OF THE END?
war on terror
Is it indeed beginning of the end for Musharraf? Well, it's an easy prediction to make and not too difficult to prove either. The peg, of course, is provided by the near completion of his five year term as president, or as some say the near completion of his eight years as the chief executive, whichever you pick.
This is a time when Musharraf has to get himself elected for another term, through some mechanism, 'constitutional' he says would this mechanism be. But that does not seem likely.
His seven point agenda, we thought, was a good reference point to judge his performance and that has been done, without helping the president in any way.
With the seven points thus dispensed, what else does the government -- or the president to be precise -- tout in the list of achievements. Foreign policy and economy largely, and not necessarily separately. Siding with the West in its war on terrorism is largely responsible for the economic miracle he claims to have achieved. But that too is debatable.
Terrorism instead was let loose on this very country. Economy did not trickle down, as it ought to. Institutions weakened as did democracy. As the architect of Kargil showed the door to architect of Lahore declaration, he began talking of peace with India. But there weren't many successes there except in a few Confidence Building Measures. His revolutionary solutions about Kashmir fell on deaf Indian ears and we were accused of fighting terror on the Western front while fomenting terror on our Eastern front.
The list of failures is endless and yet we've tried to count them in this Special Report.
Musharraf in August 2007 faces the worst crisis of legitimacy and that's why we've decided to make this rather dangerous prediction 'beginning of the end'.
One way to judge whether Musharraf merits to further preside over the destiny of 165 million Pakistanis is to hold him up against the set of seven deliverables he set for himself soon after taking over
By Adnan Rehmat
In September 2007, Pervez Musharraf will have completed five years as president of Pakistan, his tenure drawing 'legitimacy' from a controversial referendum -- a one-horse race -- that he conducted in April 2002. Before that, he had appointed himself president (replacing President Rafiq Tarar) in June 2001, upgrading himself from the position of 'chief executive', which he assumed after his October 1999 military coup (ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif). During this entire period, he has, controversially, also continued to serve as the army chief, a post he was appointed to for a three-year term in October 1998 and which he promised to quit by December 2004 but never did.
True to the tradition of Pakistan's past three military dictators, he contends his time is not up yet and he wants to serve the unwilling country for an additional five years as president while also not letting go of his post of army chief. Nine years as army chief, eight years as military ruler, and five years as president, and he wants to revise the goalposts to 14 years as army chief, 13 years as military ruler, and 11 years as head of state. What has he done to deserve this privilege? One way to judge whether he merits to continue to preside over the destiny of 165 million Pakistanis is to hold him up against performance standards not of an external agency but the set of seven deliverables he set for himself soon after taking over in angry reaction to being fired by the prime minister.
1. Rebuild national confidence and morale
National confidence is engendered when systems run like clockwork and positive political and economic developments can be predicted with dull regularity. Such as when presidential and general elections are due, leaders of the country's most popular political parties -- currently in force or adopted exile -- can stand for election and even prime ministership -- or that even all eligible voters will eventually be on the electoral rolls. Indeed, threats of emergency rule and even martial law -- can hardly be the stuff national confidence in the political process or morale is built of. When even at the death-end of the five-year tenure of the legislatures the government keeps parroting the assurance that the 'assemblies will complete their tenure', there is something wrong with the trust equation between the citizens and the state. The only certainty in the country at the moment is uncertainty.
2. Strengthen the Federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony, and restore national cohesion
Bombing a former governor (in the 'they-won't-know-what-hit-them' mode) in missile strikes as he sheltered in a cave and putting a former chief minister in jail (even producing him in court in an iron cage) in Balochistan; using the army and air force to kill hundreds of citizens over two years in a fit of suspicion of terrorism in the tribal areas (even allowing foreign forces in Afghanistan to bomb Pakistani territory on occasions); sending the army out in southern parts of NWFP without informing or seeking permission of the provincial government; failing to iron out opposition and support for his controversial dams plan between Punjab and Sindh (the two have been consistently accusing each other of water theft); failing to finalise the mandatory National Finance Commission Award that apportions national financial resources among the federating units; failing to present a promised bill allowing greater provincial autonomy (in a parliament in which they command a majority) even in five years -- this is hardly a list of achievements that have strengthened the federation, removed inter-provincial disharmony or restored national cohesion.
