After four and a half years of self-imposed exile, former Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf arrived back to his homeland despite facing criminal charges from the country’s Supreme Court and death threats from the Taliban. And although it is unlikely that his return will lead to his return to power, at this in point in time, after Pakistan has suffered from arguably its darkest years in history yet, it is safe to say that Musharraf, who came into power via a military coup in 1999, was a far better president for Pakistan than the democratically elected Zardari, proving that democracy doesn’t necessarily work well everywhere.
That’s not to say he was the best president for Pakistan overall. As of now, Musharraf faces a number of charges in Pakistani courts including conspiracy to murder his opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto and failing to provide her adequate security. He is also under fire from Human Rights Watch for committing widespread human right abuses, including the torture of hundreds of Pakistani terrorism suspects.
He had also made several wrong political moves towards the end of his presidency, which marred his entire administration, such as sacking the Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, which edged the nations towards a constitutional crisis. He also unilaterally redrew large chunks of the country’s constitution overnight, imposing 29 amendments that expanded his power.
However, as bad as all that was — and it was bad; I am in no way condoning Musharraf’s mistakes — nothing has been quite as bad for Pakistan as Zardari’s government and its widespread corruption. Oddly enough though, Zardari was actually the man elected to power while Musharraf was not, proving that forcing democracy on a developing nation often can lead to adverse results.
Economically, Pakistan fared much better under Musharraf than it has under Zardari. The CNG sector, under Musharraf, had brought over $70 billion in investments and led to the creation of 45,000 jobs. The Telecommunications sector also brought in around $10 billion in investments and created well over 1 million jobs. Both manufacturing and construction were at an all-time-high and the country had reaped more benefits from the government than it had in years.
Musharraf had also developed nine engineering universities and 19 other public universities in Pakistan during his presidency. Literacy rates had improved by 11% and poverty had decreased by 10%.
Fast-forward to Zardari’s presidency and inflation had surged almost immediately after he had taken power, with most of the poor and middle-class Pakistanis holding him accountable for the issues they faced in securing everyday household necessities, and the energy crisis had worsened significantly.
Pakistan, much like many other developing nations, is divided by ethnicity and tribal allegiances. Because of this, most parties and candidates don’t hold stances or agendas based on fundamental issues and ideologies, but rather are voted in because of their ethnic background. This was seen with Zardari, and will likely be seen again in the May 2013 elections as Nawaz Sharif, another man using his ethnicity as his bid for the presidency, is poised to win, proving that democracy does not work everywhere.