|You are in: Talking Point|
Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Pakistan referendum: The way to decide the country's future?
General Pervez Musharraf has won an overwhelming victory in the referendum to extend his mandate as president of Pakistan for a further five years.
General Musharraf took power after a bloodless coup in 1999.
Pakistan's Election Commission said General Musharraf had won with over 97% in favour of him staying in power.
But the country's only independent human rights organisation says the poll has been marred by gross irregularities.
The opposition boycotted the poll, arguing that it was unconstitutional. They estimated turnout at just 5 to 7%.
Is a referendum the right way to decide on the future of Pakistan?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Asim Malik, Georgia, USA
So what if the referendum goes against legitimate democratic scruples? We have supposedly had democracy for the past 10 years and it hasn't worked. I am really sick of hearing foreign nationals talk about how the referendum is unconventional and an obstruction to democracy and freedom of choice.
How can people simply think that Pakistan leaders should not seek international support when everyone knows that without international support no country can progress? I don't see any harm if western countries are pleased with Musharraf's policies. If his policies are bringing wealth to Pakistan then why not give him support?
Sundar Nagarajan, USA
Pakistan's highest court has given its ruling about the referendum saying it is constitutional. We must honour at least this clear decision and accept it as a whole. Politicians like Nawaz Sharif and others have ruined our country. We have the responsibility to take care of our country for our children and children of their children.
Does Mr. Musharraf know that dictatorship has not lead any country (or even the dictator) to be prosperous? Pakistan, of all the countries, should know that.
Come on folks; grow up. Musharraf has rescued Pakistan from so-called democrats; who are enjoying their lives in Europe and Saudi Arabia. Benazir and Nawaz are both corrupt and they brought the country to the brink of collapse. I am proud of the General and I feel he should stay for at least 10 years.
This is not democracy. Democracy is about choice. Not many people would opt to vote for uncertainty by voting against Musharraf. It is totally stacked in his favour. Saddam Hussein used the same technique in Iraq to legitimise his rule. I support those who boycotted the vote.
Musharraf is the lesser evil. We have no other choice.
Sohail, MI, USA
I think General Musharraf is the best President for Pakistan. At least better than former governments, the people of Pakistan need somebody like General Musharraf, regardless of how he came to power.
Pakistan is a country ruined heartlessly by the former civilian rulers which has made all Pakistanis to trust only this man in uniform. His seven points agenda and his deeds so far reflect his sincerity and love towards his country. As far as the fairness of the referendum is concerned I am quite satisfied with the figure given by the Election Commission but yes I do agree at the same time that the figures at some stages are exaggerated.
For the first time in the History of this country a leader has directly asked the people their opinion. Whether it is constitutional or not is not important. If not this way then President Musharraf would have extended his stay in another way. But the fact is that he made the effort of involving the people in this major decision, unlike the dictators before him.
As a journalist I visited various polling stations, and I found there was nothing except from polling staff.
Musharraf is the last rock standing between Pakistan and the abyss of religion-based mass insanity. Good or bad, he's the only voice of reason in Pakistan today where extremists want to drown the entire country in a religious utopia which just like communism sounds great on paper but in reality will never work. The referendum is a mere formality and a show for the west, nothing more. Give the general a chance to make a real profound change for once in Pakistan's miserable life.
The sad part is the military has
once more stifled the march
towards democracy. The previous
democratically elected leaders
that are believed to have been
failures were also hand picked
by the army. Pakistan
will not prosper until the army
stops interfering. The path to
Democracy is a long and hard one.
Congratulations and well done Mr. Musharraf. Pakistan and the world at large need you very much.
Mahir Nisar, Lahore, Pakistan
The General is certainly clever. He has managed to fool the Americans into believing he's anti-terrorism, while supporting and arming the Kashmiri insurgents. But then, maybe his policies and those of the US Government are the same - after all, the US also claims to be anti-terrorist while having supported the IRA for decades.
There is nothing better then democratically elected representative. But the current political environment in Pakistan only breeds corrupt politicians likes of Benazir and Nawaz. Until the time, such looters cannot be prosecuted for their ill deeds while they are in office, democracy cannot work.
Watching General Musharraf seize power brought about a strong feeling of dejavu having grown up in Nigeria. Every single time there was a coup, the new leader would come on TV and say almost exactly the same thing as the last one. It was almost like they were all rephrasing the same script! Now Musharraf has taken it a stage further and done what General Abacha was trying to do before his untimely but not totally unwelcome death!