3. Revive the economy and restore investor's confidence
This is one area that some experts are willing to give Musharraf credit for. Record exports, foreign direct investment inflows (particularly in the telecom, financial, energy and real estate sectors) and foreign exchange reserves have resulted in sustained annual growth rate of 6 per cent-plus and higher GDP. However, offsetting these gains have been consistent high inflation, higher energy (gas, electricity and petroleum) prices, rising import bill, growing foreign and domestic debt liabilities, increasing poverty, controversial privatisation deals and stock exchange-related scandals have taken off the gloss from the positives.
4. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice
The 40-plus brutal killings in a single afternoon in Karachi in the glare of live TV cameras -- allegedly by the ruling coalition government parties with support of the civil law enforcement agencies; the controversial military action against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in the heart of Islamabad that killed over 100 (many say hundreds more) students and activists; the astonishing unraveling of the writ of the state in the tribal areas and even settled areas of southern and northern NWFP; the spate of suicide bombings that have killed over 500 in five years (many of the attacks being on soldiers, garrisons, security pickets and civilian law enforcement agencies); at least three recorded bloody attempts on the life of Musharraf, which resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, don't exactly count as 'ensured law and order'.
The less said about dispensing speedy justice the better. Tell that to the hundreds of 'missing persons' who would be rotting in jail un-convicted were it not for the Supreme Court's dogged independent efforts in the face of the government's intransigence to serve justice. Far from aiding dispensing of speedy justice, Musharraf and his government can actually be faulted for an astonishing assault on the justice system by attempting to sack the chief justice and then trying to humiliate him and his brother judges. The popular regime of suo moto actions that the supreme judiciary has come to be known for during Musharraf's tenure is actually an indictment of his failure to serve the citizens and symbolise justice.
5. Depoliticise state institutions
This is one self-offered deliverable Musharraf cannot be credited for even by mistake. His very uniformed presidency personifies politicisation of national institutions. He chairs cabinet meetings, which an army chief can't; he chairs meetings of corps commanders, which a president can't; and he chairs meetings of the ruling party (of which he is not a formal member, let alone leader), which as head of state he can't. And yet he does all three, most of the time with uniform on. Over 1,000 posts -- most are top ranks -- in the civilian government and semi-autonomous sector, including corporations, are manned by retired and even serving soldiers. The pervasive penetration of personnel with a military background in Pakistan's political, business, social and corporate sectors is so complete that the jibe 'countries have an army but Pakistan's army has a country' is funny no more. The state institutions in Musharraf's Pakistan are heavily politicised in violation of not just the Constitution but the Army Act. And no less a person than Musharraf symbolizes this contravention.
6. Devolution of power to the grassroots level
This was to be the lynchpin of Musharraf's idea of a 'new' Pakistan. But the spearhead of this effort, the National Reconstruction Bureau, is a thinly disguised copy of the Ayubian Bureau of National Reconstruction with the same aim: de-legitimise national politics and make national and regional parties introverted in outlook so the military can have a free rein. The Orwellian Bureau (sounding more suited for the likes of today's Iraq or even Afghanistan) has come to be recognised for its failure rather than any 'success': lack of self-rule for the cantonments/garrisons or for federal capital Islamabad. Clearly the Establishment headed by Musharraf has no confidence in the concept of power at the grassroots within his own constituency or in Islamabad. It's hardly 'power to the grassroots level' when it is Musharraf rather than voters who decide who can and cannot be prime minister. Or how many times. Ironically, it is Musharraf himself who does not fancy the idea of offering himself up to the grassroots to vote him into an office instead of giving himself a new lease of life through a dying parliament. The devolution system is nothing but the Establishment's means of negatively influencing the outcome of provincial and national elections at the grassroots level.
7. Ensure swift and across-the-board accountability
The 'swift' is a funny bit here. In the eight years he has been in charge, Musharraf has failed to convict either of his biggest two political opponents (Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif) on corruption and abuse-of-office charges in a court of law. Hardly swift, that! Just like the NRB was created to 'tame' politics and politicians, the National Accountability Bureau was created to 'tame' opponents rather than hold 'across the board' accountability. The NAB was used to keep the former prime ministers away from the country while it arm-twisted legislators of their parties to join the government (to give it an artificial majority) and the cabinet while it left ruling party leaders -- some of them top echelon -- out of the net. Serving and retired generals have headed NAB at various times to try the politicians for misdemeanors imagined or real while the military has been kept out of the accountability loop. Hardly across-the-board, all this!
