Guest Blog by Sami Khan
An open letter to “All Concerned
European Union consists of 27 member states with complete civil liberties for the citizens one can only dream of in the third world country like Pakistan. But it is very unfortunate that whenever there is a minimal chance of establishing democracy in our country, of course not like yours, international community somehow supports or I would say does not take strong steps as should be taken against those elements that derail the process of democracy.
As a citizen of a sovereign country, one should not be writing to you in first place but when I see international community very keenly taking interest in our local affairs, it does not make me feel I am citizen of a sovereign country. Therefore, I am compelled to draw your attention toward the very serious and deteriorated situation in our country.
Whenever a military dictator like the present one in our country invades and conquers his own country after every 10 years, international community which includes US, EU, UN, Commonwealth come out with kind of lip service only. International community condemns, threatens and warns dictators of dangerous consequences before and after the occupation (coup), at the end here comes a very big “BUT and that BUT works as oxygen for dictators and that lip service gives us the impression of International communitys support for the unconstitutional and illegal steps of dictators.
Hussain Haqqani, Director of the Center for International Relations and Professor at Boston University, in his article “Why the General amnesty? of July 19, 2004, has very rightly stated that “Giving Pakistans military rulers a free pass has historically served only to embolden them in pursuing contradictory policies. Musharraf, who took power in a military coup in 1999, claims that he wants to transform Pakistan into a moderate Muslim nation. But his performance is, at best, mixed. He represents the tradition of US-backed military strongmen that goes back to the Cold War and that is part of Pakistans problem, not its solution.
Pakistan has a long history of US-backed military regimes achieving high economic growth rates and a mirage of socio-political reform in the short-term, without long-term stability in the country, says Hussain.
There are many examples of supporting military dictator, as we, very frequently experience military interventions in our country but I would like to quote here the last occupation i.e. so-called Bloodless Coup on October 12, 1999.
The EU response was swift in its condemnation of the coup. Finland, the current EU president, said: “The EU can in no circumstances approve extra-constitutional and non-democratic means in any country and therefore urges the Pakistani military to respect democracy and the parliamentary process.”
[We dont find here any respect for democracy, judiciary, human rights, judiciary and civil society.]
US response: In light of the recent coup, Clinton administration invokes Section 508 of Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that requires US aid be cut off to any country whose democratically elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree. Move is largely symbolic because Pakistan is already prohibited from receiving US assistance under nuclear sanctions. (Inside US Trade, 15 October 1999; International Trade Reporter, 13 October 1999; CRS 2002a, 3; Washington Post, 15 October 1999, A24; 16 October 1999, A21) (See also Case 79-2 US v. Pakistan [1979: Nuclear Missile Proliferation])
EU: 17 October 1999, European Union condemns military coup and threatens to suspend all assistance except for humanitarian aid channeled through private agencies unless Pakistan announces a clear timetable for the restoration of democracy by mid-November. EU also postpones signature of the EU-Pakistan Cooperation Agreement that is based on commitment to human rights and democracy. (New York Times, 17 October 1999, 6; European Report, 16 October 1999)
[European Union demand for a clear timetable for the restoration of democracy by mid-November was not met until August 2001. and we all witnessed how the elections were held and the parliament came in result of those elections.]
FRANCE: 5 November 1999, France releases submarine and Mirage fighters held since the coup to Pakistan. French foreign ministry states that aircrafts and submarine already belong to Pakistan and therefore France cannot legally prevent their delivery. (Financial Times, 5 November 1999, 6)
[France finds it illegal not to delay delivery of submarines and Mirage fighters but, with due respect, violation of constitution by military dictators goes well with France.
