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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 08:54 GMT
Is Pakistan moving towards dictatorship?

Pakistan's military rulers stand accused of clamping down on democracy following the dismissal of the country's most senior judge.

Chief justice Said-uz-Zaman Siddiqui and five other senior judges were replaced after refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the military regime. He had been due to hear a case contesting the legitimacy of last year's military takeover.

General Musharraf's government insists that the independence of the judiciary has not been compromised. But politicians, the press and human rights bodies have all criticised the move, saying they fear it could herald a restriction of basic freedoms.

Here are a selection of comments from BBC News Online users.




This military government is introducing democracy in substance and not mere sham like our previous "democratic" governments.

Fawad, Pakistani/USA
I would like to ask Mr. Cyrus John who suggested that "Pakistan has always been a dictatorship that masquerades as a democracy" to prove this allegation !! The fact of the matter is that this military government is introducing democracy in substance and not mere sham like our previous "democratic" governments. Even journalists writing in the newspaper "Dawn" have conceded that the press has not enjoyed this much freedom since the country's independence !! As far as the removal of judges is concerned, I think it was a smart move because there was to be a hearing next week challenging the legitimacy of the military government. Now it is obvious that the verdict would've declared military rule as unconstituitional and that would've only created an uncertain situation because one thing would've been for sure: the military wouldn't have stepped down just because of a ruling in the SC. As a result, the country's already fledgling foreign exhchange reserves would've taken a nosedive as always happens in these situations so this has been smartly avoided. To Jon Martha who suggested that "Pakistan's refusal to ban the Harkat group as asked by the US means that country has become a rogue!", I would ask her that if Pakistan asks the US to ban a certain group and the US refuses, does that mean it has become a ROGUE nation ???
Fawad , Pakistani/USA

Democracy is the key to emergence of Pakistan in the 21st century. It is quite simply foolish to declare Pakistan unfit for democracy given its poor literacy levels. This is because Democracy is such a mechanism that it can adapt well to all circumstances and adjust to demographic characteristics. Its time to turn the back on military rule and give power back into the hands of Pakistanis through DEMOCRACY.
S Ray, Australia

Those who criticise democracy from democratic country using the platforms provided can only be termed as hypocrites. Those afraid of democracy do not trust their people and usually have their own agendas, which all to often serves their own ill conceived preconceptions. Democracy is for the people, gives the people the right to choose or dismiss a government, those who choose to deny that rights to the people on any grounds are demeaning the people and the country. And it seems there are many in this forum who do just that. Those who cherish democracy has the wisdom to realise the wealth it brings in the long-term for the people and for the country.
Anup, England

It is immensely disgusting to observe the ruling elite (irrespective of their colours) playing around with national institutions and the system under the cover "in the best interest of the country" as once again dubbed by General Musharraf while replacing Supreme Court judges last week. Moreover, I don't mind at all kicking Chief Justice out of his office or initiating inquiries into his behaviour if he is involved in corruption BUT it should be done BEFORE he refused to sign a new oath of allegiance to the country's present rulers. Pakistanis are longing to see the dawn of that day when at least someone in higher circles has the courage to speak the truth.
Abrar Akbar, Sweden

Illiteracy is often taken as an excuse by the educated to deprive the poor of their rights. Years of dictatorship in Pakistan have not improved the problems of illiteracy and poverty. What makes people sure it will now? India has come a long way and has a much more mature democracy today. So I believe that the only hope for Pakistan's poor and illiterate is a democracy however shoddy, corrupt or inept it may be.
Rajesh, Indian in Japan

Its interesting to observe that people of Pakistan seem to be supporting the military, while the world (mainly the Indians) seem to be the most critical. I suggest that the fate of Pakistan should be left in the hands of Pakistanis, who understand the current situation better. The benefit of the doubt should be given to the People of Pakistan.
Eduardo Lopez, Canada

Hopefully, Pakistan is not moving in the direction of a 'military dictatorship'. This would be extremely bad for the region and it would be very bad for Pakistan. The potential for expanded markets in which Pakistan will have a part is a good reason for Pakistan to do everything to avoid conflict in the region. It appears that both India and Pakistan should do all possible to develop a higher degree of trust in one another at this time.
Dave Adams, USA

Democracy is not the key, sincerity is. I believe Musharraf has the best interest of Pakistan at heart. He is a patriot and his actions thus far have shown nothing less. Democracy can only thrive in places where the literacy rate is high. Unfortunately Pakistans. literacy rate is appalling and has been neglected by previous governments. A lot of work needs to be done at the grass roots level. Given some time the General will deliver.
Imran Siddiqi, USA