This is anything but an impressive performance scorecard. Musharraf promised to deliver on his seven-point agenda within the three years that the Supreme Court gave him. And yet, eight years have passed in which he has spectacularly failed. He may unashamedly argue that it is precisely that there is work still left to be done on his agenda that he's entitled to stay on and finish what he started but what he refuses to acknowledge is what is clear to all: time and people have moved on and so should he.
October 12, 1999
• General Pervez Musharraf became the de facto Head of the State, using the title 'Chief Executive', and assumed enormous powers, following a bloodless coup d'etat in which elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown
October 15, 1999
• In response to the court petitions filed by the people challenging his assumption of power, Musharraf issued the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) that required the judges of the superior judiciary to swear allegiance to his military rule
May 12, 2000
• The Supreme Court of Pakistan, now comprising only those judges who had re-taken their oaths under the PCO ordered Musharraf to hold general elections by October 12, 2002
June 20, 2001
• Musharraf assumed the office of the 12th president of Pakistan, a few days before his scheduled visit to Agra for talks with the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
September 19, 2001
• Musharraf addressed the people of Pakistan and stated that while he supported the Taliban, unless the country reversed its position, it risked being endangered by an alliance of India and the US
• Direct elections were held in five phases for members of union councils, including nazims and naib nazims, during 2000-2001. On the basis of these direct elections, indirect elections were held in July 2001 for zila nazims and naib nazims and also for tehsil/town nazims and naib nazims
August 14, 2001
• The new Local Government System was finally installed
January 12, 2002
• Musharraf delivered a landmark speech against extremism, condemning all acts of terrorism, including those carried out in the name of freeing the Held Kashmir's Muslim majority from the Indian rule. He also pledged to combat extremism and lawlessness within Pakistan
April 30, 2002
• In order to secure a legal cover for holding the office of the president, and to ensure its continuation for five more years in the wake of the then-approaching elections, Musharraf held a presidential referendum. Amidst incidents of boycott and political groups' complaints of massive rigging, and despite voter turnout being less than 30 per cent, Musharraf was declared victorious
July 10, 2002
• Musharraf went live on TV and apologised to the nation for "irregularities" committed during the referendum
October 12, 2002
• General elections were held, with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) emerging as the majority party at the national level. The Benazir-Bhutto-led Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), however, secured the maximum votes
November 21, 2002
• Musharraf handed over certain powers to the newly-elected Parliament. The National Assembly elected Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as the prime minister who, in turn, appointed his Cabinet
December 14, 2003
• Musharraf survived an assassination attempt when a powerful bomb went off minutes after his highly-guarded convoy crossed a bridge in Rawalpindi. The president was apparently saved by a jamming device in his limousine
December 25, 2003
• Two suicide bombers failed in their attempt to assassinate Musharraf, although 16 others standing nearby were killed. The president escaped with only a cracked windscreen on his car. Militant Amjad Farooqi was said to be the mastermind behind both attempts, and was killed by Pakistani forces in 2004 after an extensive manhunt
• Musharraf struck a deal with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of six religious parties, in an attempt to end the deadlock with the opposition in the National Assembly that had lasted for more than 14 months. As per the deal, Musharraf promised to doff the uniform by December 31, 2004. Thanks to MMA's support, the pro-Musharraf legislators were able to muster the two-thirds majority required to get the 17th Amendment passed in the National Assembly
January 1, 2004
• In a vote of confidence, Musharraf secured 658 out of the total 1,170 votes and, according to Article 41(8) of the Constitution of Pakistan, was 'deemed to be elected' to the office of president until October 2007
June 26, 2004
• Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali resigned, after he lost the support of the ruling PML-Q. According to rumours, his resignation was triggered by growing differences with PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and it happened at the behest of Musharraf. Jamali was replaced by Shaukat Aziz, the then finance minister, after he won two National Assembly seats. Meanwhile, Shujaat Hussain served as the interim prime minister for about three months
February 18, 2004
• Musharraf began series of talks with India to resolve the Kashmir dispute
September 23, 2005
• Musharraf's remarks on rape courted a lot of controversy. In a tape-recorded, 50-minute interview with The Washington Post, he said that rape had become 'a moneymaking concern' in Pakistan. He later denied the statement
September 24, 2006