EU: 15 November 1999, EU Council of Foreign Ministers again calls on Pakistan to announce a binding timetable for restoration of democracy, but does not suspend development assistance. (Council conclusions on Pakistan, 15 November; Bulletin of the European Union, November 1999)
30 November 2000, IMF approves a $596 million loan to Pakistan to help it avoid defaulting on its $36 billion foreign debt. The money is to be disbursed over next 10 months. (New York Times, 1 December 2000, A7)
20 June 2001, General Musharraf dismisses Pakistans president and appoints himself head of state. He also dissolved the suspended Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies and dismissed the Chairman of the Senate and the Speaker of the National Assembly. On top of that, after assuming the new office as President, General Pervez Musharraf announced, “The change will augur well for the future of Pakistan”.
[more than 8 long years, we are still awaiting the change which will augur well for Pakistan.]
30 April 2002, a referendum was held on April 30, 2002 for General Pervez Musharraf to be elected as the President of Pakistan for another five years.
[The electoral process was described as “flawed by an EU Election Observation Mission (EOM). A referendum that presented voters with no opponents. Musharraf himself went on TV and apologized to the nation for “irregularities” in the referendum. How would any of EU member states take those rigged referendum?]
When Musharraf was leaving for Europe tour and particularly I was looking for EU meeting in Brussels, I was hoping (ambitious), perhaps, but nevertheless, strong demand for the reinstatement of deposed judges, release of lawyers, political workers, members of civil member, restrictions on media but as usual only tough questions asked and as usual even tougher answers came from Musharraf. Unfortunately that tough question answer session is not going to change the life style of those 70% people of Pakistan living below poverty line. I watched on BBC that session of questions & answers, I got the feeling that he is unstoppable. He will keep doing what he has been doing since 1999. He himself said I am the same person whish was in 1999. He is dictating terms. After all, he is a dictator.
Musharraf replying to a question on Restoration of Democracy, he bluntly said “Dont expect from us the kind of democracy for which it took you centuries to achieve. The question arises here is that would you allow him or any other dictator to take centuries to keep dismissing the elected civilian governments, keep hanging, exiling and assassinating Prime ministers, keep sacking and house arresting the Chief Justice of Pakistan, keep arresting and brutally beating lawyers, politicians, media personnel, members of civil society at the hands of police and other agencies?
“I believe very strongly in democracy and human rights,” Musharraf assured. I dont understand how one can take his (Musharrafs) assurances seriously who interprets democracy and human rights by not having both?
Who knows better then you the true meaning of Democracy, but when Musharraf calls himself the Champion of Democracy and introducer of Essence of True Democracy, why dont you ask him in which Democratic country a single man does what he has been doing for the last more than 8 years in the name of democracy?
Musharraf pledged (and mind you this is nothing but only pledge) on Monday that Pakistan’s elections next month will be free and fair, and urged Europe to back, not criticise his regime as it stood in the forefront of the fight against terrorism. It is true that only democratic governments can handle the issues of terrorism properly, but the thing is we are not going to see any free, fair and, as Musharraf says peaceful elections, if any.
World witnessed how 2002 elections were engineered. In 2002 elections in order to promote the MMA, according to the EU Election Observation Mission, all opposition parties expressed concern that the Pakistan Election Commission was diluting strongholds of parties that opposed the regime while favoring parties that supported it. Serious concerns were also raised regarding which voters were registered. The Election Observation Mission noted: “The electoral process was marked by the introduction of a new set of qualification criteria for the nomination of candidates, some of which [were] not in accordance with international standards or [were] clearly targeting specific prominent politicians. For example, university bachelors degrees (Keep in mind the literacy rate in Pakistan) were required of candidates but madrassa diplomas were considered equivalent. This measure significantly benefited the MMA, particularly in Balochistan, where some prominent nationalist leaders without university degrees were prevented from running in the election even though several had previously exercised the functions of governor, or chief minister, or both, of the province. Rallies and the use of loudspeakers were forbidden during the entire campaign. The length of the campaign was reduced to a minimum.
Most of the political and religious parties like PPP which took highest number of votes in 2002 elections, PML-N second largest party, JUI-F and number of nationalist parties of Sindh, NWFP and Balouchistan have reservations on the maneuverings in election process before elections and hundreds of complaints have been registered with the Partial election commission loyal to Musharraf. But none of those complaints has been entertained.
In 2005 2006, the way the local elections were rigged to ensure the success of the PML-Q, the main civilian support for Musharraf. Those local elections paved the way to ensure kings party PML-Q success in the upcoming February 18, 2008 elections. As the local bodies are in charge of the logistics of the elections on the ground, the machinery is now in place to ensure the success of whatever party or combination of parties the executive thinks will best serve his interests.
There is cry of massive pre-poll rigging from almost all the political parties who are contesting elections also who are not contesting except kings party.
Speaker National Assembly Chaudhry Ameer Hussain, was elected MNA on PML-Q seat, is now care taker President of Pakistan in absence of Musharraf and mind that Chaudhry Ameer Hussain is also contesting elections. Care taker Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Soomro was elected as PML-Q senator. Governors, Chief Ministers and cabinet members of all four provinces belong to kings party PML-Q.
Leaders of political are barred to hold rallies and processions in the name of security concerns and for their own security. But on the other hand PML-Q and other Musharrafs allied parties are campaigning openly and safely.
So, how do you expect free, fair and safe elections under the prevailing conditions which suits Musharraf, when there is no level playing field for all? Only holding elections would not solve the problem but even can deteriorate the situation further.
A comprehensive research report on Pre-Poll Rigging prepared by The Citizens Group on Electoral Process CGEP tells it all.
When Bush said that the general (Musharraf) “hasn’t crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy”, Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate replied, “What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?” “He’s already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin’s soul.”
How much longer this country would keep suffering in the name of True Democracy? He is doing nothing for democracy but talking. I read an editorial Gen. Musharraf’s Lies n Washington Post dated Saturday, October 1, 2005. I quote a piece from the article.
“Gen. Musharraf, too, deserves the reputation he is earning as a ruler who cares more about how he is perceived in the West than in implementing the policies he claims to espouse, or even in speaking the truth. The general, who seized power in a coup six years ago, has reneged on promises to retire from the army or restore democracy. He has not carried out the reform of Islamic religious schools that he promised in 2001. He has allowed the extremist Afghan Taliban movement to base itself in Pakistan’s western provinces with virtual impunity. All the while he has gone on collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year from the Bush administration, which accepts his words and ignores most of his actions.
In an interview to CNN in July 2001, Musharraf insisted he would not be a candidate. “I am not at all a politician. I don’t think I’m cut out for politics,” he said. “I am certainly not going to stand for election.”
He talks about the Economic growth. There is always manipulated figures are declared in Pakistan as far as economy is concerned. Pakistan produced not more than 22 million tons of wheat in 2006-2007 and it was enough to meet our domestic consumption and with that wheat production the GDP growth was looming around 6.6%, but just to sustain the GDP growth over 7%, his government intentionally declared false figures of wheat production i.e. about 23.5 million tons. This is how our economic growth is port raid (proudly) internationally.
We are not sure about, keeping in mind Musharrafs track record of lying, the elections are actually going to be held on February 18 or not.
The real problem starts when west thinks that the military is far and away the most powerful force in Pakistan. Where not in the world? This kind of approach has never given a due chance and time to other institutions like judiciary and parliaments to function accordingly. West needs to re-think its strategy of not talking to the people of Pakistan but few generals. Whenever judiciary raises concerns on the functioning of administration, it is kicked out by the military. Constitutionally, we have a parliamentary form of government and National Assembly and Senate are legislative bodies. These two bodies are supposed to make legislation yet only one man issues ordinances according to his wishes.
There is only solution to all these problems is “a truly elected democratic government which is not possible under Musharraf.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who also held talks with Musharraf, said the Pakistani leader was “part of the solution and certainly not part of the problem”.
I totally agree with Secretary General. Mushrraf was (if it was) part of the solution but not anymore and thats for sure