Time to move beyond Musharraf: Pakistani media

August 19th, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 19 (IANS) With Pervez Musharraf having stepped down as Pakistan’s head of state, the country’s ruling coalition should now move ahead instead of harking back to the past, editorials in leading English newspapers Tuesday said.”What is incontestable is that the country must move on from this crisis quickly,” Dawn said in an editorial headlined “Exit Musharraf”.

“The coalition partners must demonstrate they are capable of insightful leadership, political wisdom and can live up to the task of guiding the country onwards along the path of progress,” The News said in an editorial headlined “Delusional departure”.

“Politicians will not have the luxury of blaming him any more,” the Daily Times noted in its editorial headlined “Going, going, gone”.

Noting that Pakistan’s four-party ruling coalition had been telling the country “in no uncertain terms that governance would be impossible in the shadow of Musharraf”, Dawn said: “Now that that hurdle has removed itself, the field is open for the politicians to address the most pressing problems facing the nation.

“Determining what the priorities ought to be is not difficult: militancy, the economy, and relations with India and Afghanistan need to be addressed urgently.”

This apart, it maintained, two issues would have to be immediately addressed. These were the restoration of the judges Musharraf sacked after declaring an emergency and the election of a new president.

The newspaper also faulted Musharraf’s claims of taking the economy forward, saying the poor had in fact gone poorer during his nearly nine years of rule.

“Economists point out that the economic model adopted by Musharraf’s handpicked technocrats was a consumption boom that relied on easy credit fuelled by the inflow of dollars and global liquidity.

“When the spigot was shut off, Pakistan found itself much more economically vulnerable than it would have been if headline growth had not been the focus of economic policy.

“There is also the question of the stagnation of the rural economy, which supports over 40 percent of the labour force, on the president’s watch,” Dawn said.

Noting that the “spectacular increase” in taxation revenue from Rs.350 billion in 1999 to Rs.1 trillion last year was an achievement of the Musharraf era, Dawn said this had been achieved by indirect taxes, “which disproportionately affect the poor”.

At the same time, Musharraf “was an unqualified failure when it came to developing the non-economic institutions of the state”, the newspaper said.

“Few could argue that on the general’s watch, parliament, the judiciary, the bureaucracy or the police improved. In the end it is perhaps this failure more than anything else that led to his downfall,” it maintained.

The News was stinging in its criticism of the Musharraf era.

“His speech (Monday announcing his resignation), bordering towards the end on the maudlin, explains a great deal of what went wrong.

“Not because the many allegations levelled by Musharraf against the elected government are accurate; nor because he, as he claims, is the nation’s sole saviour, but because his assessment of his tenure contains so much evidence of delusion and a refusal to acknowledge that one man alone cannot have a monopoly on altruism and good intention,” The News said.

“It is indeed sad he was unable to recognize sooner that vast gaps existed between his deeds and his words and that as many failures as triumphs dotted the path along which he walked through the years.

“In the end, his belief that he alone was a saint and all others villains worthy of little respect was a key factor in his undoing. History shows that the greatest of leaders - Nelson Mandela, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi to name just a few - are all men able to see their own weaknesses and admit boldly to mistakes,” The News said.

“Indeed, there was an edge of desperation that rang through the entire speech - the final words of a man making an attempt to place a halo around his own head as he walked away into the twilight,” the editorial said.

It also noted that Musharraf’s departure “brings with it hope” as it was the first voluntary exit by a military dictator “without intervention in the democratic process by the army”.

“The stance taken by the army chief in this respect is worthy true of praise. And now that the field has been cleared, the alleged conspiracies that hampered governance ended, it is time for the elected government to show people their ballots were not wasted,” The News said.

According to Daily Times, Musharraf’s constitutional legitimacy “first wore thin” in December 2004 when he decided to stay on in power by retaining his two offices of army chief and president.

“Had he separated them, he could have squeezed some more legitimacy out of the political system. At the same time his rule was not able to control lawlessness in the country,” the newspaper said.

It also doubted Musharraf’s claim of being in favour of reconciliation.

“He did not like the idea of making up with the mainstream parties. The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was thrust on him by the Americans and he went on record as saying that he had accepted it under duress.

“He did not want Benazir Bhutto to come back when she did, and today a lot of people suspect his complicity in her assassination. Saudi Arabia, likewise, thrust (former prime minister) Nawaz Sharif on him. He simply didn’t have the power to refuse,” the Daily Times said.

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