• In an interview with CBS News, Musharraf described how the then-US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage had called Pakistan's intelligence director soon after the September-11 (2001) attacks, and threatened military action if Pakistan did not support the US-led 'war on terror'
March 9, 2007
• Musharraf suspended Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry through a presidential reference, accusing the latter of abuse of office. Another senior judge, Justice Javaid Iqbal, was appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
March 12, 2007
• The CJP's suspension sparked countrywide protests by lawyers. In Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and Quetta, hundreds of lawyers, dressed in black suits, attended protest rallies and condemned Musharraf's move which they termed 'unconstitutional'. More than 20 lawyers were injured in clashes with police during demonstrations in Lahore
May 12, 2007
• Clashes between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and other political parties left more than 40 people dead in firefights on the streets of Karachi. The office of Aaj TV was also damaged in a crossfire
July 6, 2007
• An anti-aircraft gun was fired by an unknown group at Musharraf's plane as it took off from Rawalpindi. At least 39 people were arrested, detained, and then taken to an undisclosed location by a joint team of the Punjab Police and intelligence agencies
July 8, 2007
• The standoff between the government and the clerics of Lal Masjid in Islamabad finally erupted into full scale violence when a delegation, led by Shujaat Hussain, declared that the negotiations with the militants holed up in the mosque had failed. Troops were given the go-ahead to storm the complex in an operation code-named 'Operation Silence', whose objective was to capture or kill the militants if they resisted, and to rescue the students held hostage inside the mosque
July 20, 2007
• The Supreme Court reinstated Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the CJP, dismissing all misconduct charges filed by Musharraf through the presidential reference
August 8, 2007
• A rumour spread across Pakistan that a state of emergency was going to be imposed in the country. Government ministers confirmed that the option was being considered due to 'internal and external threats' faced by the country
August 9, 2007
• Musharraf denied that emergency was being imposed in the country. This was followed by a statement by US President George W Bush that the imposition of emergency in Pakistan was not a reality
August 22, 2007
• A survey by the US-based International Republican Institute (IPR) showed that 62 per cent of the Pakistanis did not want another term to be granted to Musharraf as president of the country
• In an effort to give his image a kiss of life, Musharraf announced that he would appear as a regular guest star on state television's Q&A show titled 'Aiwan-e-Sadar Sey'. The show is aired weekly on PTV
August 23, 2007
• The Supreme Court allowed Mian Nawaz Sharif and his brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif to return to Pakistan
Despite all, the US and the West remain unsatisfied with Pakistan's contribution in the war on terror and that is the reason why they want President Musharraf and his army to do more
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
President General Pervez Musharraf never tires of counting the achievements of his government and military in the so-called 'war on terror'. This is a subject dear to his heart and no opportunity is lost to highlight the successes scored in inflicting damage on al-Qaeda by digging its hideouts in the tribal areas of NWFP, killing and apprehending its members and delivering the wanted men over to the US.
The President also recorded this for posterity by writing about these achievements in his English language book, 'In the Line of Fire'. It is another matter that the reference to the millions of dollars paid by the American CIA in reward-money to the Pakistan government for capturing alleged al-Qaeda members was deleted from the Urdu translation of the book. This was done after the President was widely criticised for belittling the law-enforcement and intelligence agencies by conceding that they got paid for doing the job. With this one sentence, he lost the high moral ground and also contradicted himself for having claimed for the umpteenth time that Pakistan was fighting the war on terror in the national interest and as a matter of principle, and not for the sake of America or for making money.
It is no secret that a majority of those captured in Pakistan and delivered to the US were found to have no intelligence value. But the US military authorities had to keep them in captivity for long periods after having arbitrarily categorised them as the most dangerous people on earth and deprived them of their rights under the Geneva conventions. Most of these prisoners have now been freed and some of them have come out with stories as to how bounty-hunters, almost all of them government functionaries, in Pakistan got them arrested and delivered to the US to get the reward-money. Under Musharraf, these men were handed over to the US in violation of Pakistani laws and thus precedents were created that subsequently gave a free hand to not only Washington but also other Western and Arab capitals to seek quick custody of their nationals held in Pakistan without fulfilling the requirements of law. Pakistan came to be viewed as a country where laws could be bent to accommodate the rich and the powerful. It hurt the self-respect of many thinking and conscientious Pakistanis.
The events of 9/11 and the revengeful war on terror unleashed by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world over the last six years gave General Musharraf a lifeline. Until then he was treated as an outcast in a world that had little tolerance for military dictators. Not many countries, particularly in the West, were willing to host him or become his guest in Pakistan. All that changed after 9/11 as the US and its Western allies began courting the Pakistani leader because he commanded an army that would prove invaluable in fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This encouraged him to accumulate even more power in his hands. While still keeping the job of the head of the army, he changed his title from chief executive to President of Pakistan without attracting much criticism or challenge. In this democratic age, few rulers in the world enjoyed such absolute power. All this was due to his role as the ruler of a so-called frontline state engaged in a dangerous battle against al-Qaeda and other enemies of the West. In due course of time, it also became Pakistan's own war on terror because al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban and jehadi groups, which until then had refrained from fighting the Pakistan Army, opted to unleash attacks to avenge their losses. Suicide bombings and ambushes mainly targeting soldiers and personnel of law-enforcement agencies have now become a common occurrence. The violence has spread from tribal areas to urban centres and the nation's capital, Islamabad, is now considered an insecure place.
The military certainly achieved some early success in disrupting the activities of militants, including foreigners, in South Waziristan and evicting them from their bases. Though some of the claims made by the government about the killing and capture of foreign militants were exaggerated, it is also true that the troops offered immense sacrifices while operating in a tough mountainous terrain populated by hostile tribes. However, the unusually high number of casualties suffered by the soldiers prompted the military to seek peace with the militants.
The change in policy resulted in conclusion of controversial peace accords with different groups of militants in South Waziristan and North Waziristan. Those peace agreements have either been scrapped by the militants or are no longer effective. Once again the military and the militants are engaged in almost daily clashes and the death toll on both sides is rising. It is possible that the two sides are once again forced by circumstances to sign fresh peace accords.
President Musharraf's aggressive stance against extremism has earned him the abiding enmity of al-Qaeda and its allies. Attempts on his life have been made and he remains a marked man. Political parties espousing different ideologies have criticized him for bringing America's war on terror to Pakistan and pitting Pakistan Army against its own people. Only the PPP, or rather its leader Benazir Bhutto, shares his determination to fight the extremists. The PML-Q-led ruling coalition supports his policies in the war on terror but their backing for him lacks vigour.
There is a general feeling that President Musharraf has gone too far in accommodating the concerns of the US and the time has come to define the limits of cooperation between the two countries while fighting terrorists and extremists. The frequent criticism of President Musharraf by important sections of the US establishment and media for not doing enough in the war on terror and the recent threats by American presidential candidates to bomb the tribal areas are cited as examples that negate the President's claims that America is a true friend of Pakistan or that our country is better-off as a result of his post-9/11 policies.
His critics allege with considerable justification that Pakistan has paid a heavy price and become insecure as a result of these policies. Militancy has increased, terrorist attacks have become more frequent, and people are losing hope. Generally there has been frustration with the state of affairs during the Musharraf years. Despite all this, the US and the West remain unsatisfied with Pakistan's contribution in the war on terror and that is the reason that they want President Musharraf and his army to do more.
In the past five years, Musharraf has promulgated a huge number of ordinances in order to ensure a smooth run for his government
By Aoun Sahi
General Pervez Musharraf's tenure as president is close to being over. When it is eventually over, it will be remembered for many reasons. One, because despite having an elected parliament, Musharraf banked totally on his own skills to introduce legislation in the shape of ordinances. He promulgated a record number of ordinances in the past five years to run the business of government according to his 'wishes'. On August 19, Senator Professor Muhammad Ibrahim, during a Senate session, said that the President House had, in fact, become an Ordinance factory. The legislation data during the last five years only proves that.
According to the figures, in its first four years alone, the parliament passed 41-odd laws, whereas during the same period 73 ordinances were promulgated by president Musharraf alone. This is in great contrast to India where the Lok Sabha has passed 216 laws during the same period compared to the 28 ordinances issued by their president.
