Dawn Editorial, February 16, 2008
PRESIDENT Musharraf is now so totally divorced from reality that he finds it difficult to accept the fact that his popularity ratings are slumping. He therefore feels he is within his right to warn the people of Pakistan against consequences yet to be defined if things don’t go the way he thinks they should post Feb 18. For starters, Mr Musharraf doesn’t like the opinion polls, which make it all too clear that all and sundry simply dislike him and possibly even his progeny with a passion that escapes calculation. He thinks, immersed in the positive reinforcement supplied by a fast diminishing group of yes-men (even flunkeys have a modicum of sense and an eye cocked to the future), that these opinion polls are biased, influenced by NGOs of devious bent and similar anti-social elements capable of independent and rational thought. What exactly is he threatening, you and me being the audience, when he says that putting him in a “bind” would be inadvisable? How, precisely, will he lash out? Remember that Mr Musharraf’s worst has already been seen. Consider also that he no longer commands the army, an institution that now follows the dictates of a man seemingly of far more sober an outlook. So what does putting Musharraf in a “bind” really entail? Please explain that, Mr President. Are we to expect state-sponsored violence if things don’t go your way?
Pakistan is not alone in suffering dictators and insecure midget-men who seem convinced that they are the chosen saviours. Yet we do get more than our fair share of these tinpots. Why is that? One, you can’t escape the fact that the people of Pakistan (quite incredibly) still haven’t lost all faith in the inherent goodness of the Pakistan Army. That’s a given, like it or not. So it is that people as patently mediocre as Pervez Musharraf can rise to great heights and shout from the pulpits at any given time and in a manner which would get you and me arrested in the Islamic republic. Two, we have suffered fools for way too long without doing anything about it. Three, because our mindset as a people and a nation is not revolutionary, at least no longer, we deserve ‘leaders’ even as controversial as Asif Zardari. Think about that before you vote.
Fear and loathing, to quote Hunter Thompson, is how the pre-election sentiment can best be described. Hyderabad started shutting down on Thursday and Karachi will follow on Saturday. The Frontier, Balochistan and Punjab will no doubt follow the dictates of their own peculiar exigencies. Already food is in short supply across the country.
Feb 18 is being viewed with trepidation, not hope. What an irony.