Tariq Ali: Musharraf will not go gentle into that golf course

Share
Related Topics

Pakistan's military dictators never go quietly. Field Marshal Ayub Khan was removed by a three-month long popular insurrection in March 1969. General Yahya Khan destroyed Pakistan before he departed in 1971. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (the worst of the lot) was blown up in his military plane together with the US Ambassador in 1988.

And now President Pervez Musharraf is digging his heels in. There is a temporary stalemate. The army is in favour of him going quietly, but is against impeachment. Washington is prepared for him to go, but quietly. And last Friday it was reported that the chief of Saudi intelligence, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, had secretly arrived in Pakistan and held talks with coalition leaders and President Musharraf.

He wants a "safe exit" for the president. Sanctuaries in Manhattan, Texas and the Turkish island of Büyükada are being considered. The President would prefer a large estate in Pakistan, preferably near a golf course, but security considerations would make that unfeasible.

One way or another he will go soon. Power has been draining away from him for more than a year now. Had he departed peacefully when his constitutional term expired in November 2007 he would have won some respect. Instead he imposed a state of emergency and sacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Now he will go in disgrace, threatened with impeachment and abandoned by most of his cronies.

The country has moved on from a moth-eaten dictatorship to a moth-eaten democracy. Six months after the old, morally obtuse, political gangs returned to power, the climate has further deteriorated. Asif Ali Zardari – the widower of Benazir Bhutto – and his men are extremely unpopular. Removing President Musharraf, who is even more unpopular, might win the politicians some time, but not for long.

There was one hugely diverting moment last week that reminded one of pots and kettles. Mr Zardari, the caretaker leader of the Pakistan People's Party who runs the government and is the second-richest man in the country (funds that accrued when his late wife was prime minister), accused President Musharraf of siphoning official US funds to private bank accounts. For once the noise of laughter drowned the thunder of money.

President Musharraf's departure will highlight the problems that confront the country, which is in the grip of a food and power crisis that is creating severe problems. Inflation is out of control and was approaching the 15 per cent mark in May. The price of gas (used for cooking in many homes) has risen by 30 per cent.

Wheat, the staple diet of most, has seen a 20 per cent price hike since November 2007. Too much wheat is being smuggled into Afghanistan to serve the needs of the Nato armies. The poor are the worst hit, but middle-class families are also affected and, according to a June 2008 survey, 86 per cent of Pakistanis find it increasingly difficult to afford flour on a daily basis, for which they blame their government.

Other problems persist. The politicians are weak and remain divided on the restoration of the judges sacked by President Musharraf. The Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, is the most respected person in the country. Mr Zardari is reluctant to see him back at the head of the Supreme Court. A possible compromise might be to offer him the presidency. It would certainly unite the country for a time.

Over the past 50 years the US has worked mainly with the Pakistan army. This has been its preferred instrument. Nothing has changed. How long before the military is back at the helm?

Tariq Ali's latest book, 'The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power' will be published on 15 September

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor