With Musharraf gone, what's next for Pakistan?

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on August 18, 2008


Call it a pre-emptive defensive strike. Faced with imminent impeachment proceedings against him, President Pervez Musharraf resigned today. I can’t say we didn’t see it coming. Musharraf had cancelled plans to attend the opening ceremony at the Olympics for fear that he would get ousted in absentia. Now at least maybe he can make it to Beijing for the closing ceremony, though not as a head of state.

While his announcement prompted the Karachi stock exchange to rebound more than 4%, local celebrations may be premature. The economic woes that supposedly led to his departure—raging inflation, slowing growth and a stalled privatization program—won’t be any easier for his successor to tackle than they were for Musharraf.

Of course a quick review of recent Pakistan history will reveal that Musharraf’s leave taking is just one more stanza in a modern epic characterized by coups, rigged elections and assassinations. The country has alternated between kleptocratic civilian governments and military dictatorships for the past couple of decades. Bear in mind that the leaders of the current coalition running the government following parliamentary elections in February have pretty checked pasts themselves. Asif Ali Zardari, husband of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has done time in the slammer for graft, while former prime minister Nawaz Sharif ,who was deposed by Musharraf in a 1999 coup was also convicted for corruption.

So what’s next for Musharraf? Like Bhutto, Zardari and Sharif, he may choose voluntary exile rather than to stick around and see what happens. Chances are the judges he sacked last fall when they opposed him will soon be reinstated, including Supreme Court Justic Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry, a sworn opponent of Musharraf.

If he Musharraf does decide to stay on in Pakistan, the 65 year-old general could quietly retire from public life and follow in the footsteps of so many other retired generals and go work for the Fauji Foundation, a conglomerate run by former military men that does everything from banking to road building to manufacturing breakfast cereal. For more on Fauji click here for my BusinessWeek story.

But my guess is we haven’t seen the last of Musharraf. It’s an open secret that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, has played a major part in assisting and abetting terrorists, including the Taliban. The anti western coalition insurgency is more ensconced than ever in the autonomous regions on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border, and neither Sharif nor Zardari seem to have the wherewithal to reverse the tide. On the other hand, Pakistan has enjoyed more than $10 billion in aid from the U.S. since 9-11, and was considered a key ally in the war against terrorism, yet the situation on the border is worse now than it has ever been. If they deteriorate even further, Musharraf might help orchestrate another coup in the name of restoring law and order.

If only Musharraf had used some of that $10 billion on improving social services, the country might not be in such a bad way now. Poverty hasn’t improved, illiteracy is shockingly high, especially among young girls, and unless you are an army brat, you can forget about any social safety net. When people have little hope for in this life, it’s a short step to embrace Islamic extremism with its promise of an immediate reward in the next.

I base my observations on a visit I made to Hunza, a remote part of the Pakistan near the Chinese border at the time when the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. Life for the people there living at an altitude of 7800 feet is plenty harsh, yet thanks to the Aga Khan Foundation, which has pumped money into education, especially for girls for decades, the people have a sense of empowerment and belief in a better future. It is no coincidence that the predominantly Ismaili Shia communities have virtually no extremist Muslim members. If only the sense of hope and optimism could spread to the rest of the country.

Reader Comments

edwardiantycoon

August 18, 2008 1:59 PM

well mr Frederik Balfour the article is not impressive at all. climate is changing everywhere.
i dont think anythink else could have made musharraf stepdown but this judiciary. musharraf had a better economic stats and better credibility than all other politicians but the cj forced him down. if ppp fails to reinstate, which i think is going to happen, then see another turmoil is expected.

Aamir Jan

August 18, 2008 2:30 PM

Musharraf's ouster will be a bonanza for the Al Qaeda/Taliban propaganda machine. They will project this as a lesson in defeat for anyone who stands in their way. This was not the right time to "rock the boat".

Squeezebox

August 18, 2008 2:59 PM

Pakistan needs to get serious about wiping out the Taliban and Al-Queda, otherwise they will be annexed to Afghanistan and ruled by militants.

Duke

August 18, 2008 4:07 PM

As a researcher of Pakistani issues, god job on this post.

Noorali Ali

August 19, 2008 10:12 AM

Hope the next President of Pakistan is not Nawaz & Zardari, they cannot be trusted to lead this nation. They have a bad history in running the system.
Nawaz was fully corrupted in his short as Prime Minister as well Zardari under his wife's tenure was labelled as Mr. 10% and now in the rulling majority, he must be enjoying the windfall.
Check it out. God, Please save Pakistan.

Sam Meghani

August 19, 2008 11:45 AM

Well, Now that Musharaf is out and two shrude politician on power, they will lie and fake evry thing to make look prett for world and get more money for own pocket. Mr 10% already demanding investors to 20% and Nawaz going to build his steel mills from 8 to 20. People of pakistan lost one hard working, honest and great leader. soon or letter they will know it

Jibran Ahmed

August 19, 2008 1:57 PM

I still feel that Musharraf was the best of the lot. He kept on hiw word on most of the times and was loyal to the country. God Bless Pakistan.

badrudeen

August 19, 2008 8:04 PM

any came do peice soon we need to do golden jubeile of49 imam verysoon after canada

Engr. Farman Karim -UAE

August 20, 2008 12:52 AM

For certain period of time Musharaf has been a popular figure in Pakistan and indeed doing well, but later on, based on some internal advisors & external powerful advisors, made him controvercial & been created termoil situation in Pakistan. Anyway, the situation in Swat& Tribal Areas of Paksitan are based on Nato + Indian sponsorship to make more destabilize and Afganistan situation is based on China & Russia.
Bottom line is, Mushraf was far better than the two "thiefs",current decision makers of Pakistan. Actually, PPP is not interested to re-einstate CJ, their only concerns are to grab the resources of Pakistan. Both leaders are not loyal to Pakistan.They do't have any agenda, any development plan etc.Both fake leaders do't bother about Pakistan, because their bizinesses are out side Paksiatn.
Mushraf was far better to counter the core enemies of Paksitan i-e islamic radicals & talibanization.

Fida Karim Hunzai

August 20, 2008 8:55 AM

i personally consider pervaze mushraf best of the best b/c it is he who has vision for pakistan and its people,no one can even level corruption allagations against him. but ousr so cald political leaders like nawaz, zardari have their own records of coruption, nepotism etc
whan nawaz was osted at that our economy was about to decleard benkrupt FDI was less then 1$ billion,forign exchange reserves were only enough for 2 weeks import bill & no one knows knows pakistan on the world.then he totally changed economic position of pakistan.during his presedency our GDP growth rate was above 7% per annum.
although ha has made some mistakes but comparatively he was the best of the best.
we the new generation of pakistan wish him to make his own political party so as once more we have an apportunity to to get services of this visionary leader for pakistan so as to lead us to take an honerable & resonable place in the modern world.
long live pakistan_ long live pervaze mushraf

Jordan James Din

September 8, 2008 10:44 AM

Dear All:

Since AZ has won presidential elections with record votes and because legal fraternity is the process of re-appointment, there seem to be no other options available as such. What Islamabad offers is most crucial now? You can check http://www.newsweek.com/id/156359 out too. Lord help Pakistan!

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