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Musharraf has sabotaged demo and endangered Pak

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 23: Bolstered by the Army, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is clinging to his job by manipulation and may have made his country even more dangerous by sabotaging its fragile democracy, says The Economist.

''Even if he sheds his uniform after next year's election, as promised, the army will remain the font of his power,'' says the magazine, which once described the General as ''a useless dictator''.

''General Musharraf is clinging to his job by manipulation, and with the backing of the Army, and that by sabotaging Pakistan's fragile democracy to meet his own ends; he may have made the country even more dangerous,'' says the magazine.

When Gen. Musharraf launched his coup in 1999, it was not principally to clean up the mess in the country. Instead, he wanted to save his career, having been sacked as Army Chief by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The system in Pakistan has produced ''increasingly arrogant soldiers, abject politicians and rotten institutions, it says, adding that Gen. Musharraf has reinforced it by giving himself vast powers, hastening the rot of Pakistan's institutions, scattering the mainstream political parties and making an even bigger travesty of the democratic process than did the civilian leaders he succeeded.

''The country's politics yo-yo between weak civilian governments and unrepresentative military ones -- the sort currently on offer under Pervez Musharraf, the president and army chief, albeit with some democratic wallpapering,'' it says.

The magazine, which has once labelled the General as a ''useless dictator'', has, however changed its perception about him since then.

However unpromising his start, Gen. Musharraf has generally proved much better at running the country than either Mr Nawaz Sharif or Ms Benazir Bhutto. ''He also remains more popular than either of them, though his support has recently been slipping.'' Gen Musharraf inherited an economy in crisis. Shackled by sanctions and parched of capital, Pakistan had defaulted on foreign debts. Thanks partly to continued fiscal prudence and some sensible reforms, Pakistan has notched up average growth of seven per cent over the past three years, about the same as India.

''Under his command, the country has experienced 7 per cent average growth rate over the last three years; the stock exchange has risen by 1000 per cent in seven years; foreign reserves are up and public debt down.'' Applauding his pledges to crack down on extremism and promote 'enlightened moderation', it says Gen. Musharraf has generally proved much better at running the country -- and more popular -- than his elected predecessors Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.

And despite a career spent fighting India, Gen. Musharraf has done more for peace on the Indian subcontinent than any of his predecessors, says the article which was published just days before the ghastly Mumbai serial blasts.

''Peace with India is now more likely than ever before -- and would be a lasting legacy for the General,'' it says. ''Peace on the sub-continent is still hard to imagine, but it may be more possible that at any time since British India's bloody partition.'' But James Astill, the author of the article, argues that all these sensible reforms have only been partially or corruptly implemented, and Gen. Musharraf has sabotaged the country's fragile democracy to buttress his own ends.

Gen Musharraf pledged to fix the country's 'broken and predatory' institutions and and to promote liberal values, or ''enlightened moderation'', but he has to clung on to his job by the same undemocratic measures as his predecessors: by manipulating the institutions he had vowed to clean up.

''If he were to make serious progress towards either of these goals, history would smile on his coup...Ultimately Pakistan is too big, too fractious and too complicated to be ruled so overwhlemingly by one man,'' says the magazine.

Astill's prescription for Pakistan is that outsiders should be encouraged to support Gen. Musharraf's flagging reforms with aid money and squarely condemn his anti-democratic ways.


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