September 16, 2010

Facebook Politics

Musharraf with his trademark salute.
Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a diehard supporter of Pervez Musharraf. Firstly because he was a general, and no general has ever made it into my good book and secondly, because he was a self obsessed, egotistical man. Now normally only one of these characters in a person suffices to make me never like him, but in the case of Musharraf, I'm forced to make an exception.

See whether you like it or not, agree to it or not, or even believe it or not, Musharraf did end up doing stuff that I have yet to see the politicians of this country do. Maybe he did it all because he had the general gene, or maybe because he truly cared for the country, or maybe he was scared that if he didn't perform, he wouldn't get a second chance. Whatever the case maybe, Musharraf introduced broad-range police reforms in 2002 which replaced the British era police legislation. He also introduced a system of local governments which are unprecedented in the history of the country and have never been seen since his departure.

A genuine hate for the man coupled with explosive bouts of schizophrenia no doubt, caused our erstwhile politicians to tank-roll the whole system. And herein lies the paradox; while there is no doubt that Musharraf's ego was larger than his camoflagued jacket at the waist, Monsieurs Sharif and Zardari's egos are larger than life itself. Not only that, but they are also utterly shameless because there is no other way of understanding why anyone would bulldoze a political setup that was actually working in the country for the first time.

Of late, I've heard and read in places that Mr. Musharraf has a huge fan following on Facebook and his fans refer to him as ‘Sir’ Musharraf. I beg your pardon, but I don’t believe the Queen has as yet decided that Pervez Musharraf is worthy of any Knighthood, and nor has she recognized any of his services that might have been carried out for the good of the UK. Although I will concede that Musharraf probably likes hearing being called Sir Musharraf. I think he should write another book and title it: From General Musharraf to Sir Musharraf.

Recently Pervez Musharraf announced that he will be returning to Pakistan. This announcement was made with poor hindsight because as it has transpired, he has based his popularity litmus test on the number of ‘likes’ that his page has received on Facebook. Admittedly, this number is almost 300,000 and is considerably larger than the number of ‘likes’ garnered for Imran Khan’s page,  or Zaid Hamid’s page, or even the US Government’s page, but it is still foolhardy to make Facebook fan following a yardstick to judge things by.

As much as Musharraf would like to disbelieve it, but the fact remains that the likes on his Facebook fan page represent a highly skewed sample from the total population. Pakistan has a below average tele-density (web access), and even then the majority of the net users is comprised entirely of urban, middle and upper class people. So the majority, people belonging to the rural areas, people living in slums, people with no internet access, are not even a part of the sample that Pervez Musharraf uses to base his popularity on.

The question of Musharraf’s popularity will only be answered once he decides to come back to Pakistan. In retrospect though, he is the first “former” leader of this country who has actually endeavored to take a stance of helping his countrymen and not just sitting back and enjoying the lavish fruits of his 9 year rule by holding a telethon and planning on holding more to raise money for the flood victims. If memory serves me right, both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif consumed with consummate selfishness and a hunger for power were busy politicking over the dead bodies of people in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake, similar to what we’ve seen after the floods. It just goes on to show that some traditions die hard.

May God be with us all, and help us and lead us toward a peaceful, prosperous future. Amen.