Maligned Musharraf’s address remembered

We at PTH are not fans of General Musharraf or any military dictator.  However, there was a time when a lot of well meaning people – including key sections of the civil society, select stalwarts of the lawyers’ movement, to name a few – had put their faith in General Musharraf to turn back the clock on extremism and fanaticism in Pakistan.  At that time General Musharraf appeared to many as a leader cut from a different cloth than the previous military dictators.   It was thought that here was a man who was going to finally take Pakistan in the direction of a modern state. He promised Jinnah’s Pakistan i.e.  a secular state built upon an inclusive and tolerant albeit Muslim society working towards the benefit of the people. On June 5, 2001,  Musharraf addressed a the largest conference of the holiest of holy in Pakistan, the Ulema (religious leaders) and Mashaikh at a religious conference which bears repetition for being important words spoken- at least by any military dictator- even if they came from someone who later negated everything he said.  We quote here excerpts from his address which makes us wonder how a man of such courage could have gone so terribly wrong.

By General Pervez Musharraf
Where do we stand and which way are we going? We say Islam is a Deen. It is no mere religion. It provides guidance to us in all walks of life. And because of this we claim it is superior to all other faiths. But how do we actually conduct ourselves in life? Look at Muslims everywhere and in Pakistan, too! Is this what our Deen teaches us?

We say Islam is for all times to come because as a Deen it relates to practical life. But how does the world look at us? The world sees us as backward and constantly going under. Is there any doubt that we have been left behind although we claim Islam will carry us forward in every age, every circumstance, in every land.

‘Islam is vibrant and forward-looking. But more than that we claim it is the most tolerant of faiths. How does the world judge our claim? It looks upon us as terrorists. We have been killing each other and now we want to spread that violence and terror abroad. Naturally the world regards us as terrorists. Our claim of tolerance is phoney in its eyes…… It is time we took stock of our position

We have no right to tell anybody that he is bad and we are good, that we are on the right path and he is on the wrong. Nobody has this right.

here do we see justice and equity? Do you see it? In Pakistan? Where? Look at the performance of the judiciary. Corruption is rampant and misdemeanours the order of the day. Only ‘sifarish’ works. Merit has no taker. The poor are oppressed. To be poor in Pakistan is a curse…. And let us not talk of character. Can we discover it anywhere amongst us? Are we honest and truthful? If we had been so our country would not be where it stands today.

‘Pakistan does not live in a void. It is a part of the globe. The world has actually turned into a global village. No country can live in isolation or stand alone. For progress and development, each country must interact with others.

Unfortunately we are weak because of the causes I have already mentioned. We do not suffer from built-in weaknesses. We have all the resources to develop. We ourselves are responsible for our weaknesses. As we are weak, we have to keep in step with other countries. First acquire strength, only then can you tell others to fall in step with you. We are in no position to dictate to others. Common sense demands that first you attain the position from where you can ask others to follow the path you are treading. If you make a premature attempt you will be crushed and further weakened.

Seventy per cent of the world’s energy resources are in Muslim countries. But our GDP, of the entire Muslim Ummah, comes to barely 12 to 13 billion dollars. On the other hand, Japan’s GDP stands at 5,500 billion and Germany’s at 2,500 billion dollars. In other words, Germany’s GDP is twice that of the entire Ummah and Japan’s four and a half times, though we are one-fourth of the world’s population sitting on 70 per cent of its energy resources.

Why is this so? An analysis tells us that it is all because of a difference in the advancement of human quality, of environmental development. Other countries have swept forward. Just take education. In the entire Muslim world there are some 380 universities of which only 25 are of a world ranking. In Japan 1000 universities award PhD degrees. The entire Muslim Ummah can boast of a total of 500 PhDs. In England, each year 3000 PhDs are awarded and in India 5000. It is this that should engage our attention. When we make an assertion we must have strength to back it up. Wisdom dictates that we should first acquire strength, come out on top, and then talk.

