activist judges finding that Musharraf was in fact not eligible to stand for election while in the employ of the state as the constitution provides. Under the circumstances, you can understand why

Pakistanis also do not accept Musharraf’s stated rationale for the state of emergency declaration. When given a choice between two options, 25 percent said that they thought Musharraf declared the emergency in order to better fight terrorists, while 66 percent said that it was to prevent the Supreme Court from overturning his re-election to another term as president.

Those figures come from a survey of ‘3,520 adult men and women from 223 rural and 127 urban locations in 51 districts in all four provinces of Pakistan’ conducted 19-28 November by the International Republican Institute (IRI), ‘A nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide’. In reality, the IRI is the Republican Party’s branch of the US National Endowment for Democracy, funded by the US government to advance its global war on democracy. Ordinarily, I am sceptical of surveys that don’t publish the questions asked and the other metadata that make the numbers intelligible. But in this case, the report of results seems fairly explicit and more importantly, the IRI favours the Musharraf regime, so I would expect any bias they might introduce to minimise opposition to Musharraf. And yet, they also found

When asked if they supported the recent re-election of Musharraf to another term as president, voters were overwhelmingly opposed; 26 percent said they supported his reelection and 72 percent said that they did not; 61 percent said that they strongly opposed Musharraf’s re-election.

A majority of Pakistanis want Musharraf to resign from office, with 67 percent wanting his resignation and 25 percent opposed.

To recap, the reason Musharraf could be elected with 72% opposed is that in Pakistan, it is not the electorate at large, but the National and Provincial Assemblies, who elect the president. Since Musharraf scheduled the presidential election before the parliamentary elections, and since the opposition boycotted the election and Benazir Bhutto’s PPP abstained, it was his tame legislators who voted for him.

Just to make sure that everything is aboveboard, Attorney-General

Mr [Mohammad] Qayyum said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif stood disqualified for the January 8 election. Shahbaz Sharif, he added, had not appealed against the rejection of his candidature during the stipulated time, so he also stood disqualified.

Furthermore, ‘The constitutional bar on a person to become prime minister for the third time would stay, he said.’ If correct, that means that in the unlikely case that the PPP should win enough seats to form government, Benazir will not be eligible to be PM. True to form, she and Nawaz have decided not to boycott the parliamentary election, even though

74 percent of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, voters said they would support the boycott, as did the same percentage of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) voters, the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

So, while six weeks of martial law may not have succeeded in eradicating terrorism in Pakistan, it has certainly served Musharraf’s interests very well indeed. Maybe two thirds of Pakistanis were right about that.


  1. The point that most of the observers tend to skip while quoting the survey (it has been widely dessiminated here) is that despite the opposition of two-third Pakistanis to the rule of General Musharraf, the people did not come out to challenge a decade long stay of the General in power. It seems that two-third Pakistanis are gainst simple transition (as they call it) with no sunbstantial chnage in economic relations and the supersrtucture, there seems to be no indication of a popular movement of the toiling masses across the country.

  2. Sadly, opinion polls are not a foolproof indicator of mobilisation, as with the US attitudes to the war in Iraq and the mostly moribund US peace movement.

  3. Yes, Musharraf is a nasty piece of work. I noted the following:

    A majority of Pakistanis want Musharraf to resign from office, with 67 percent wanting his resignation and 25 percent opposed.

    How many of the 25% oppose resignation because they want him arrested & tried?

    A "democracy" where the President can sack the judiciary when he fears it will rule against him and then return to "constitutional" rule with a new Supreme Court of his choosing is no "democracy" at all. The laws simply do not bind the Government. The only rule is that there are no rules.

  4. There are two issues related to the survey. Firstly, it is assumed in the capitalist value of democracy that a representative of the people should have been elected by the majority of the people. It is further assumed that a reprenstative could represent the people as long as he/she enjoys support of the people. How on earth could a person remain in power when he had not enjoyed the support of even a fraction of the population despite the claims of strict adherence to democratic values? What was the source of General Musharraf's power in the absence of a popular support? Secondly, what stops the opinion leadres (if this breed exists in Pakistan), especially the leftists (I consider myself a leftist)to count on the resentment against the general to raise a popular movement for revolutionary changes in the superstructure?