I am surprised at the controversy regarding President Musharraf referendum. The people of Pakistan have spoken, now is the time for the press and the Commonwealth to speak up against the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gujarat. Their silence is deafening.
B. Rehman, Pakistan/USA
I have a very simple question for all the people critical of Musharraf. You think it's better to have the likes of the previous democratically elected leaders of Pakistan, who have brought nothing but ruin and corruption to the country? Or do you think it's better to have someone who is making a sincere and serious attempt to stamp out extremism, corruption and is in favour of the War on Terrorism?
No! The referendum is done to exploit the naivete of the western governments and acquire their approval by giving it a "democratic" seal. It is a nice and convincing trick of the east to fool the west ultimately to get dollars from the infidels.
There is no doubt that the referendum is not the ideal way to elect a President. However before everyone starts saying how wonderful the democracy was please remember last time we had elected Prime Minister in Pakistan. Both Nawaz Sharif and Benzier Bhutto have caused more harm to the country then any enemy of Pakistan.
We didn't need to come to this stage.
Blame solely rest on
the shoulders of the thugs who ruled over Pakistan prior to Musharraf.
Democracy will not succeed in Pakistan
until the institutions are built,
including grassroot political parties, until the society is demilitarized,
its feudal nature reduced, and the rule of law developed. Poverty alleviation
will follow and will take decades.
M Sarwar Javaid, Canada
Referendum in my view is useless for Pakistan because General Musharraf has got already the power of Chief Of Army staff and he forcibly seized the powers of President so why he need referendum. He uses the same card which previous military dictator used.
Surely the presidential referendum has not been conducted in the fairest possible way and may not be in keeping with the best values of the democracy but serious doubts have been expressed about the credibility of all the previously elected civilian governments. Public opinion in Pakistan about the conduct of all previous civilian governments is overwhelmingly negative as well. I think it is time that the responsible politicians and army establishment admit their previous mistakes and work together for a democratic system that can practically work in a country like Pakistan.
Moatesim Butt, Champaign
I think that the referendum is fair but not quiet fair. The idea of the referendum has made us forget that he came illegally and that can be one of the reasons for him to arrange a referendum.
Pakistan has been an unstable basket-case since it was founded over 50 years ago on the basis of self-deception and wishful thinking. It does not make any difference how its leaders are selected since Pakistan is and always has been a failed state manipulated by and for the benefit of a very few.
I have visited many polling stations. I
think turnout was not more than five per cent.
J. R., Karachi, Pakistan
The referendum was a fraud on the people of Pakistan in particular and on the Democratic World in general. But Musharraf is looking forward to be fully paid by the leaders of the Democratic World, namely by the USA.
General Musharraf has used state machinery and public funds for his referendum campaign. Electoral Commission made farce procedures and facilitated irregular practices to make his success look trustworthy. If an elected politician had done the same, he would have been branded corrupt and power-hungry.
There is nothing new for Pakistan to be under military dictators. At least the government should have saved the unnecessary cost of staging this drama.
I think this is a decision for the people of Pakistan and their collective national consciousness. I am not arguing whether Musharraf is good for Pakistan or not. He may be good for Pakistan's national interest but he did come to power through a undemocratic process. And the question faced by Pakistan as a nation is do "ends justify the means" . This is the ethical dilemma Pakistan must face.
It's funny to see that in this forum most people writing from outside Pakistan are generally against the referendum while most Pakistanis have few problems with it.
One could say that this is moral imperialism but I think it's just another case of ignorance.
Musharraf referendum is a true fraud,
It is like a king announcing the justification of legitimising his unchallenged powers in 18th century.
Serhat Khan, Islamabad, Pakistan
It seems we are supporting an un-democratic government here.
It is very confusing to see that the West led by uncle Sam has no objections over this bogus referendum. When will Pakistanis realize that we have to stop playing in the hands of outsiders? I do not believe that Musharraf will deliver anything significant in the next five years if he has not done anything revolutionary up to now. It's not a question of more time but rather how cognisant and principled our rulers are.
I am afraid man has lost his reason. With little support from America, Musharraf believes he has the trump card. This is the usual policy that leaders around the world play in destroying their countries. If I support America's interest, democracy does not matter in mine. The end is near for Pakistan. Musharraf has put the knife on the thing that held Pakistan together and it is beginning to fall apart.