Our first priority is to improve the law and order situation. Unless foreign investors come in, and our own people make investments, we cannot make any economic headway. So far they have not done so, neither foreign nor indigenous investment has taken place. I confess our government has failed in this. We have to induce investment… Undoubtedly, law and order is an important factor which inhibits investment. Nobody will invest where there is a fear of losing. An investor firstly looks at the conditions pertaining in a country, particularly at law and order….

Religious and sectarian harmony is therefore an inescapable necessity in Pakistan. It will unite us and bring stability. Only that will attract others to come to Pakistan. On a recent visit, a Chinese minister remarked that investment is like a sparrow. It flies out as a flock of pigeons but returns one by one. So this sparrow will come to us one by one. We are trying to attract it by throwing seeds of incentive before it and I ask you to lend us a helping hand.

We provoke each other through meaningless statements. We can improve the law and order situation by merely holding our tongues. If we become a tolerant society where people with different outlooks can live peacefully, investors will come.

One hears the boast that ‘we will hoist our flag on the Red Fort’ in Delhi, that we will do this, and do that. Have you ever thought of the consequences of such talk on the Muslims of India? Some have come to meet me and they have told me of the repercussions our loose tongues have on their position…

It provides India with the excuse to call you terrorists and for others to declare you as such, so that prospective investors stay far away from your country. When you go around killing each other, who can consider Pakistan a safe place for investment.

Above all, religion should never be exploited for political gains. Do not sully our glorious faith. I say this to all those who are guilty of it.


Filed under Islam, Pakistan, Terrorism

12 responses to “Maligned Musharraf’s address remembered

  1. Zia Ahmad

    Everything considered, Musharrif was indeed a flare of hope for all forward thinking Pakistanis ten years ago. After the dismal and hideous failure of democracy back then and as it is now, with the bevy of tired old familiar tried and tested faces (more akin to bad clogged blood), there was this hope for us to redeem and better ourselves as Pakistanis under military rule, the most unlikely of entity to associate redemption with. In his characteristic no-nonsense mannerism what Musharrif said back then and whatever happened in the last two years, one only has to reflect on what Kurt Vonnegut said,

    “History! Read it and weep!”

  2. Zia Ahmad

    In retrospect, let’s jump from a high cultured quote to a relatively lesser one in context of Mushariff’s fall from grace.

    “Absolute power corrupte absolutely”

  3. Adnann Syed

    I look at Musharraf’s speeches and actions from his earlier days, such as

    1) promise and indeed practice of enlightened moderation
    2) opening up the press, and giving it unprecedented freedom
    3) introducing positive legislation to promote fiscal checks, checks on power, giving more representation to women, doing away with separate elections for the minorities
    4) staying personally honest with all the power he possessed
    5) taking steps to reach out to India and make genuine effort to solve the Kashmir issue
    6) taking on the extremists and at least going after them, surviving two determined assassination attempts in the mean while

    Yet at the same time, this man

    1) freely wheeled and dealed to shamelessly establish a King’s party to further his own rule
    2) indulged in a shameful referendum to further his own rule
    3) despite seeing the clear danger emanating from the Tribal Areas, allowed religious groups to continue to operate and even flourish on Pakistani soil
    4) played a clear role in instigating Kargil war, yet denied it to the hilt of his own major role in that misadventure
    5) subjugated judiciary to take oath under his own PCOs, fired the Chief Justice, and after losing that duel, imposed martial law, all so that he can stay in power

    I do believe he will be judged a bit well years from now; for being a better among the worse. Yet he could have done so much, and for the love of power, he lost so much.

    But maybe because he started as a usurper of power, he let go of all the etiquette to remain in power. In my view, his role in subjugating the judiciary (we are still seeing repercussions to that act), and his dual policy of supporting Taliban as some kind of military asset in later day Afghanistan (we have yet to see the full effect of this disastrous strategy), were two of his monumental follies;
    these follies will ultimately define him in years to come.


  4. cheeta


    when u refer to things like q league/ pco / referendum, these things were considered a means to an end back when musharraf was popular…right now u might rightly criticize those things as much as you can, but the fact is that we were not really pushed by these issues back then as they were regarded as merely political obstacles impeding the reform process that pakistan was desperately in need of. However, i do beleive that this was also a genuine error on musharrafs part as i think he was trying to put one foot into the civil setup while retaining the other in the army. You can see from above speech how he was exposing to the ‘ulema’ what a bunch of uselss people they were. It is also a FACT that he spent the next several years almost pleading with them to get integrated with the rest of pakistan and submit to state checks and balances. Had musharraf wanted, he was definitely empowered enough to take all these measures by force. But he chose not to. He perhaps rightly calculated what a disaster that could turn into if it be done by force. Similar is the issue of kalabagh dam. It is on the record how hard Mush had been PLEADING and lobbying with politicians to support that project. Again, being a military ruler, he had the option of doing by force. But you know how that would have fractured the country. We also know that it was musharraf who freed media and encouraged all the debate on issues.( Please dont get me started on the banning of geo because we all know what a bunch of blackmailers and liars they are) As far as tribal areas threat was concerened, we were following a strategy of jirga agreements plus focussed military action where needed. It seems that americans were not pleased. How many predator strikes happend in musharrafs tenure? hardly any. But all of a sudden, they started happening in 2007 with Pakistan in a state of internal turmoil.

    I personally beleive that yes, musharraf made some bad mistakes but at the same time, thoughout his 8 years, the politicians around him were trying to blackmail him and get some mileage out of him. His weakness in 2007 was fully explioted by ‘criminal-turned-saviour’ opportunists.

    I would like to conclude by saying that Musharrafs failures were as much OUR failures as a nation:

    It is only recently that we have woken up to the taliban threat as a nation. Before that we were blaming all these bombings on our own ‘agencies’ despite the fact that maximum casualties were being sustained by those very agencies. I find it difficult to put into words what a pathetic thinking that was. Furthermore i dont hear the maulvis praying for the success of pak army and praising the sacrifices of the brave jawans in the mosques, which is most disturbing. When you talked to illiterate people on the street a while back, almost all were supportive of taliban, while criticizing army that was laying down their lives to protect us.

    While we were quick to rise in a political and inflammatory movement which destabalized pakistan in every respect, we failed to generate the same fervour for more pressing issues like madrassa reform. How many people have come out on the streets to demand the madrassas and maulvis to curb extremism?

    Why do we always criticize our own country and wash our dirty linen in public. What exactly have WE done for our country. No matter how much we all criticize this or that, in the end all we are doing is nothing. Perhaps the most we do is come out on the streets and break a few cars or become part of some egotistical self-rightoues ‘movement’.

    Why as a nation are we so obsessed with soap opera politics rather than actual progress?

  5. Milind Kher

    Compared to Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia ul Haq, I found Musharraf much more urbane and balanced.

    The kind of treatment he was able to secure for Pakistan from the US was terrific (honestly, I confess, it used to really get my goat at times – LOL!!).

    Whether an efficient autocracy is better or a splintered democracy is better is difficult to tell.

  6. Amber

    I have always been baffled by Musharraf’s standing amongst Pakistan’s people. While there are people who believe that his rule was good for Pakistan, others believe that he was a total flop show. Any Pakistani site I visit, I see people divided on this issue. From this blog post I believe that Musharraf meant well for Pakistan, and was forward looking. But with so many centers of power even his hands were tied most of the time. 9/11 got another power involved in Pakistani affairs and then slowly came his slide. May be he just got fed up with the system and slowly gave up. Like all things in life, Musharraf’s tenure seems to have shades of grey rather than pure B&W.

  7. Adnann Syed


    There are no blacks and whites in life. It is all composed of grays. How we view life, people and events around us depends upon our ability to view grays, and appreciate the blacks and whites in them.

    Judging Musharraf based on an absolute benchmark is unfair, and probably hypocritical. We do not apply the same benchmarks for ourselves, never appreciate the difficult world that Musharraf operated in, yet keep expecting him to come up with perfect judgment at all times.

    But there is a clear loss of direction as he moved into his rule. His actions towards the later part were more reactive, as he tried to hang on the power, that he effortlessly had in his first few years. We can argue he never really imagined himself being in power, was it not for the almost reckless tactics by Nawaz Sharif to change Army leadership while Musharraf was on his way back from Sri Lanka.

    I recently read his book “In the Line of Fire” for the second time to reflect on him and his rule. It is not the best written book in the world, yet it does show a deeply caring person who wanted the best for Pakistan, and indeed made efforts in that regard.

    However, his contempt for politicians likely made him convinced that he was the sole saviour of the country. And thus began series of shameful machinations to ensure that Musharraf will remain in power. For all of his noble intentions, he forgot that

    1) individuals cannot replace institutions. Institutions remain long after individuals are gone. In his conviction that he was irreplaceable, institutions like legislative branch and judiciary were heavily damaged

    2) enlightened moderation, cannot be practiced by the society if the government policy contravenes it. He never fully accepted that Pakistan had opened a door to hell by its blind support for Taliban. Throughout his 9 years, he never tackled the problem of religious extremism head-on, subscribing to the outdated belief that Pakistan’s defense rested on being prepared against India, all the while the enemy grows within like an out of control cancer.

    On the first point, I fully blame him for getting swept in his own aura of greatness. On the second point, however the blame must be shared by the whole nation. Musharraf faced fierce resistance by so called right wing whenever he operated against the militants. Pakistan deluded itself in thinking that somehow the religious genie will never get out of the bottle, that the problem started only when US invaded Afghanistan, and even still there is mass refusal to believe that Pakistan is fighting for its life, and somehow the fanatics will simply stop threatening the state, if Pakistan pulls its support to the US.

    No one can deny that Pakistan, with its inherent contradictions, is an extremely tough country to govern. It is also easy to be a critic and pass judgments, yet I will woefully note that Musharraf did slip badly on occasions, and that had he not damaged the institutions, Pakistan may have been in a better shape to face its challenges.

  8. Actually, Musharraf himself was not aware about secularism much better than psuedo Secularism specialist. For him secularism was all about throwing religion in the bin and exploit women in the name of freedom and this is what he did. There are several accounts document in papers in form of text and pictures that how badly women were treated in his era.

    as far as “fan following” of Musahrraf is concerned, I know few ladies(including few in my extended family) who liked Musahrraf because of his sense of dressing. It’s just like ladies in 70s and 80s used to love cricket because of Imran Khan because he was hot for them. Well I can just smile and grin on such reasons. 🙂

  9. Amber

    Adnann Syed,

    Thanks for the very well written response. This really helps me understand the issue. I can’t help but notice your usage of the word Gray. Are you a resident of US of A. 😉

  10. Adnann Syed


    I didn’t realize “Gray” was American version of “Grey”. This has just been a long drawn habit of mine to use an “a” in this word.

    And no, not living in US and A (as Borat called it). Close to that though, in the big white North, the United Provinces of Canada, in the great (and currently frigid) city of Toronto.

  11. Saher

    It has almost become our habit to regret on things only when once they’re gone forever. We value Musharraf’s acts and policies now, but only if we had raised our voices earlier, it would have been useful.
    Unfortuantely, now we’re left with a failed, broken, and divided state. Many years back, we lost east pakistan, if things continue the way they are, we will soon see all the 4 provinces as four tiny independent countries, or may be one isolated terrorist county run by taliban.
    There hardly seem to be any hopes for the future. But just as how ppp n pml-n ruled alternately throughout the history and kept coming back, you never know, Musharraf might be back too.
    Its the deeds of the nation which decides its ruler, maybe we just need to correct our deeds first to expect a genuinely good leader to lead us.

  12. Amber

    Saher: It is always easier to be wise after an event. Also remember that Musharraf did not come to power by any public support or mandate. He was just another dictator who seized the power, so people naturally distrusted him. BTW as Adnann Syed has very well explained he fumbled at very critical junctions in his rule where he could have made a huge difference. His desire to cling on to his position eventually overtook his sense of morality. Empty words do not make great heroes ,only good fiction.