Saturday, June 9, 2007

musharraf's enlightenment

Perhaps the lightbulb is finally starting to flicker and illuminate the situation for Musharraf, because he is in a predicament.  Whatever the case, the political isolation of Mush is clearly starting to take its toll.  The Washington Post is reporting that Musharraf lashed out at his allies in Parliament accusing them of leaving him standing alone as the media and others called for his resignation.  But it is hard to see who he has to blame for this isolation other than himself, as he has made a number of decisions of late that could only undermine his claim to legitimacy.

What he has failed to understand, one might argue is that the governance of the military rested upon a certain recognition among the people of Pakistan of his rule.  The enlightened tyrant is in a tenuous position if they wish to maintain both their enlightenment and their tyranny.  Perhaps even more than a ruler who achieves power through elections, the enlightened tyrant must embody the will of the people in significant ways - must be their representative.  An elected leader can make unpopular decisions and will likely be tolerated because the electorate knows that when the times comes, that leader will be out of a job.  But when the tyrant sweeps into power with claims of stabilizing and reinvigorating a country so that the country can continue on its way towards prosperity, an almost impossible balancing act is required.  This is the role that the Pakistani military has played on a number of occasions, and it is the situation which brought about Musharraf's rise to power.  But he can only hold control, or at least "enlightened" control, as long as the people view him as their representative - acting on their behalf.  Obviously, no representative is going to be able to achieve this on a universal scale, but because Musharraf assumed power, every person who is alienated by him and no longer recognizes him as acting in some general way for the good of the country will feel legitimacy in opposing him as an unabashed tyrant.

The dismissal of the CJP was a significant misstep on his part because it indicated an unwillingness on his part to hold himself accountable to standards of enlightened government.  In short the dismissal of the CJP was a strike against the foundations of Musharraf's own claims to legitimacy.  The recent restrictions of the free press brought further protests and disruptions, and the outraged voice of the Pakistani people was severe enough to be felt in Islamabad.  Again what the toleration (at a bare minimum) of a free press indicates is the government's willingness to hear voices than its own.  The willingness to allow an opposition press shows that one is dedicated to responding to the concerns of those who might disagree with you.  These are things an enlightened tyrant must be willing to do.

Finding himself alone (or more to the point, having isolated himself), Mush has rescinded the restrictions upon the free press (see the same WaPo article), but it is probably much too late to save himself at this juncture.  And so he has two options, it seems to me. he can tear his country apart by passing over from an enlightened tyrant to a brutal one and stamp the will of the military upon the country through harsh and repressive measures.  Let us hope this is not the path he chooses.  I genuinely believe this is not what is in the heart of Musharraf, nor his desire for his country.  In which case his other option is to let the planned elections go forward without his insistence that he continue to be ruler of the country.  Every day in which delays that decision brings him closer to being remembered as Musharraf the Brutal.



svendster said...

This is has nothing to do with your post, but have you seen "Jesus Camp"? You really should. It's truly fascinating.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

i have in fact seen it. and quite honestly, that is the environment i grew up in. it is a distinctively pentecostal kind of experience and my wife, who grew up evangelical thought it was over-the-top. but several of us who grew up in the pentecostal movement (and subsequently left for high church christianity, whether catholic or anglican) recognized it, and have even been to church camps that were similar.

i will note one major development that has taken place since my childhood, and this seems to affected pentecostals as well as evangelicals more broadly: the republicanization of christianity. when we were growing up that was a great deal of ambivalence about political involvement and certainly it was not clear that one MUST vote republican. in fact many evangelicals voted democrat when jimmy carter ran for president. but things took a dramatic turn in the mid-to-late 80s and the formation of a christian right has dominated republican politics for the last 20 years, and republican politics has dominated the theology of the christian right.

best wishes,