The number of ordinances promulgated has increased with every passing year. According to the Senate data, in the year 2003-04, four ordinances were proposed before the Senate whereas in 2005-06 the number increased to 26, and in 2006-07 a record number of (42) ordinances was laid before Senate.
"In 2005, only 12 acts were passed by the parliament and in 2006 the number of acts passed by the legislatures is six," says Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives in Pakistan (CPDI-Pakistan). According to him, it shows the pattern of legislation in Pakistan during Musharraf's regime. The present government has made parliament just a debating club while legislation is being done by the executive through different ordinances, "even many of the members of treasury benches have not seen these ordinances before their promulgation."
Mukhtar adds that the parliamentarians are also to blame for the situation as they do not like talking legislation on the floor of the house. "There were many sessions of National Assembly in all these years during which no legislative business was taken up."
He further says that most of the ordinances passed by the president were related to some influential group/department or the other, such as banks and other financial institutions, regulatory bodies, defense housing authority, Federal Public Service Commission and NADRA, etc. "Most of these ordinances were meant to safeguard the interests of certain groups, even though they ensure some benefits to common people, too," he tells TNS.
The ordinances related to the intellectual property rights or law and order and terrorism are also said to be promulgated because of pressure from the west. In the last five years, the sectors neglected by the president and the parliament in legislation are education, environment, food security, health and other social issues. "Quite often, an ordinance was passed in a matter of hours or days only, such as the Pemra Amendment Ordinance (that was later withdrawn by the government), and the Public Service Commission related ordinance that was meant to remove the former head of the department from his service because the president had developed strong differences with him. On the other hand, the ordinance related to kidney transplantation took years before it was formally promulgated," he adds.
Mukhtar contends that according to the constitution an ordinance would automatically stand repealed if it was not laid before the National Assembly in four months' time. That is why, many an ordinance is promulgated more than once. For instance, "the Police Order Amendment Ordinance 2004 has been promulgated more than 10 times till date."
Renowned Lawyer and Senator Latif Khosa, also a member of PPP central executive committee, tells TNS that in the last five years, the president highjacked the working of the parliament like all other institutions. He further says that the constitution allows the promulgation of an ordinance by the president under specific conditions. According to him, "Article 89 of the constitution reads that 'the President may, except when the National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an Ordinance, as the circumstances may require.' But, the apex court has observed that the president often deliberately promulgated ordinances just before the start of an NA session or after the session was over."
According to Latif Khosa, the president has promulgated 79-odd ordinances in the last five years, whereas during the period between October 1999 and August 2002, he issued 375 legal instruments. "Even the major legislation done by the parliament during this period -- such as the 17th amendment, the ban on becoming prime minister for a third term, restricting FPSC to recruit ISI officials etc -- was meant for empowerment of army and General Musharraf."
Khosa adds that the government deliberately laid ordinances before the Senate, although the constitution decrees that an 'ordinance laid before the National Assembly, shall be deemed to be a Bill introduced in the National Assembly' while it is silent on Senate.
Federal Law Minister Wasi Zafar was not available for comment. But, it is on official record that he has answered the same query more than once in his own style, "Doing legislation is government's business and it does not make any difference if it is being done through an ordinance or the parliament."
However, State Minister for Law Shahid Akram Bhinder says that in certain matters there is an urgency to do legislation and for it ordinance is the only solution "because making a law through the parliament takes much longer."
He opines that the president promulgating an ordinance in a rush is "not acceptable, because it needs at least a month's time to process an ordinance, for the interests of the people of Pakistan and not to safeguard the interests of a specific group."
Loyalists give Musharraf credit for country's economic growth, but his critics quote 'foreign' factors
Every day we hear the economic managers of the government making tall claims of economic progress. They attribute all these accomplishments to the visionary policies of General Musharraf. In making such statements they are not alone; many a time these are endorsed by international bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Hardly a year after Musharraf's seizure of power, the IMF said that the economic outlook was broadly encouraging and suggested that the Musharraf government should bring more reforms to put the nation on a better footing. The economy started showing signs of growth, though mild, during the next couple of years, but the real boost was seen in 2002. This was the year in which Musharraf held a presidential referendum in the country and came out victorious. And this was after Pakistan decided to side with the West's war on terrorism after the events of 9/11.
