By Imtiaz Gul, Pulse, June 12, 2008
While Pakistan continues to reel under the consequences of Shaukat Aziz’s short-sighted and self-promoting finance management policies and financial, energy and politico-judicial crisis is giving way to alarm and uncertainty, the American administration is looking for an “honorable exit” for the person (Pervez Musharraf) who has lorded over the country and remained practically unquestioned for almost eight years.
“We are not apologetic about our policy on Musharraf. We are trying to secure an honourable and peaceful exit for him,” Ann Patterson, the ambassador remarked during an informal chat when asked as to why is the United States apologetic about the president.
This scribe intervened to remind her that “none of the civilian prime ministers had an honourable exit then why bother about a person who lives in a total disconnect from the ground realities.”
Times have changed and we need to look beyond Musharraf. This was the advice we received at the table we were sharing with the ambassador and a few other luminaries.
Nothing could be more blatant than this public admission that the US is trying to save Musharraf just because “times have changed”.
If one were to apply the same formula, then the persecution of ex-Nazis would have stopped decades ago. Only a few months ago, one of the Nazi criminals was convicted for the crimes committed under his watch at one of the concentration camps.
The American defense of Musharraf also runs contrary to their support for trial of all those charged with crimes against Jews in Germany under Hitler. The Americans – whether Democrats or Republicans – fall over one another in their support for those persecuted in Germany by Hitler zealots.
Drawing analogy Musharraf with Nazis in this space must not be misconstrued as anti-semitic. The purpose only is to question a principle that the Western countries stand for; accountability, transparency and rule of law. Measured on these yardsticks, the record of both Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz is increasingly suspect and therefore calls for questioning both these gentlemen, rather than allowing them an “honourable exit”.
Who will hold Shaukat Aziz to task, a person who after eulogizing Chaudhry’s for years, eventually called the Q-League a bunch of selfish politicians?
The pursuit for an “honourable exit for Musharraf” sounds quite bizarre because the US administration appears bent upon protecting a person who still believes that he never committed any mistake and that the root cause of the current crisis was not the March 9 suspension of Iftikhar Chaudhry. He also doesn’t see any problem in sending about five dozen judges home. “I did not dismiss them but they stood dismissed once they turned down the PCO,” the president said with a remarkable naivety.
Little did he realise that his handpicked finance minister-turned prime minister Shaukat Aziz had played havoc with the country’s economy; the government owes Rs175 billion to oil companies. Wapda owes over Rs200 billion to IPPs. And the oil supply prospects are not rosy at all in the near future. The country is facing over 4,000 megawatt power shortage. PIA’s operational deficit has crossed Rs42 billion.
Internal borrowing has crossed the Rs500 billion mark, while external debt touching Rs40 billion, with fast depleting forex reserves because from January onwards the rescheduling concessions came to an end and millions of dollars are flowing out of the country every month to service the debt.
Where does Pakistan stand? Will it be shortly declared insolvent, or will the Americans and Saudis provide a multi-billion dollar shot in the arm to help it sail through the rough financial patch. Will that ensure financial independence.
For over eight years, Musharraf and company untiringly sang the song of good governance, provincial harmony and financial reforms.
But, say some of the patriotic finance managers, the commitment was a mere lip service. Rather than retiring debt and critically reviewing projects before new allocations, the government was on a spending spree, thus piling up debt liabilities.
Shaukat Aziz government approved a record number of development projects and paraded them as hallmarks of a "shining Pakistan", but warns a frustrated finance ministry official, current and future generations shall have to bear the brunt of this "shining path policy."
That the shining Pakistan was a hoax got became clear within a couple of months of Shaukat Aziz's departure. The man, wedded to the external finance institutions, with little stake inside Pakistan, hoodwinked everybody. Even the World Bank officials in Pakistan bought the intellectually dishonest advice, and kept churning out articles favouring Aziz’s fiscal and economic vision, which lacked ownership and sincerity. Had he been committed, he would have stayed on and defended his position.
This country needs a break from thugs. It also desperately needs accountability and in this process people of the country expect from leading countries to throw their weight in for accountability and rule of law, and not keep defending people who violate the law, transcend their mandate, and still believe they haven't committed any wrong.
Western allies of Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz must put an end to the brazen hypocrisy. They must support the country’s yearning for the rule of law and not stand behind those who threw the Constitution and caution to the wind.