As long as Gen Musharraf can keep the Mullahs out of the government, he will succeed. Otherwise there will never be any progress for Pakistanis.
Faroq Khan, Dallas, Texas, USA
After a very long time, Pakistan has seen a moderate leader with the interests of the country at heart rather than his own. If actions speak louder than words then Musharraf is the best thing that has happened to Pakistan... no matter how he came to power. A benevolent dictator might be just what the country needs. Poor and uneducated people do not care about democracy, they care about who cares for them! If Musharraf can deliver, he can stay in power as long as it takes to put this country back on track again.
It is not right. It is not fair. After seizing power deciding the time, the terms and everything in between has nothing to do with democracy. A similar thing happened in my country (Turkey) where the leader of the military coup declared himself president and extended his term by a so called referendum, where he set the term, did not allow any opposition opinion to be heard, and imprisoned every possible opposition leader. A dictator is a dictator even if he is elected with an "illegitimate" referendum.
Altaf, London, UK
Knowing that his political and military career would be finished, don't you think that he would have done everything to ensure that he wins? Still think that the referendum was fair?
This was totally a puppet show, the so called Nazims backed by government in the end of day cast the bogus votes. Even a lot of presiding officers are witness of this.
What else did we expect from a military ruler who does not understand democracy and does not want his people to understand democracy?
A referendum is not the right way of deciding whether a person who has seized power through military might should be allowed to continue for a further 5 years. The capture of power was wrong. An 'election' to validate the process is also wrong. The election is an insult to the people of Pakistan who have as much of a right to multi-party democracy as people of any other nation. It does not matter whether President Musharraf has supported the West in other ways. What is wrong is wrong, and must be condemned. The soft criticism from powerful countries - for example, the EU, USA, India - is to be deplored.
If there were instances where one person was able to vote multiple times for Pres. Musharraf, then it is also very possible that there were people who voted against Pres. Musharraf multiple times.
It is wrong to say that a country is not ready for democracy, it's like saying that the Pakistani people are not competent enough to select their leaders! This is not true. No matter what happened, Nawaz Sherif's government was one that was selected by the people, and Musharraf had absolutely no right to topple it. I think that the military has become so deeply entrenched in Pakistani politics, that it wants to remain in power by hook or by crook. This referendum is a clear farce. The World must not let the dictator use so called "referendums" to justify his remaining in power. The Commonwealth, SAARC, UN and other important nations of the world must force the army general to put Pakistan on the road to democracy.
Musharraf is indeed working towards the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. The most visible sign of this is the construction of Gwadar deep-sea port in the province of Balochistan. It is the biggest and poorest province of Pakistan, which was neglected in the past. Musharraf is indeed a very neutral man in regards to the interest of the four provinces of Pakistan. Musharraf is the right man for the national interest of all four different nations living in Pakistan, Baloch, Pashtoon, Punjabi and Sindhi. Time has come that the people of Pakistan realize and vote for Musharraf for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. Taking part in the referendum and voting for Musharraf is the duty of every freedom loving Pakistani.
Ali Malik, Pakistan
President Musharraf has public support whether there is a referendum or no referendum, he was publicly accepted by the people of Pakistan who supported him in a bloodless coup. What more legitimate reason does one need than the chanting and dancing people who came out onto the streets of Pakistan when President Musharraf took over? People should realise and understand that by allowing this referendum President Musharraf has won the hearts of Pakistani people that he is a true democratic leader. Those who are against him are insincere and hypocrites.
If anything, this referendum reveals clearly the hypocrisy of the Western powers. By raising no objections to the blatantly undemocratic farce just enacted in Pakistan they reveal just how much "democracy" is valued when their direct interests are involved. Shameful but hardly surprising.
Shams Suleman, Pakistan
All you people calling Pervez
Musharaf a dictator and the referendum unconstitutional and undemocratic, I think it is time that you open your eyes and grow up! What did you get from democracy in past 10 years? How many elections did you do in last ten years? You have to realise the democracy is not suitable in Pakistan.
When Zimbabwe conducted unfair elections the international community was very quick to condemn it. Why is it that in the case of Pakistan everyone seems very quiet? Is it because there are double standards when the man being elected helped the coalition forces in Afghanistan? Shame! Come on Western leaders - surely you don't think this was a fair election by your standards - do you?!
