August 19th, 2008
10:13 AM ET

Watching Musharraf's resignation from Pakistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/19/art.vert.musharraf.jpg width=292 height=320]
Beena Sarwar
Journalist in Karachi, Pakistan

There was no electricity at our place in Karachi yesterday but it was cool so we hadn't turned on our little generator. "Aren't you watching our president's speech on TV?" asked a friend on the phone.

On came the generator. Live on Geo, the TV channel that spearheaded the media boom under Musharraf, was the President in a dark western suit and tie (rather than the high-collared 'sherwani' that leaders tend to don when trying to appease nationalist or religious forces). The obligatory portrait of the country's founder (sherwani-clad) on the wall behind him, Musharraf was listing his government's achievements.

The economic achievements are tempered by rising inflation and increasing divide between the rich and poor but he made a couple of good moves when he restored the women's reserved seats in parliament and introduced thirty percent women's seats at the district level, as well as striking down the 'separate electorate system' that divided voters on religious grounds. Reminding people that he is a human being prone to make mistakes whose intentions were always noble, he thanked his mother, his wife, and his children for always standing by him.

And then he did what no leader in Pakistan has ever done: publicly announced his resignation – something he should have done a long time ago. The elections of February 18, 2008 provided a good opportunity but the tenacious former army commando had dug his heels in and refused to go, despite his earlier promise to step down if the people rejected the parties that supported him.

America is perceived as one of the major factors keeping him in place, as a key ally in the 'war on terror'. Washington has now started realizing the need to back the people of Pakistan and the elected government rather than an unelected president and army. The 'war on terror' cannot be won by military means alone. It is important to support the political process and take the people along.

In resigning today, Musharraf avoided the impeachment that loomed over his head (another first) which would have carried confrontation further. As I left on August 12 for Jakarta to participate in a forum
on Islam and Democracy in South Asia, someone remarked that I would be returning in five days to a transformed Pakistan. Not likely, I replied. Even if Musharraf went during this time, there would be no dramatic change. Inflation would continue to break the people's backs, violence in the name of religion would continue to take lives, unprincipled forces would continue to try and sabotage the democratically elected government, hidden hands would continue to needle India and Afghanistan, and the lawyers would continue to agitate for restoring the judiciary that Musharraf had axed during his imposition of emergency on November 3 last year that the ruling coalition is dragging its feet over.

As Musharraf announced his resignation, television news showed jubilant men and women dancing in the streets of Multan (Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani's hometown). Some called for Musharraf to be held accountable and charged with treason, punishable by death.

Wisdom would call for another course of action that provides Musharraf safety and "leave his accountability to history… (which) is necessary for the stability of the country and for moving forward," as political analyst Shaheryar Azhar puts it.

The nation seems to have heaved a collective sigh of relief that the drama is finally over. But Musharraf's departure is just one step in the process of democracy, for the continuation of which Pakistan and its allies will need all the patience they can muster.

Filed under: Global 360°
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Abid

    I don't see what Musharraf's resignation will actually accomplish for Pakistan. Perhaps the powers of the presidency will be reduced as per older constitution and president goes back to being a figure-head. The power gained by the presidency to be able to sack the parliament was ill-used in Pakistan.
    However, in the long run, this makes absolutely no difference. In fact now that he has resigned, we will see the ruling coalition falling apart. The personal vengeance of some is not necessarily the best for the country. This is the biggest test for Pakistan People's Party and for PML-Nawaz and if their history is any guide, they will tend towards miserable failure. I surely hope not but politicians are very similar in nature whether its the USA or Pakistan.

    August 20, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  2. Teri

    It is a shame Bhutto was assassinated by Musharraf's killers as that is what he did with his opponents. She gave up her life for her country and was not allowed to live long enough to see this dictator leave office.

    August 19, 2008 at 10:29 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    I'm glad Musharraf resigned and I hope that Pakistan can elect a leader who will put the country's best interests and the people's best interests first in his/her agenda. The last few weeks internationally have been quite interesting and have put a new spin on the US elections. Hopefully whoever is elected here will be able to continue the alliance between the US and Pakistan.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  4. Wain

    What Musharraf did wrong:
    1. Blindly follow the American lead to bomb the tribal areas in Pakistan.
    2. Killing women and children in the Lal masjid standoff in Islamabad.
    3. Supporting the disappearence of several innocent Pakistanis going into American prison facilities, without trial.
    4. Sacking the truthfull judiciary.
    5. Electing himself for a second term illegaly.

    August 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  5. Wain

    To Julie's comments.

    What Musharraf did right:
    1. Introduce an independent and fearless media.
    2. Pass legislations to empower women.
    – Introduce more women in politics.

    3. Take out Bhugti the war lord in balochistan province.
    4. Held elections which no other dictator in Pakistan did.
    5. Resigned when he was not needed; which no other dictator did.

    What Musharraf did wrong:
    1. Blindly follow the American lead to bomb the tribal areas in Pakistan.

    August 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  6. Dani, Seattle

    @ Cindy from GA
    You need to read the post from Monika, because I guess you have not been living in America for the past 7 years. You tell me to stop spewing rhetoric. It's not rhetoric – it's the TRUTH. You may not want to face it, but the facts are there big time. I never said the dems. were without sin either, nobody is without sin. I'm talking about people claiming to be Christians, like Dick Cheney who has broken so many laws that the mob has nothing on him.

    BTW – Musharraf was a puppet, and people saw through that so clearly, I'm shocked it went on as long as it did.

    Thank you Monika!

    August 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Michael . Earth

    My hope is that who ever replaces this fallen leader is fair and balanced , honest and upright . Government leadership is designed to be guardian of the people for the common good.

    August 19, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  8. Monika

    Wow! Who would have thought that the Pakistani people (including their president) had more brains and common sense than the Americans. Why is it that our tyrannic, power-hungry dictator refuses to resign and nobody is willing to impeach him for the crimes against humanity he and his henchmen have committed over the past 7 years??? Not only that but apparently half of all Americans are stupid enough to want to elect yet another version of the current "president", an out-of-touch-with-reality, unethical, dishonest, brainless, and most importantly war-hungry, disgruntled old billionaire (thanks to his wife's fortune) who can't wait to lead this nation into yet another war or two or three.


    August 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm |
  9. Julie San Diego, CA

    Interesting commentary, Beena.

    I've heard many assessments of Musharraf's tenure. I just found out one of my friends who works for an NGO was reassigned to Pakistan so I'm eager to get her take on the situation on the ground, as she's a reasonable person with experience working and living in Syria, Sudan, and other places with instability.

    David Jung writes: "This must be a glorious day in Pakistan. Finally, America won’t have to intervene with Pakistan’s politics and the people can choose who they want as their leader."

    David, the Pakistan situation isn't that simplistic. One thing that I have to say about Musharraf: like him or hate him, he was open and receptive to Western culture, and the dispersal of internation aid under his tenure was better, and less prone to corruption and outright theft than Ms. Bhutto's government.

    Pakistan is a nuclear nation, one of the few that has expressed no desire to point the bomb at us or our allies. Post 9/11, Pakistan has made real efforts to curb the spread of Al Qaeda. All of this happened largely, under Musharraf. From what I understand, he has made some committment to educate the people in Pakistan.

    It's easy to take a pot-shot at him; he's stepping down. I'd like to hear a balanced story. What did he do well? What did he do wrong?

    Ms. Bhutto was charismatic, but

    August 19, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  10. Martina Ilstad

    i think the big problems for pakistan will start now.the country is not democray enough.i hope there will find their political way peacful.

    August 19, 2008 at 1:45 pm |
  11. Susan


    I want to see the people of Pakistan with a government of their own choosing. Pakistan can now become a beacon of democracy . I know that it can take a leadership position and bring along that part of the world that has sure seen its fair share of troubles. It has an educated population and is well on its way of becoming an emerging economy.
    I hope that the US/Pakistan relationship can continue to flourish and help both of our countries as well as the rest of that region.


    Thanks for your comments. I quite enjoy hearing from journalists that are not from the US. You can always get a different perspective and learn a lot

    August 19, 2008 at 1:17 pm |
  12. Wain

    Now here is the solution... Bringing the people of Afghan / Pak border into the respective countries' political process. Get rid of the war/drug lords in Afghanistan. Bring education / job opportunities in the area. Make people realize that they are being treated as humans. Do grass roots aid operations not writing blank checks to Paksitani government. Pakistani governement has a long history of corruption.

