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South Asian newspapers

End of an era


Resignation speach.

Resignation speach.

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s controversial president, resigned on 18 August, as his country’s parliament was preparing to impeach him. South Asian newspapers posted the following comments on their websites:

On the domestic front, General Musharraf introduced what he called “real democracy” in place of the “sham democracy” that he had wrapped up on October 12, 1999, mainly by empowering people with a stronger voice by allowing television channels in the private sector, and also by bringing in the local governments that he had correctly concluded would help percolate national wealth and empowerment down to the lowest strata of society. On the external front, he firmed up a regime of confidence-building measures (CBMs) with India to help reduce tensions, particularly over the sensitive issue of Occupied Kashmir. Equally importantly, he decided to jettison the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and pledged Pakistan's total commitment to the US-led war on terror. ... But those plusses of his governance get fully eclipsed by the minuses.

The more forceful argument against a Musharraf trial is its repercussions. In the first place it is doubtful that in the kind of atmosphere that exists in the country Musharraf will get a fair trial, since there are hardly any institutions left in whose impartiality and honesty the people could have faith. Besides a court trial will be a media hoopla that will merely serve to provide entertainment to the millions and be a source of delight for his foes without giving any tangible benefits to the nation. The trial could drag on and undo the benefits of the breather provided by Musharraf’s decision to quit instead of facing impeachment.

Compiled by Hans Dembowski

The self-congratulatory tenor of President Musharraf’s farewell address can be interpreted as a soldierly attempt to save face. It is true that he made more worthwhile contributions to Pakistan’s overall policies than previous military dictators but his claims on all-round progress are highly questionable. As his political difficulties mounted, he became more and more despotic and unscrupulous — undermining state institutions, targeting the independent judiciary, and manipulating elections.

He usurped power from an elected government in the first place. Then his nine-year-long rule that followed saw the distortion of the constitution seizing exclusive powers to himself in terms of dissolving parliament and the government and complete breakdown of the institution of judiciary. His final act of folly was his sacking of Supreme Court judges en masse including the Chief Justice preceded by seeking reelection as president while being insistent on not shedding his uniform.

New Delhi had begun to look more positively at the general, who in turn began to recognise that maximalist positions on Kashmir would get him nowhere. He did shift positions quite a bit (after the Agra summit, he stopped referring to Kashmiri militants as freedom fighters). ... He was caught in a cleft stick as he tried simultaneously to hunt with the American hounds and run with the Taliban hares. … But the ceasefire across the Line of Control has held for years (until recent weeks), and there has been a noticeable drop in bilateral tensions. More might have been achieved, but the signals in recent weeks (the Kabul attack on the Indian embassy, the firing across the Line of Control and other such episodes) suggest that Pakistan is upping the ante once again.