I do not understand why every dictator use and carry new means of retaining power. Besides this issue whether he wins or looses or whether he gets maximum number of vote, but I will rate him illegitimate and there is valid reason. He has announced three mega projects for Karachi in August last year but none of them have been even started. This time during his public meeting in Karachi, he again announced couple of projects, I am not sure about these projects also. Second and very important, he himself working against his brainchild idea of local governments, instead of let the local governments to work he is interfering in there working and announcing projects himself.
Moez Dharani, USA
The referendum is certainly the right thing for President Musharraf to do. No other ruler in the chequered history of Pakistan have done so much in such less time as President Musharraf. He deserves to stay in power.
It is difficult to understand how can people still favour the likes of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif. This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a totally incorrupt, sincere, committed and courageous person is really trying to bring out Pakistan from the economic, political and social nightmare which his predecessors had created.
Pakistan has long been in a very sad state where poor & the helpless have no voice & hope. The corrupt and the merciless never have any regard for the people. I personally don't like generals running the country but his fundamentals are right. In him I see a ray of hope for the people & may be Pakistan can be put on a path to recovery from thousands of ills. I also understand it's going to be a long & painful process. Now nation should also start bringing the corrupts to real justice they deserve.
Akram Malik, Australia.
I could not understand the mentality of our politicians. It was a chance for them to kick out Pervez Musharraf from power by motivating the people to stamp no. But I think they knows their power that's why they boycott the referendum.
Whether fair or not referendum was needed to build this country and it did. People need Musharraf to be their president at least for the good future.
He has used public resources to garner support for referendum negating his claim of ensuring good governance in the country and preventing the use of state money for personal agenda.
Mahmoodullah, Saudi Arabia
I see that most people on this discussion group who support the referendum support it because Musharraf has done a good job. Well, this is not the topic of this discussion. If Musharraf's good work is the reason to say that this referendum is the right way to choose Musharraf than any other way to choose Musharraf (like an amendment in PCO) is equally right.
Musharraf has come as a blessing for Pakistan and the Pakistanis do realize this. The turnout in this referendum might not be astounding but is decent enough to prove that Pakistani public wants fresh blood in politics. And secondly as far as the call for Greater India is concerned, Pakistan no matter in what state it is, has it's public living in a far better condition than India's.
Referring the comments of the peoples sitting out side Pakistan, one can not judge the real feelings of the peoples. My main point is that no government can bring out peoples on the streets (for polling as well) against their wishes.
I think President Musharraf should be given a chance, as there is no guarantee that any other person who is elected will contribute towards the well being of Pakistan. It is evident from the past experience that the previous governments only looked at their personal interests and did not care for the country. And at least Musharraf has done something good for the country since October 1999. So in my view he should continue for the next five years.
Amina Shah, USA
I am very much against army dictatorship but this time I have cast my vote in favour of Musharraf. I only see Mr Musharraf as someone who is able to clean up this mess and I hope he will.
What referendum? It is a one horse race with an assured result. The Pakistani people will again be subjected to the nonsense perpetuated by another military ruler who promises much but will deliver little like the others who have preceded him. The USA and the rest should not consider only short term goals in supporting this military dictator as inevitably the unaddressed problems in Pakistan will cause the return of fanatical ideologies and organisations.
John, Anaheim, Ca, USA
Musharraf is more democratic then any politicians I have seen in my lifetime. We in Pakistan have understood the simple rule that the democracy that serves our interest is the democracy for us, the rest of the world can think what they want
I won't say that the referendum is legal but it's not unfair either. Politicians are the ones who destroyed democracy in Pakistan. I don't know about the previous occasions but this time army was literally dragged into the situation where it had to over throw the political government.
In my opinion, this whole referendum is a biggest
joke on democracy. I can't believe anybody believes the legitimacy of this whole exercise. Who does Musharraf thinks he is fooling?
I think President Musharraf should be given the chance to carry out the policies he has started. There are many large scale projects kicking off and it is imperative for Pakistan's future that these projects are seen through. Successive governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have continually stopped projects that each other has started. Maybe now, things might change for the good.
There are still many areas that are crying for help (corruption, education, health etc...) but 50 years of neglect cannot be wiped out in a matter of years.
