Musharraf is back, but does Pakistan need him

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Apr 02, 2013, 16:36 PM IST

If one were to cite a typical specimen of self-aggrandizement, a strong contender would have to be Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf. His claim that he is returning to Pakistan to “save it” in itself speaks volumes of the exaggerated esteem that he holds himself in.

And then, there are other examples galore. One such that I cannot forget is his shameful act of releasing his flawed and widely inaccurate autobiography while still in office. Worldwide it is looked down upon to release a memoir in office as it openly shows that you are using national money to promote yourself.

Though this was unfortunately not the first such instance in Pakistan – Ayub Khan had also released his bio in office – one would have hoped that Musharraf had avoided it.

From murmurs of his extremely opulent house in Islamabad, in line with the lavish lifestyle of Pakistan politicos, to his self appointment to the helm of power in a bloodless coup, Musharraf has never spared an opportunity to fluff himself up.

And he has set foot again on Pakistan soil this time with Don Quixotic ambitions of saving the country. One wonders if he missed the extremely thin crowd that turned up at the airport; it was sliver compared to the turnout for Benazir Bhutto and by Pakistan standards for a heavyweight. Or the shoe that was lobbed at him by a lawyer in the Sindh High Court.

Going by press reports in Pakistan, the citizens there are less than enthusiastic about his comeback, some even saying Musharraf had got more print devoted to him in India than the Islamic Republic.

However, Musharraf isn’t the one to even bat an eyelid on that. Continuing to be filled with self importance, he says he “felt humiliated” standing in front of the judge in court! As if he should have been cut above in the eyes of law.

Getting on to the serious questions now… does Musharraf know how to leverage an opportunity – for that there can only be one unmistaken answer: Yes. Remember how he hijacked the press meet at Agra.

Is he deserving enough – well, that’s a hard one. A matter of fact is that he managed to remain in power between 1999 and 2008, when he fell with a thud. Some of his policies did work; he tried hard to revive the ailing Pakistan economy, certainly arm-twisted Americans to shell out bucketfuls of aid. But most of his decisions were bad decisions.

Whether it was dislodging an elected government in a military coup d`état in 1999 or suspending constitutional rule twice or firing Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and launching a violent crackdown on lawyers or declaring a state of emergency in 2007, he bungled on one issue after the other.

Musharraf, who is widely hated in India as the architect of Kargil War, says “he is proud of Kargil”! A better kept secret is that most of Army generals in Pakistan were also highly critical of the war – not out of any love for India, but because they saw it clearly as poor strategy.

Possibly, Musharraf has been trying to appease Pakistan Taliban by harping on his achievement in Kargil, as the fundamentalists were furious at his U-turn after 9/11. They saw his support to the War on Terror as a trickery of running with the hare and hunting with hound - a sell out act; Musharraf had called it a matter of survival.

And survive he does, he has escaped at least three assassination attempts on him even though his own name crops up prominently in at least two assassinations cases – one of Benazir Bhutto and the other of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti.

Pakistan is transitioning in a democratic way for the first time since Independence after completion of the term of an elected government. It faces colossal challenges – whether it is the threat from rising Islamic terror to an economy on crutches, Musharraf would need all the luck to deal with these problems along with doing the balancing act with the Pakistan Army.

But for all this to happen, Musharraf would first need to get elected and his All Pakistan Muslim League needs to win the requisite numbers. My own guess is that it would be nearly an impossible feat for him to pull off; he was highly unpopular when he left, facing impeachment charges and was nearly kicked out by the top Army brass.

Despite his money bags and old military connections, by throwing his hat into the ring of electoral politics, the joker of Pakistan politics may have overplayed his card this time.

I’d say he’ll be lucky enough if he can pack his bags and go back to London than facing Adnan Rasheed, a jihadi, who says he is waiting in the wings with suicide bombers.

Of what the latest news says, courts have barred him from stepping out of Pakistan!