Why Musharraf had to resign?

Why Musharraf had to resign?

In a televised address on 18th August at 1 PM, President Musharraf told the nation that he would resign. After almost nine years in power, it was difficult for him to see to this day when he loses power..

By 5 PM., Musharraf had been granted a ceremonial departure composed of a military guard of honor, and he left the presidential building for the last time. He reportedly headed to an army house in Rawalpindi, a city adjacent to Islamabad, where he has lived as President.

He is expected to stay in Rawalpindi for the next few days before moving elsewhere in Islamabad, perhaps to a house he is reportedly building in an exclusive enclave on the outskirts of the city. There is speculation that he might leave for Saudi Arabia first enroute to Britain for a few years. It is reported that the Army also desires that he moves from Pakistan to elsewhere for a few years.

His legal advisers including the wily octogenarian former Attorney General Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada misled him about the ramifications of the imposition of emergency rule and dismissal of 60 judges in last November. The President thought he could get away with such unconstitutional actions. It was one of those mistakes that cannot be remedied and he had to go under pressure from all quarters.

Power is like addiction and it is hard to get rid of it. When one is in power, one does not realise his mistakes because around him his supporters admire him for the “courageous” action. The greatest mistake he did was to dismiss the 60 judges while declaring emergency rule last November so that he could prolong his power another five years.

Observers say that the President should have resigned in dignity when the PML (Q) that supported Musharraf lost the last February election.

The departure of Musharraf set off wild celebrations at home because he became the most unpopular man in the country for his political blunders and mistakes.

Why did he resign?

First, he was given two days ultimatum by the elected political leaders to resign otherwise he would face impeachment proceedings. The grounds for impeaching President Musharraf appeared to be based on solid facts and included his imposition of emergency rule and the firing of 60 judges of superior courts, contrary to the constitution, as well as mismanagement of economy including allegation of diverting $700 million dollars from one billion per year from the US to powerful ISI (Inter- Services Intelligence) and not war on terror.

The impeachment proceedings got a good start when four provincial assemblies voted overwhelmingly in favour of impeachment. Musharraf got the signal that unless army intervened he would be impeached.

Second, army did not want “one of their men” to go through humiliation of impeachment by political leaders. This process will discredit not only Musharraf but also the army. They advised him discreetly that he should resign for the reputation of the army.

Third, Musharraf’s political demise was nearly inevitable after he shed his military role last year and he became a “toothless tiger”. In Pakistan, when a dictator leaves uniform, he loses control over the army and consequently a dictator is vulnerable to his fall at any time.

Fourth, the army became neutral under the new Chief or Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani. He distanced the army from politics and ordered ISI not to meddle in politics, particularly the last February election. Musharraf was not happy about it.

Fifth, for the first time a social revolution is taking place in Pakistan. The lawyers and members of civil society became vocal and took a leading role in bringing awareness among people about their rights within a democratic political order. The protest by the middle class in Pakistan is a new phenomenon

Even in 1971 during military operations in Bangladesh, the middle class and lawyers were silent. It seems that Pakistan society is gradually changing from feudal society. As times rolled on Musharraf became an extremely unpopular person. When major segments of society rise against a dictator, he had no option but to leave.

Sixth, the campaign against the militants is unpopular in Pakistan because it is seen as an American conflict foisted on the country. Musharraf could not fully explain to the public that the effort to quell the Taliban is in Pakistan’s interests as well. This has led to his unpopularity because people perceived him as “an agent of the US”.

Seventh, his foreign allies, such as the US and UK , saw that it was better not to intervene the events in Pakistan because they have to deal with elected government in Pakistan on war on terrorism. Musharraf attempted to argue that he was the only person they could rely on for war on terror but actions on the ground in Pakistan proved otherwise. Pakistan became a safe haven for Talebans and Islamic militants. It is interesting to note that President Bush did not make any statement on Musharraf’s resignation.

America in disarray:

The resignation of Musharraf put the Bush administration in a quandary. After all he was the best ally on war on terror. He was a military man, took decisive actions and they could rely on him. America likes strong man whether he is popular or not in the country so long he can deliver what the US wants. The Bush administration poured billions of dollars in return to Musharraf.

After the resignation, one senior Bush administration official said, acknowledging that the United States had stuck with Musharraf for too long and developed few other relationships in Pakistan to fall back on. Administration officials will now have to find allies within the fractious coalition government.

At the same time, suspicions between the American and Pakistani intelligence agencies and their militaries are deepening, and relations between the countries are at their lowest point

Among the greatest concerns, senior American officials say, is the durability of new controls over Pakistan’s nuclear program. Though Pakistan has been through far more abrupt political transitions than this one — through assassinations, a mysterious plane crash and coups — this is the first since it amassed a large nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps the greatest concern is what one senior Bush administration official recently termed “steadfast efforts” by the extremist groups to infiltrate Pakistan’s nuclear laboratories, the heart of a vast infrastructure that employs tens of thousands of people. Some of the efforts, officials said, are believed to have involved Pakistani scientists trained abroad.

Pakistan’s weapons themselves are considered less of a concern — thanks in part to a secret program initiated by the Bush administration, with Musharraf’s consent, to help train Pakistani security forces to keep the weapons safe.

Another central concern is the war in Afghanistan, which has been fueled by Taliban and Qaeda fighters who have used Pakistan as a rear base to carry out increasingly lethal and sophisticated attacks across the border.

It will be difficult for America to step up operations in Afghanistan without being sure that the Pakistani-Afghan border is secure – and that will only happen if US relations with both the Pakistani military and the new civilian government are good.


Dictators have to go because they have no place in modern times. More particularly when people are aware of their rights and desire to have participation in the decision-making process in running the country through their elected representatives, dictators are a vanishing breed. As Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) once said : “ It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms have been tried from time to time.”

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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