It could be said, now that Pervez Musharraf is confined to two rooms of his sprawling ‘sub-jail’ farmhouse in the Islamabad suburb of Chak Shahzad, that the once Pakistan strongman, a four-star general who overthrew a democratically elected Nawaz Sharif government to become the tenth president of the country, has been rather foolhardy. His decision to return to Pakistan was driven more by a grandiloquent sense of self-importance and mass appeal than any base of reality holding those projections firm. Musharraf’s fall from grace, until now, had been a long and arduous journey, with four years of self-exile in London, after he was ousted in August 2008. But, nothing could compare to the humiliation that the general would have to undergo now, starting with his election candidacy being rejected and he being barred from meeting even his lawyers ahead of hearings in the Supreme Court, the anti-terrorism court and the High Court. Musharraf, like most dictators who usurp elected governments and stall the proceedings of democracy, is a victim of his own bombastic self-mage, of inflated importance in global affairs. These balloons get pricked as easily as they get filled by the blinding gas of misconceptions and an uneven grasp on wider politics of the times.
What did the disgraced former president expect when he made his decision to end his self-exile and come back to Pakistan, despite death threats from the home-grown Taliban in Islamabad and Karachi? While some hailed it as a sign of his military defiance and courage in the face of real danger, others were canny enough to see that it would not have any serious effect on the fate of election outcomes. For the first time, a democratically elected government in Pakistan had completed its full five-year term, and the country, in spite of escalated fears of terrorism and potential political assassinations, is holding ground to conduct a fair and free election, with the processes of democracy working in full swing. Politicians and leaders like Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and others are working overtime to reach out to the masses. The Election Commission is keeping a strict tab, and religion has been banned from being entered as a category in which to contest the polls. Stories of hope, such as a Hindu woman entering the poll fray, are doing the rounds. In such a scenario, Musharraf’s re-entry into Pakistani politics, although driven by myopic self-interests in order to beat the iron when it’s hot, has actually boomeranged. Like his predecessors, Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Yahya Khan, Pervez Musharraf, too, would have to face the brunt of stalling the functioning of a popularly elected government and subverting public institutions like the judiciary, exiling opposition party leaders, and even being allegedly complicit in assassinations! Not only that, he even drove his country into the arms of a terrible military defeat against India in 1999’s Kargil War, which had the potential to turn into an all-out nuclear standoff! No wonder, former Prime Minister Vajpayee had once dismissed Musharraf as ‘silly, utterly childish.’ The chicken have at last come home to roost and the general is now trapped in his own labyrinth.