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Musharraf - A good start but could do better?

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    Musharraf - A good start but could do better?

    I saw this article in the Times of London and found it a fairly balanced judgement of General Musharraf's achievments in the short time he has been the ruler of Pakistan. As I have said before it is only by doing good deeds at home (i.e. arresting economic stagnation, improving human rights, promoting local democracy and crucially expanding the tax base) will any government of Pakistan win real international respect, rather than just signing one or two international treaties.

    'Last chance' Musharraf could still do better


    SHOULD General Pervez Musharraf decide to take credit for this week's sudden ceasefire by a leading militant group in Kashmir, it would be a useful boost to the small list of reasons to defend his military Government's record.
    The move put India on the back foot, making it appear a reluctant peacemaker; it has assuaged increasing criticism from the United States and China; it showed that the Government has some sway over the fundamentalists who threaten Pakistan's future.

    The pity is that at his accession nine months ago, when the general seized power in a coup from Nawaz Sharif, who was then Prime Minister, he called himself "the nation's last chance". The Supreme Court has told him he must hold elections by 2002; a quarter of the way through that time he deserves ten out of ten for sincerity, but two out of ten for delivery.

    Many would ask why you should hope for more in Pakistan's endlessly unresolved debate about how to govern itself. It has spent 24 of the 53 years since its creation under military rule. Its political and economic problems flow seamlessly from each other in a MŲbius loop of poverty, debt, corruption and fundamentalism. But this time, many people have expected more.

    The takeover enjoyed great popular support; the Army, and only the Army, could clean up the country, many believed. Many liberals within Pakistan and abroad hoped that an autocrat committed to reform might be better than a democratically elected Government from the established, corrupt political class.

    If there is a starting point, it is the abyss of the country's corrupt, primitive and looted economy. Only 1.2 million of its 140 million people pay tax, not enough to support even a rudimentary state. Foreign debt has reached £25 billion, and debt payments swallowed 86 per cent of tax revenues last year. It ticks over, after a fashion, because of what the World Bank coyly calls the "informal" sector, thought to be two thirds of the economy. But it could get much worse.

    The recent rescheduling of bilateral loans from Western countries expires in December; £1.7 billion of repayments loom next year. Pakistan's population, growing at one of the fastest rates in the developing world, is set to be well over 200 million by 2020. Meanwhile, Islamic groups have the sympathy of perhaps a third of the Army; the US, Russia and China are united in their fear that religious insurgency could destabilise the region.

    General Musharraf has taken three steps that set a very different tone from that of previous governments, starting with the tax survey of the whole country. The National Accountability Bureau's drive on corruption has popular respect, as has a survey to register the electorate, never before tackled because it threatens the interests of landowners.

    The Government, more sensitive to international opinion than many feared, has more or less committed itself to the Supreme Court's insistence that elections be held by 2002. It has also promised to hold local elections, at the district level for the first time, starting at the end of the year. General Musharraf has also won confidence by picking international professionals for his Cabinet.

    Shaukat Aziz, the Finance Minister, formerly of Citibank, is the most prominent of the so-called canaries; while they stay upright on their perches, the world can still do business with Pakistan.

    General Musharraf has probably done enough to secure a new facility with the International Monetary Fund by the autumn and, through that symbolically crucial deal, to win another round of rescheduling. Islamabad's insouciance about a rapid deal has worn thin as time has slipped by, but it is also clear that leading donors would be loathe to turn off the tap completely.

    His plans remain ambitious - more an articulation of the country's problems than a solution, credible in full only if the country showed army-like discipline and unanimity. Scepticism has greeted the prediction that better tax collection alone will push up revenues by 24 per cent this year. Plans for a brand-new tier of district politicians are vague, he has backtracked on a promise to reform blasphemy laws and, after protests, delayed a clampdown on smuggling.

    General Musharraf has done enough in nine months to push Pakistan farther away from the cliff over which it is always about to fall and to convince Western governments to help him. But the fact that it could be much worse does not disqualify the view that he could still have done better

    Thanks for the article Malik bhai. But this article isnít really telling us anything new Ė things can always be done better. Sure CE should be criticized and since he almost has had a year, there should be made a complete analysis of his and his teams work. But any such analysis should also talk about possibilities, the options he had, what kinda problems he was facing and then compare it with what he has achieved so far Ė and hold it up against what the country needed. There is no need to mention what has been going on for decades Ė thatís not relevant anymore and canít be used as an excuse. Therefore I donít think this article says much about anything, but itís a nice read especially coz itís an Times of London article.


      Sabah although the article does not say much on substance it does prove that if a leader does genuine good for his country then even the vested interests in the west are impressed.

      But the CE is not doing good to please the west but for the common good of our people, and its a pity how westerners always say things could be better but dont say how? and how his actions do indeed differ from his predecessors. The west is stuck in a mindset about Pakistan which is outdated and probably prejudiced ?

      [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited July 29, 2000).]