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Pervez Musharraf: The fall of a dictator

The Real News Network’s Senior News Analyst, Aijaz Ahmad explores Pervez Musharraf’s rise to power after he ousted Nawaz Sharif through a military coup d’etat in 1999. Musharraf nominally continues to be the President of Pakistan; however, pressure is mounting for him to resign with some beginning to discuss impeachment. His listed crimes include taking power unconstitutionally, imposition of martial law, detention of judges of the Supreme Court, and his participation in the US-sponsored "war on terror."

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Story Transcript

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: The fall of a dictator is always a great pleasure to watch. Nominally, of course, Pervez Musharraf continues to be the president of Pakistan. After some nine years of great power, though, the sun seems to be setting for the general. Asif Zardari, self-appointed chairman of the party that heads the government in Parliament, calls Musharraf a relic of the past. His party’s spokesman refers to Musharraf now as a de facto president and a one-man demolition squad who demolished the Constitution, the judiciary, and the Parliament. The second-largest party in Parliament described him as a virus in the democratic computer. Musharraf ousted Nawaz Sharif as prime minister of Pakistan in 1999, when he took power through a military coup d’etat. Nawaz is now back as head of the second-largest party in the ruling coalition and is calling for impeachment. Asif Zardari, chairman of the largest party, is willing to grant Musharraf safe passage out of the country, but is now beginning to speak of impeachment as well. Nawaz Sharif has actually released a list of ten charges for which he wants Musharraf impeached, chief among Musharraf’s list of crimes, of course, his taking over of power unconstitutionally, imposition of martial law, detention of judges of the Supreme Court, etcetera. Significantly, however, Musharraf’s participation in the US-sponsored war on terror is also listed as one of his high crimes. In the words of the document, he pushed the army into an undeclared war against its own people without seeking approval from the prime minister, cabinet, and Parliament, which has so far resulted in the killing of over 1,000 army men. Suicide bombings in reaction have also claimed lives of a large number of Pakistanis. In short, Pakistan’s military operation in the northwestern region of the country in pursuit of al-Qaeda, Taliban, etcetera, is an impeachable offense, while suicide bombings are mere reaction. Nawaz Sharif thus wants to ride to power by promising to represent the vast majority of Pakistanis who resent America’s war on terror being fought in their own country. How has this come to pass? After Musharraf took power, he continued the policy of sponsoring the Taliban regime, which Benazir Bhutto’s government had helped impose on Afghanistan with the approval of the US. Like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf also provided to the US a back channel for negotiations with the Taliban, even to the extent that the US promised the Taliban some $250 million during the summer of 2001. A couple of months later came September 11 and the US decision to invade Afghanistan and impose a government hand-picked in Washington. Musharraf remade himself and the army he was heading as an anti-Taliban force. Over the next six years, Pakistan’s top brass earned some $12 billion out of this war on terror. Musharraf gave the US plenty but did not give all, fearing a domestic backlash. By mid-2007, Dick Cheney got fed up with this brinksmanship; the Pakistan army was given to understand that Musharraf had ceased to be indispensable for the US. Benazir Bhutto was brought out of exile to implement a new power-sharing formula: Musharraf would remain president, while she would become prime minister. But democracy is difficult to manage, especially in a country where the majority believes that the US has brought them nothing but dictatorial clients, unnecessary violence, and the rule of robber barons. The unruliness of the democratic process is what has now caught up with Musharraf, as well as the US. The new government has opened up negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban in pursuit of peace in the northwestern part of the country. General Kayani, the new army chief, has dismissed all senior officers loyal to Musharraf. The lawyers’ movement is threatening a long march of the capital to get the dismissed judges restored to the Supreme Court. Thirty of Pakistan’s most senior retired diplomats have endorsed the march. And association of retired military officers have called upon Musharraf to step down. Washington alone seems to be still living in a world of make-believe as late as 31 May. The White House’s spokeswoman, Dana Perino, confirmed that President Bush looked forward to President Musharraf’s continuing role in further strengthening United States-Pakistan relations. Well, maybe for another week or so.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.