Musharraf has been back in Pakistan for a while now. He defied the advice of the Army, the ISI, most of his advisors (however few are left) and apparently his family as well. Reported rumors suggest his prime motivation to return was to respond to critics who accused him of cowardice. A man of Musharraf’s ego does not take such affronts easily. And so he came back. Tried to contest the elections. Courts bounced him back between one another and put him out of the election business. The usual hidden hands provided him some relief with the judges detention case petitioner withdrawing the case. Some other issues have been taken care of by external benefactors as well.
But one man still appears unable to let go of deep grudges that he holds.
It is not Nawaz Sharif. He seems to have come to a conclusion where taking revenge from Musharraf is a bit beneath him, a bit unnecessary, harmful in relations with the military, not very popular with the public, and of course Riyadh does not want it either.
The man with the grudge is Iftikhar Chaudhary, the kaanra dajjal.
I’m going to make a completely random and fairly pointless analogy now.
Musharraf’s situation now is a bit like that of Reza Shah Pehlavi. He too left power knowing there was no return (with a few delusions of return), and they both had an enemy who could not let ego of the desire for revenge. In Reza Shah’s case, Khomeini had taken the affront so seriously that even giving him asylum was a nightmare. He went from Iran to Egypt, to Morocco, to the Bahamas, to Mexico, to the US, then to Paraguay and back to Egypt. At each step, there was uncertainty over the length of his stay and the next destination. Musharraf is of course no Shah. His exit was not like Shah. There was no massive public upheaval. Musharraf left with a guard of honor and had a ‘fairly honorable’ exit. There is no university student union planning to takeover the embassy of the country that gives Musharraf refuge.
But Iftikhar Chaudhary seems to be approaching a Khomeini level of vengeance, of religious belief in his own messiah power, of belief in public support and yet the desire to police the public, and unwavering desire for wrath and vengeance. He will try to take his vengeance from Musharraf. And Nawaz Sharif should not let that happen.
Not because Iftikhar Chaudhary would be doing anything extrajudicial in trying to get an Article 6 on Musharraf. But because things are moving on. There is no need for public hangings from a crane and mass executions. When things are moving on, let bygones be bygones, and let even your tormentors live. A life of seclusion, of pointlessness, of powerlessness and no importance is good enough. He might return to exile and find press only in sickness and in death.
First, Mahmood Achakzai let out a squeal on letting Musharraf on the hook. Now, Zardari has told Chaudhary in a way that Article 6 is in Parliament’s court and not his. The probability of Musharraf getting another ‘honorable exit’ is high. But there is Akbar Bugti and even Lal Masjid still hanging over his head.
The Shah was, later in his life, made to be – in the press – an evil on par with Idi Amin. The Shah was a dictatorial monarch but not a ruthless, butchering tyrant. The relentless vilification in hindsight was often undeserved. Musharraf, similarly, is no evil personified. I hope this blog won’t come to haunt me as a ‘self proclaimed progressive dictator supporter’ essay.
The Iranian analogy reminded me, of a completely unrelated note, of Foucault’s famous, and at the same time forgotten, support of Khomeini. Foucault knew nothing about Iran, but in his – and the genre and society he belonged to – passion for unbridled support for anything seen as anti-imperialist native overthrow of western shackles, he lost the plot and ended up supporting tyrannical Islamist regime of the clergy. Friends of a disposition wherein Foucault is the God of knowledge would benefit learning a lesson from that episode. The new definitions of what constitutes progressive politics in subaltern lands might be a bit flawed.