Friday, 30 May 2008

What should the new rulers do? 20 October 1999

What should the new rulers do? 20 October 1999
Shabir Choudhry
Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs

Many people say Mr Nawaz Sharif was lucky man, despite bestowed with average intelligence, and very little skills in art of governance, he was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan twice. At one time I shared that view as well. Now I consider him to be very unlucky man, not because he is imprisoned by the new rulers, but because he let his people down on both occasions.

Perhaps Mr Nawaz Sharif was lucky, but Pakistanis are unlucky to have successive incompetent and corrupt leaders. When he returned to power for the second time with the majority he wished, like many, I thought he would solve the problems of Pakistan. I went as far as saying that he is the last hope for Pakistan and if he failed then that would derail the democratic process, which would lead to political and economic instability; and powers that be would move in to introduce a new form of government. The new government would be a presidential style of government, which would have many retired army officers as ‘technocrats’.

When Mr Nawaz Sharif came to power for the second time, I wrote an article, Kashmir Dispute and Mr Nawaz Sharif, and stressed the following:
Only when the root cause to the problems is found one can begin to look for possible solutions. Once that is done then he has the majority in the Parliament to implement his plans. Some of the most important problems to which he immediately needs to pay attention are:
- Build shattered economy
- Continue with accountability process
- Build confidence and morale of nation
- Pay attention to constitutional matters
- Build relations with Iran and Afghanistan
- Try to solve the Kashmir Dispute and build relations with India

When we look back at things, we note hat he could not effectively tackle any of the major problems, if any thing the situation is much worse. He began to tackle the Kashmir Dispute, but his approach, like other Pakistani rulers, was wrong. I further wrote:

Nawaz Sharif you are lucky to win the confidence of the people for the second time, use this opportunity and make a mark on the history by making arrangements that the Kashmiri people can exercise their unfettered right of self determination.

In doing so if Kashmir becomes an independent state the people of Pakistan will accept that because they do not want the Kashmiri people to be divided, oppressed and butchered for generations to come. I have faith in the wisdom and generosity of the Pakistani nation and I believe what is good for the Kashmiris is good for them. You need to be courageous and have to show the leadership quality required to do the job. Remember it is exactly 50 years ago when the Qaaid Azam showed his courage and wisdom and created Pakistan He left his mark on the history; now it is your turn to do the same and solve kashmir problem, and this would be the best present to the people for the golden jubilee.

Mr Nawaz Sharif is unlucky because he failed to deliver. Because of his leadership style he got himself into a dead end. He likes to play cricket but on both occasions he hit the bat on the wickets, therefore no credit to any bowler. I wanted him to leave a ‘mark on history’ that he could be remembered. He has left a mark but unfortunately he left a wrong mark in a wrong place, and history will remember him for wrong reasons. Apart from the Motorway and the nuclear explosions, the history would generally remember him for bad things.

Now General Musharaff is in charge and people have welcomed him, even though he is not a ‘legal’ Chief Executive of the country. To the ordinary people this debate of ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ is not important. There is a Chinese proverb, ‘colour of a cat is not important as long it catches mice’ Ordinary people are still waiting for a Messiah, someone who can solve their problems. Colour of his skin or political background is not important to them. Hitherto almost every ruler has used his/her position for personal gains they want someone to work for Pakistan.

The new rulers must not be too benevolent to the welcome they have received. They must remember that people of this area have a long history of welcoming new rulers and discarding those who have lost power. This goodwill of the Pakistani people is not permanent, with time it can change. If they want to be remembered as saviours rather than usurpers of power, then they have to get their act together and pay attention to the root cause of the problems. All the problems, which I listed above, are still there, in fact they require more serious and urgent attention. They cannot cure the ills just by cosmetic changes - the patient requires a surgery.

The task at hand is not an easy one, but one DOES NOT become hero of a nation just by handling an easy task. Apart from dealing with serious domestic problems, the new government has to put up with the wrath of the international community. And with empty coffers, and heavy dependency on foreign aid, it is a gigantic task. The new rulers must work out strategies to face outside pressure, and must not make compromises when doing a ‘surgery’ to take back what is owed to the Pakistani nation. Pakistani foreign exchange reserve is just enough for 3 more weeks, and in the absence of foreign aid which Pakistan desperately need it would be very difficult to pay back loans and survive.

The new rulers can financially survive for months without any help from outside, if they without prejudice to anyone start the accountability process and get the looted money back. This is the only chance to root out corruption, and set up a fair and equitable system of accountability. In order to make accountability fair and equal, not victimisation of Muslim League politicians, the accountability process should cover corrupt people from all walks of life, as it is not only politicians who are corrupt.

The response of the international community may appear to be out of order and too strong, but Pakistan is too important a country to be ignored for too long. The international pressure would fizzle out with time; all you need is strong nerve and clear ideas what needs to be done. Even though cold war era is over, still Pakistan’s geographical position is very crucial. This inherent strength Pakistan can be used positively, but it can only be done if there is political and economic stability in the country. If Pakistani rulers can put their house in order, then international community cannot twist the arm of a nuclear Pakistan.

Another priority of the new government should be the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Many of Pakistan and India’s problems are directly related to this contest to capture Kashmir. If the Kashmir problem is solved according to the wishes of the people, that in turn would solve many problems of India and Pakistan, and this would bring peace and stability to the Indian Sub-Continent. The question is how to solve the Kashmir problem. Both Pakistan and India have fought for Kashmir for the past 52 years. Both adopted strategies that resulted in destruction, deprivation and backwardness. In this continued conflict the Kashmiri people suffered most. It is they who are still divided, oppressed, tortured, killed, raped and deprived of independence.

For the sake of peace and stability in South Asia, both India and Pakistan have to make changes to their declared policy on Kashmir and solve the issue by involving the Kashmiri leaders in the process of dialogue. If they still show obduracy and shortsightness then I am afraid that they will let down the people of South Asia and hold the progress of region. They will have nothing concrete to offer to the people in the new millennium, apart from deprivation, destruction and misery.

Shabir Choudhry

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