Dr Kamran Siddiqi, UK
Democracy has failed not once, but several times in Pakistan. The electorate repeatedly voted in corrupt and incompetent governments. Many people in the West think it is sacrilege to say that democracy may not be right for certain places. But Pakistan has proven, repeatedly, it is not ready for democracy. In contrast, Musharraf has done an excellent job so far. Give Musharraf a chance to sort out the country.
The Pakistani military dictator, General Musharraf, is preventing the democratic opposition parties from standing for election... this is not democracy, it is farce.
This referendum is not the way to decide Pakistan's future. Musharraf has broken his promise to leave politics. Pakistani opposition groups have pointed out that political power should emanate from the people's will, not from the barrel of the gun. I'm not convinced the referendum's outcome will accurately reflect the will of what was once the world's 6th largest democracy.
Mudassar Ahmed-Khan, Banbury, England
Those people who are calling the referendum against the constitution, should learn that constitution is for made for the people, not the people are made for the constitution. And the referendum was needed because President Musharraf needs the power and the confidence of the People of Pakistan, so that after the elections the new parliament could not undermine him and his Development Policies.
If Pakistan were having a free and fair election, then there is no way Pervez Musharraf would be elected. Luckily for Musharraf, the elections in Pakistan right now are neither free nor fair. Will the Pakistani people "vote" for another five years of Musharraf? More than likely. I find it hard to believe that a dictator cannot properly rig an election in his favour.
Once the constitution is re-established and free and fair elections are held, I can believe in a democratic Pakistan once more.
Srikanth Pradhan, USA
Yes, a referendum is the only way to decide on the future of Pakistan because corrupt politicians will not let him stay in power otherwise. Pakistan can't afford to lose him as he has started too many reforms which need to be carried on and that is not possible without him. I hope he wins this referendum.
I'm afraid Salim (from the USA) is talking absolute rubbish! He's probably never spoken to a Pakistani. If he did, he would realise 3 things. Firstly, that President Musharraf is immensely popular within Pakistan itself. Secondly, Pakistan's only 'failure' has been to allow corrupt 'democratic' politicians (Bhutto and Sharif) to get away. Finally, by suggesting that Pakistani's should consider their future as part of a 'greater India', is pure ignorance the creation of Pakistan was so that Muslims ( in the subcontinent) would not end up being mistreated or humiliated, as they still are in neighbouring India.
Pakistan can become a prosperous, moderate Muslim nation - with Musharraf at the helm.
It amazes me that Pakistanis living abroad are all for Musharraf. Their stomachs are full and they are cherishing the fruits of democracy. Yet at the same time they espouse a military dictator. Let there be no doubt about it, whether it is Musharraf or any other dictator, Pakistan is a failure as a nation. Peace and prosperity will only come to the Pakistani people if they realise that they cannot make this work. Their children's future can only be valid if they consider their future as part of a greater India. Deep down, every level-headed Pakistani recognises that and that is what they should work for. Apart from that, this is mere theatrics.
If the referendum is free and fair, I can't see what is undemocratic about it.
Paul CN, Haiti
As long as corrupt politicians are kept away from public office, and the current ruler's agenda is allowed to be implemented - referendum or no referendum, Pakistan has a glimmer of hope.
The will of the people expressed today is supreme to any constitutional provisions made 30 years ago. If they say that General Musharraf should stay then that is good enough for me.
This referendum is unconstitutional and undemocratic by any yardstick. A dictator cannot afford to lose. The very person who violated the constitution and democratic process cannot be expected to uphold the principles of democracy. Pakistan needs "a government of the people, by the people and for the people".
I don't know what Misbah from UK is talking about benefit of the people, leaders like this don't think about the people they think about themselves and their benefits. It's been like that and it's going to be like that forever. I don't think Musharraf its going to change anything in Pakistan.
Musharraf's referendum victory is a foregone conclusion and nobody is fooled by this stunt to consolidate his grip on power in a manner that gives him some international standing. Musharraf has clearly stated in his speeches that he will not tolerate any future elected government attempting to reverse the US-directed political and economic reforms. This is not the speech of a man that is prepared to risk his throne but simply a dictator that is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. Nobody in Pakistan is fooled.
05 Apr 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's referendum gamble
30 Apr 02 | South Asia
Voting opens in Musharraf poll
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's ignored voters
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy