RICHARD NIXON & PERVEZ MUSHARRAF
The present political and public atmosphere in Pakistan reminds one of the atmosphere that prevailed in Washington DC in August,1974, before the then President Richard Nixon was persuaded with great difficulty by his friends and advisers to resign as the President instead of facing the ignominy of impeachment by the Congress on charges which derived from the enquiries into the Watergate scandal. The evidence against him was so strong that there was not an iota of doubt that the impeachment proceedings, if held, would have resulted in his removal from office.
2. Almost everyone was convinced of the need to initiate impeachment proceedings against him. It would have been justified morally and legally. At the same time, even his worst critics wanted to avoid the impeachment proceedings because they felt that it could turn out to be a traumatic experience for the nation and could result in the weakening of the office of the President of the US in the eyes of its citizens.
3.Ultimately, Nixon saw reason and resigned on August 8,1974. In a brief address to the nation from his office, he said he was resigning in order to set in motion a healing process in the nation. He said: “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.”
4.Gerald Ford, his Vice-President, who succeeded him, issued an order under his powers as the President exempting Nixon from any legal proceedings relating to the Watergate scandal. The high dignity of the office of the President of the US was preserved, justice was served by forcing a wrong-doer to resign without the traumatic spectacle of an impeachment and a leader, who had served the US well till he got involved in the Watergate scandal, was spared the humiliation of a trial by the Congress, which could have caused undesirable strains in the relations between the Executive and the Congress.
5. Nixon and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who is under tremendous pressure to resign or face impeachment proceedings, had certain traits in common. As public leaders, both had positive qualities, but as individuals they were perceived as men without scruples, who would be prepared to do anything to serve their personal interests and to keep themselves in office.
6. Even before Nixon was elected as the President in 1968, he used to be referred to by his critics as Tricky Dick. In an article in June 2002 titled TRICKY MUSH: CAUGHT WITH HIS PANTS DOWN (http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers5/paper470.html)
I had stated as follows: “ It is said that you can fool some people for all time, all people for some time, but not all people for all time. Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whom the late Gen. Asif Nawaz Janjua, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) during the first tenure of Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister, used to describe as "Tricky Mush", had always believed that he could fool all people for all time.”
7. His time of reckoning has come. It is also the time of reckoning for Pakistan. The future of Pakistan and its fight for genuine democracy will be determined how Musharraf and the military and political leaders of Pakistan conduct themselves at this juncture.
8. It is not in the interest of Musharraf himself or of Pakistan that he continues in office. His deviousness and repeated misuse of his powers have discredited him beyond repair and damaged the cause of democracy in Pakistan.
9. Unlike Nixon, Musharraf is not a popularly elected President. He is a self-appointed President, who manipulated the Constitutional process in order to have himself appointed as the President. One does not, therefore, have to worry about any negative impact on the public mind.
10. But, he was also the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) till the end of last year. His exit has to be brought about in a manner which would not be perceived by large sections of the Armed Forces as a humiliation inflicted on their former chief by the political class. Just as people in the US were worried about the impact on the relations between the Executive and the Congress, in Pakistan, given the important role of the Army even in the political field, one will have to worry about any impact on the relations between the Army and the political class.
11. It is incumbent on all those, who have remained loyal to him, to convince him that he should take the lead in setting in motion a healing process by resigning as the President and keeping himself out of the country for some time till the painful memories of his misrule have faded away.
12. It is equally incumbent on the political class to take the initiative in having a resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament exempting him from all legal action arising from his constitutional and political misrule, if he resigned, and assuring all those who had let themselves be used by him for repeatedly violating the Constitution and the laws that no action would be taken against them if he quits.
13. A bane of democracy in Pakistan has always been the vindictive streak in their people and leaders. It is time to rid themselves of this streak. (16-8-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. Of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )