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Thoughts On The NRO-Musharraf-Treason

I may be late to the party, but I do have some thoughts on the subject of the NRO and would like to share them.

My analysis should be taken as an outsider looking in, and I don’t suggest that there may not be more to the situation than meets the eye.  In any event, questions remains as to what President Musharraf’s intentions were and whether determining the NRO to be unconstitutional was in the best interests of Pakistan.

For the most part I am a supporter of the previous President, but I am in no way a blind supporter.  Taking that into account, let’s take a look at what could have been his reasoning at the time of the agreement.  I suggest his motives may have been pure which might also have some bearing on the somewhat disgusting way he is being treated at the present time.

Assume for the moment, that his actions which culminated in his becoming the President of Pakistan were taken for the purest of motives.  What is his legacy, at this point, and should he be allowed to participate in the political process?

There is no doubt that in seizing power he short circuited the political process and ignored the Constitution of Pakistan which was in place at the time.  Speaking from the perspective of an American citizen, it is true that similar activities on the part of a top American military officer would, in virtually any circumstance of which I am aware, be considered treasonous.  On the other hand, it’s not as if Americans have not experienced a loss of Constitutional Rights on certain occasions based on the leadership’s contention that such temporary actions were necessary to “save the country”.

Personally, I find the present situation somewhat ironic if viewed from a certain perspective.  The first thing to remember is that Pakistan is a very different place politically precisely because of Musharraf’s actions. Coups, rightly or wrongly, were not only accepted, but widely supported by large numbers of people from virtually every segment of the society at the time he seized power.  Even today, there are those who wonder about the necessity of some form of internal military action and the subject has been seriously debated not only privately, but in the Pakistani Media. I would thus suggest that, in his case, there is a legitimate argument to be made that his actions did, in fact, reflect the will of the people.

What Pakistan would have become without him is, or course, a question which can never be answered with any degree of certainty.  Certainly it would seem that he always had the interests of Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan, as his top priority in making the decisions he did.  Acknowledging that inner core of patriotism does not suggest that one must agree with every decision he made.  Baluchi’s, and others, may, for example, take issue with his response to the unrest in Baluchistan, but one cannot deny that his aim was to keep Pakistan from losing any more territory as had occurred in the early 70.s with East Pakistan (Bangladesh).

It is unfortunate that many of his more progressive domestic initiatives do seem to get lost due to the very real security issues that continue to face the country.  No one can suggest that he was successful in blunting the influence of the various religious leaders and factions within the country itself, and yet at the same time, he instituted a number of policies which seemingly were designed to do that very thing.  Apparently some felt that they were, considering the number of failed assassination attempts.  My belief is that he fell prey to the very same hubris of so many other Pakistanis, particularly politicians, who believe they can use them as proxies to meet certain policy objectives, while being able to control them when they are no longer of value.  Ironic, considering that it is a very similar type of accusation which is aimed at the Americans, at which time the negative consequences are much more acknowledged.

The point is that I could really make a case either way regarding Musharraf’s security legacy, both from a Pakistani, and an American, point of view.  I will say that I disagree that he was an American “lackey” and would again suggest that it was Pakistan’s, not America’s, interests which were at the heart of his decision making process.

We now come to the real point of the article.  I would suggest that, in large part, Pakistan owes the present political climate, which seems to include a much more solid commitment on the part of its citizens to its democratic institutions and the rule of law, such as it is, to the man who they are effectively barring from returning to the country by issuing a warrant for his arrest.  Here’s why, and I now return to the NRO to make my point.

Regardless of any of his other actions, Musharraf did eventually relinquish the reins of power in a relatively peaceful way.  Certainly he fell prey to the notion that his leadership was indispensable to Pakistan’s future success, but every leader necessarily feels that his way is the best way, and one must admit that he often spoke in favor of the principles of democracy and that the legitimacy of any government is determined by the level of support given to it by the governed.

In terms of the NRO, it would seem to me that for Musharraf not to have made the agreement would have left him open to charges of suppressing the will of the people by barring some of the more popular individuals from offering themselves as candidates.  This is certainly not just an assumption based on the past, but a reality based on the results of the election which was subsequently held.  In other words,   it is the very people that were covered under the NRO that ended up winning the election.  This would seem to vindicate the NRO agreement from a “fair choice” perspective, and argue against it as a good political strategy for Musharraf personally.  This would also suggest that Musharraf should be given the same opportunity to place his hat in the ring and allow the people of Pakistan to either support or reject his quest for higher office.  It seems to me that to do otherwise would now leave the present leadership open to the same charges of attempting to suppress the opposition.

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