INTERVIEW
 
Musharraf Leaves Troubled Legacy for Pakistan
AFP
August 19, 2008
Pervez Musharraf has left a poisoned chalice for Pakistan, with the constitution and economy in tatters and even his gains against extremism and towards peace with India under threat, analysts say.

Musharraf spent most of Monday's hour-long speech leading to his resignation as president defending his achievements since he seized power in a military coup nine years ago, saying that impeachment charges against him were false.

But while the United States and other allies praised his contribution to the fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, analysts said his determination to cling to power had caused lasting damage to Pakistan.

“He is leaving behind a very complex and troubling legacy for Pakistan,” Rasul Baksh Rais, an analyst at Lahore's elite University of Management Sciences, told AFP.

“Distortion of the constitution, manufactured political groups that supported him, insurgency in Afghanistan, Talibanisation in the northwestern frontier region and a structurally weak economy all count against him,” he said.

Musharraf justified his 1999 coup by saying that nuclear-armed Pakistan was on the verge of being declared a terrorist state and an economic basket case after the chaotic rule of then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He then abandoned Pakistan's support for Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime and joined the US-led “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks, bringing an influx of US aid money into the country.

In the first years of his rule, analysts said that despite constitutional manoeuvres to stay in power, Pakistan was on the up, recording record economic growth for several years and creating a new, richer middle class.

Musharraf also took on two previous pillars of the Pakistani security establishment's identity -- decades of rivalry with India and support for jihadi fighters in the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, they said.

“These are the two enduring legacies of Musharraf,” said Najam Sethi, editor of the respected Daily Times newspaper and a political commentator.

“There was a paradigm change on policy towards India. Previously the political governments always wanted peace with India but they could not do so because the army would oppose it,” Sethi said.

India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in 2003 in Kashmir, the dispute over which sparked two of their three wars since independence in 1947, and launched a peace process the following year.

Sethi said Musharraf's rule was also responsible for the “break-up of the military-mullah alliance” -- the tie-up between Pakistan's military-run intelligence services and the jihadis.

Musharraf banned several extremist groups between 1999 and 2002 and outlawed the once widespread collection boxes that militant organisations kept in shops across the country.

But as Musharraf became increasingly focused on winning another five-year term in power during 2007, many of the gains he wrought were wiped out, analysts said.

Musharraf sacked the country's chief justice and other senior judges during a state of emergency in November last year to force through his apparently unconstitutional re-election by the outgoing parliament while still chief of the army.

He also used the normally impartial president's position, which is supposed to be a figurehead above the elected prime minister, to form his own political party and gave himself extra powers such as the ability to dissolve parliament.

Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists extended their sanctuaries in the ethnic Pashtun tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where attacks on international troops, Afghan forces and civilians have soared.

And relations with India are at a low ebb after New Delhi accused Pakistan of involvement of the deadly bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July.

“Musharraf left a legacy of prolonged dictatorship which sowed seeds of further instability,” said Ishtiaq Ahmed, from the department of international relations at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

“He left behind many scars and many fissures.”

Access report at khaleejtimes.ae