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We would not abandon our benefactor

November 11, 2009

Tom Hussain, Foreign Correspondent

President MusharrafKARIMABAD, PAKISTAN – Chants rang across a polo ground in the hamlet of Karimabad, the capital of the idyllic valley of Hunza, Pakistan’s northernmost district and the likely setting for the mythical kingdom of Shangri-La.

With elections beckoning on Thursday in Gilgit-Baltistan, a sparsely populated region of former valley kingdoms nestled between Asia’s mighty Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindu Kush mountain ranges, hundreds of ethnic Hunzakut villagers had gathered on November 4 to voice support for their favoured politician.

“We were with you yesterday! We are still with you today!”, they shouted. But Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former president, the man they were calling to, was there only in spirit, his beaming portrait adorning dozens of posters and banners, beckoning to the attentive, well-behaved crowd with his military salute.

Reviled elsewhere in the country after eight years of unpopular military rule, culminating in his resignation in August 2008, he had departed Pakistan in July, ostensibly on a lecture tour of the West, and is now living in virtual exile in London.

He has vowed to return home “when the time is right”, but such bravado masks genuine fears that he could be sent to the gallows if he does – either for the 2006 killing in a military operation of Nawab Akbar Bugti, an insurgent Baloch tribal politician, or for staging the 1999 coup that brought him to power, an act of high treason according to a Supreme Court verdict delivered on July 31.

However, Mr Musharraf may, one day, find a home in Hunza where popular sentiment, as in the rest of Gilgit-Baltistan, is swayed by sectarian, ethnic and clan loyalties.

The region has evolved independently from the Pakistani hinterland, to which it is linked by a single road, the 1,300km Karakorum Highway, a stunning feat of engineering that took Chinese and Pakistani army engineers 12 years to build and was completed only in May 1978.

As an army officer who specialised in military strategy, Mr Musharraf recognised the geopolitical importance of Gilgit-Baltistan, which shares borders with China to the north, India to the east and Afghanistan to the west – something that made it a flashpoint of the “Great Game” in central Asia contested by czarist Russia and the British empire in the late 19th century.

To that end, Mr Musharraf wooed the people of the region with speeches in the native Shina and Burushaski languages, read from Roman scripts, gave legislative powers to the region’s elected assembly and held party-based elections.

He funded development projects, including the region’s first university, new motorways and power plants.

And, perhaps most importantly for the estimated 60,000 residents of Hunza, practically all of who are members of the Ismaili sect, followers of the Aga Khan, and fearful of militant Sunnis, he took on the Taliban.

“He is a man who delivered on the promises he made to us, and we are not so dishonourable that we would abandon our mohsin [benefactor],” said Karim Beg, a 24-year-old shopkeeper of Hyderabad village, speaking among chants of “Long live, President Musharraf!”

That sentiment may yet determine the outcome of the Hunza seat, but the symbolic vindication of a victory by Rai Rehmatullah Beg, the pro-Musharraf candidate, would still be tainted with irony.

Mr Beg is contesting as the nominated candidate of the Quaid faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, a party cobbled together by Mr Musharraf largely with the help of deserters from popular political parties before national elections in 2002.

However, after Mr Musharraf stepped down, the faction split in two, with the larger group, which is contesting the Gilgit-Baltistan election under the Quaid League banner, distancing itself from the former president in an attempt to gain political credibility.

That has not gone down well with voters in Hunza, whose loyalty to the Pakistan Muslim League predates the independence of Pakistan in 1947 because of the involvement of Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, the then Aga Khan, in politicking to create a separate homeland for the Muslims of British-ruled India.

During the Karimabad rally, local politicians and the audience mocked unnamed politicians, calling them “selfish opportunists”, for abandoning Mr Musharraf with chanted pledges of loyalty for the former president.

Marvi Memon, the member of the federal parliament running the Quaid League campaign for the this week’s elections in Gilgit-Batistan, said the voters’ adverse reaction was a “wake-up call” for politicians who had vilified Mr Musharraf.

“I think this has proved that support for Mr Musharraf continues in many parts of Pakistan,” she said.

“Certain elements were responsible for creating a gulf between our party and Mr Musharraf.

“I am confident that, one day not too far from now, the party will realise it was hoodwinked, and will reunite with Mr Musharraf and emerge as a stronger political force than ever.”
Source: The National

One comment

  1. Dear Asad, ASA. every thing on this earth, and off course, the democratic governmental system, which is THE most successful and utilized in the world, works on certain rules and regulations. The constitution of Pakistan also favours the same democratic governmental system to be run in Pakistan and Quid M A Jinnah also favoured it. An army or the millitary is one of the departments of such a democratic government ( like health or law )to defend the frontiers of the country but not to dislodge a democratically elected government at a gun point with an illegal act against constitution no matter what. Only parliament should have right to dismiss a democratic govt.
    If Army occupies and rules the government, all of active army officers becomes President, governors secretaries and embassidors, who is going to defend the country??? The outcome, if we see the history, shows that democratic governments have been successful on this earth rather than an Army rule or government which is always weak, looks to foreign powers rather than their own people for supports and ultimately fell down like Sadam’s government.
    Apparently, an Army ruler always orders and ruled a nation what his mind says rather than what a country needs. For example Gen Musharraf’s well known stubborness became from his personal desire of being in uniform and at the same time remained the President though a Pakistani 5th class civic student ( a child) knows a President can never be appointed from any active services of any government department including millitary but the retired personnels. Similarly, action on Lal mosque, illegal dismissal of Iftikhar choudhry or Nawaz sharif, NRO REGULATIONS, distortion of constitution, hold judiciary system and passed supreme court decisions which were in his favour, being stayed in army uniform and remain President of a country have been his single minded personal desires rather than the decision of any assembly or Parliament for a nation.
    Therefore, only democratic government could be favourable for Pakistan not Army rule. Once we have a system, only then we can prosper like USA or India. Unfortunately , the system is not allowed to run because that is the only hope for Pakistan to prosper.

    Coming back to your point that Musharraf killed Bakti or Pakistan’s Bank balance was higher during his tenure, I want to say that just higher balance is not enough for a country which was actually done by loan money. A country’s prosperity is measured by its deficit of fiscal nature or how much foreign or IMF loans have been taken. Killing of Bugti was actually in his favour which is again a production of his own desire and mentality. Why didnt he kill sindhi wadera or other sardar of baluchistan. On one hand, he was dealing with Benazir and Zardari ( THE WADERAS) and on the other hand he killed Bugti. That was not from a single opinionation but from his personal desires.

    If we pass a motion on which government system should be in PAKISTAN, THE ANSWER, UNFORTUNATELY, WIL BE A DEMOCRATIC RATHER THAN THE ARMY ONE.

    We knew when Musharraf’s exminister Sher Afgan was served with eggs and chappals and beaten to near death in Lahore. Thanx to the police who saved his life. As per Musharraf who is thinking of becoming the leader of Pakistani nation, I am afraid, his fortune may be like Sher Afgan, if he appears on Pakistani street.

    Muhammad Ali

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