    Please please please no bombs. Bombs dont know innocents from terrorists and you kill an innocent family you have hatred engraved in them for the rest of their lives.

    August 19, 2008 at 12:48 pm |
  13. Wain

    So Pakistan did it. Its about time America does the same to Bush.

    One of the great things Musharraf did was to make media vibrant, independent and outspoken in Pakistan, for which I will always be greatful. But toward the end of his term he was too over whelmed by the American needs of bombing the Pakistan border and couldnt differ between right and wrong.

    I hope now that Musharaf is out, Pakistan will stop fighting America's war on its own turf and say no to foreign attacks happening every day in the northern tribal areas.

    Forget being concerned. Is there anyone even counting the civilian casualties in Pakistan?
    Why does western media turns a blind eye to the ground realities in Pakistan and just propagate the American goverment's agenda? Dont believe the Paksitan media then why dont you go in there?
    Why is it that no one in the world seems concerned until a complete genocide will happen in Pakistani Tribal areas and an all out civil war will breakout?

    War my friedns is not the answer to solve problems in Afghan/Pakistan border areas. History repeats itself and I fear of the same happening to America what happened to Russia a few decades ago.

    Can we even try to cherish the difference between countries and cultures, as we tried to learn and cherish the differences between blacks and whites in America?
    Can American government see the rest of the world with a democratic eye, stop dictating its own agendas?

    August 19, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  14. Saad, Ramsey, NJ

    This is a day that many including myself were just hoping would come for over three years now. When Musharraf came to power in 1999, I thought he was God sent. And due to the then Premier and the performance of his Government, he really was. But then, just like Zia Ul Haq, he went mad. He became power Hungry. In his mind, he really started thinking that he was God, not God sent. He forgot that he is NOT a head of family with four people where the wife and two children will stay quiet and would not hold the tyrant father accountable for the decisions he makes, but instead he is the head of a sovereign country with majority of people having a moderate frame of mind.

    Now that all the above is history, NOW WHAT? The vagueness of direction or lack thereof where Pakistan would head given the current political environment could further worsen the already troubled state. It could have dire consequences and further deteriorate the troubled economy, infrastructure and rising militancy. Still, Musharraf had to go. I say that for different reasons than many. I was telling people back in 1999 to give him a chance because anyone would be better the then Government of corrupt and ignorant people (something that unfortunately has been in the blood of whoever comes to power in Pakistan). But I was wrong. The long term answer to a bad Government is not military takeover. In some cases that might be a short term answer but historically in Pakistan, that argument has not even held its ground.

    If we want to see a moderate nation of Pakistan turn into not just a democracy, but a true, functional and a prosperous democracy, we need to let the bad government finish its term. Not let the chief of the army staff take over and start thinking of himself a God and intend to stay there forever. Let the bad Government finish its term as defined by the constitution and let the people decide whether the same government should be elected again or should they be told to shut up when they start making promises on the campaign trail. I know this could be argued that Pakistani people are idiot, illiterate and not smart enough and they will either bring the same group of crooks back in power or chose another group of crooks. I could argue in favor of the above myself but the point is, if Pakistan is to become a prosperous democracy in let’s say 50 years, we need to let the government of bad people finish their terms and make the army stay out of politics and actually do what it is supposed to do.

    Pakistan is the 6th largest nation in the world with so many human and natural resources. But the state of the country does not reflect that. If the current ways remain the same, in 50 years, so will the state of the country. But hopefully that will not be the case.

    August 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm |
  15. Jolene

    Well, let's hope that the people of Pakistan can choose who they want as their leader without any corruption. It is sad that Benazir Bhutto is no longer alive but I'm sure her family is excited. It would be great to see a strong woman lead the country. Either way, it should be a very interesting election to follow.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    August 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  16. David Jung

    This must be a glorious day in Pakistan. Finally, America won't have to intervene with Pakistan's politics and the people can choose who they want as their leader. I just wish Benazir Bhutto was still alive to finally see this day in history...

    August 19, 2008 at 11:13 am |
  17. Cindy

    I was shocked that Musharraf resigned. I thought he was so power hungry that they'd have to impeach him to get him out. I just hope now that the democracy in Pakistan continues to grow and doesn't get thrown to th side. I just wonder who will take over now and if they will still be our allies?


    August 19, 2008 at 10:34 am |