The ever-loyal aides of General Musharraf term his continuation in power the real reason behind this economic upturn. They attribute it to the government's economic policies -- its aggressive privatisation programme, de-regulation of different sectors, economic reforms and the offering of lucrative incentives to foreign investors.
Though these steps did contribute to the economic growth, critics of Musharraf believe that it was more thanks to certain foreign factors that the economy started improving. They say that when General Musharraf took over, the government toppled by him was paying the price of having conducted nuclear tests (in May 1998). These tests had led to the imposition of economic sanctions by some of the leading countries of the world. Besides, Pakistan was on the verge of defaulting on its debt payable to IMF and other donors.
Luckily for Musharraf, the economic sanctions imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests were removed in 2002. It was the time when the United States and its other allies wanted the all-out support of Musharraf in their war against terror. In return, the leading countries of the world offered to reschedule or write off loans given to Pakistan. These offers which were accepted without delay led to an easing of economic worries that General Musharraf's government was facing those days.
The sectors which have shown tremendous growth are the real estate and construction, telecommunication, banking, manufacturing of consumer goods, and so on. The contributing factors in this respect had been the heavy inflow of workers' remittances from abroad, deregulation of telecommunication sector, revival of the banking sector and launch of consumer financing products.
The foreign workers who did not feel themselves or their savings safe on foreign lands preferred to invest in Pakistan, and the best option they had was to do that in the real estate. The telecommunication sector had immense untapped potential that was exploited to the maximum by the private sector as soon as it was allowed to enter the arena. Similarly, the banking sector launched consumer finance schemes at large scale for the first time. The easily availability of consumer finance led to drastic increase in production volumes and kept the wheels of the industry moving. Thanks to this boom in telecommunication and banking, the services sector played the biggest role as it contributed almost 60 per cent to the last year's economic growth.
A major contention regarding the banking sector policies has been that they were meant to gather record at the cost of the consumers. While many banks charged up to 36 per cent interest on consumer finance, the returns on National Saving Schemes were slashed drastically and the scheduled banks were allowed to lower returns on savings accounts to the bare minimum. Bankers say the revision in the laws to declare issuance of bogus cheques a criminal offence was a step taken in the right direction by the Musharraf government. The whole success of consumer finance schemes rest on this amendment.
The Economic Survey of Pakistan endorses official claims that the growth performance over the last five years has been striking. It says, "the average real GDP growth during 2003-07 was the best performance since many decades, and it now seems that Pakistan has decisively broken out of the low growth rut that it was in for more than one decade."
The same survey says that Pakistan received $5.493 billion as workers' remittances during the last fiscal year 2006-07 up by 19.42 per cent against over $4.6 billion in 2005-06. These remittances, according to an IMF research paper, contribute 4 per cent to the GDP of Pakistan and are equivalent to about 22 per cent of annual exports of goods and services.
An important point is that while taking credit for all the achievements in the field of economy, the economic managers forget to mention that there is a long way to go. The battle is not over and needs to be fought on multiple fronts. Uncontrolled inflation, income disparity, rising costs of industrial production, energy crisis, high-profile scams in stock market and privatisation deals etc. are a few things that need to be taken care of at the earliest.
A report released by World Bank Group and titled 'Doing Business in South Asia 2007' enumerates the greatest remaining obstacles for the country including problems in enforcing contracts through courts, labour regulations and paying taxes. If General Musharraf has the ability to achieve desired results in days he must take the bull by the horn instead of taking credit for every positive development under the sun.
The World Bank report says that it takes 880 days or about two and a half years to resolve a commercial dispute in Karachi. Despite the reduced tax rate, businesses must still spend about two months per year or 560 hours to comply with all tax regulations. An employer who is faced with less demand for the products he sells must pay an average of 90 weeks of salary to make a worker redundant.
The report points out that different provincial and municipal level regulatory requirements, as well as differences in the implementation of national-level regulations, either enhance or constrain local business activity. This explains, for example, why in Sindh (Karachi), it only takes six procedures and 50 days to register property, whereas it takes 12 procedures and 96 days in Balochistan (Quetta), with the provinces of Punjab (Faisalabad, Lahore, Sialkot) and NWFP (Peshawar) falling in the middle, it adds.
It would not be less than a blessing for the people of Pakistan, if economic managers of the country can convince their leader to tackle the above-mentioned 'minor' issues first.