Instead of believing the Indian and Anti-Islamic propaganda, I hope that the world understands the following: Pakistan is an Islamic country. The General knows how to deal with India. He is an intelligent and sincere leader who is trying to prepare the ground for Islamic democracy by rounding up the corrupt and lawless politicians who indiscriminately looted the resources of the poor country and practised undemocratic traditions. Western style democracy is not suited to Pakistan, which has a low literacy rate. We stand behind the General and wish him the best in re-inforcing the foundations of Pakistan on Unity of the people, Faith of Islam and Discipline of true democracy. That is what our Founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted for us. Let him do what is good for Pakistan and its poor masses. If he becomes an unreasonable and irrational dictator, we will bring him down. Let us give him a fair chance.
Shahid Parvez, USA

Why is army above the law? There is no doubt in my mind that the army chief and his allies know deep inside that they have done wrong. And now they are making it even worse by defending what was wrong to start with. No person or institution (that includes military as well) should be above the law. How different is it from Nawaz Sharif's move to attack the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Naveed Rana, Canada

Firing of 6 Supreme Court judges by the army is another step in the establishment of military dictatorship.
Hari Sud, Canada

I fully support the army chief. I think he should move very quick and very harshly against all corrupt individuals and departments. Ninety percent of the people are suffering in the hands of 10% of corrupt individuals, bureaucracy, and so called western elite groups. The common man is sick and tired of social and economic injustices for the past 50 years. If the army chief can put things right, I don't want "democracy", I just want justice, peace, and economic progress for 100% of the people, not only 10%.
Abdul Wahab, Pakistan

Why was it okay for the western world to see the late General Zia in government. One could argue that he was a dictator yet the west, especially the USA supported him. Is it so that the Pakistanis could help the west to fight the cold war. Double standards across the board?
S. Ali Khan, England

The Army is an organisation in which there is lot of check and balances and have a clean up system in-built. Army commanders now seem to be sincere and determined to take on the challenges of taking the country out of this big mess. It is a must that things are now run by the organised people rather than bunch of the corrupt.
Shaukat Ali Alvi, USA

I sincerely feel the coming of Pervez Musharaff to power as a big setback to any peaceful resolution of issues between India and Pakistan. By all his actions it is becoming clear that he is no different then other dictators. Quite possibly he will soon drag Pakistan at war with India, destroying not only Pakistan's economic set-up, but also bringing sufferings to people on both the sides of the subcontinent.
Ritu, USA

There is no question that both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were corrupt. I don't think Mr. Musharraf is any better, he is using some good sound bites to rally people behind him. People of Pakistan should throw a bad leader through election, or through strike, if necessary.
Tanvir Raquib, Bangladesh

Pakistan is steadily moving towards dictatorship. Only they don't know it. The Pakistani press has been singularly the most irresponsible institution in Pakistan at such a crucial time. It has been promoting the military take-over as something godsend. Soon these very newspapers will be filling up their editorials screaming for a reprieve from the dictator.
Bhuvanesh Patel,

Even though many people have hopes that democracy would be restored in Pakistan, what's the use? No sane politician would be willing to run for elections, if he knows that he too might end like Nawaz Sharif and the rest of the others. People of Pakistan need to understand that there is no democracy when their elected candidates are just dummies and actually controlled by the gun.
Umang, India

Pakistan at this time needs a strong government. Given the chaos in the country, it does not matter much at this juncture if it is a democratic, Islamic, or military government. What Pakistan needs is "a government." Stability is the issue at the moment. The red glare of the rockets from across the border, and the bursting of bombs all around the country, is not proof enough that the Pakistani flag will continue to fly. A steady government, peace with India, and a negotiated settlement to the Kashmir and Sindh problems could go a long way and keep the country together.
Koshy Varghese, USA

I think dictatorship is good for Pakistan. There will be no elections which stops regular trouble and false hopes. Also control of judges stops troublemakers in tracks. Every country has its way and democracy is not the way for Pakistan. In fact people of Pakistan have always welcomed military take-overs. World should not bother Pakistan for its version of governance.
Mo Karichiwala, USA

I believe that the oath was imperative. The objective in this case was not dictatorial control but stability. Had this not been done, the judiciary would have upheld its sworn duty to protect the constitution of the Islamic Republic. This would obviously mean that the military take-over had to be declared "un-constitutional", the outcome being that Nawaz would have been reinstalled. The potential widespread chaos that would have been caused by this action promised to destroy the nation. The army needs to stay in power for the time being in order to set-up a framework for the return to democracy.
Hasan Ansari, United States

I don't know why people are craying about restoration of democracy in Pakistan. You can not restore something which has never existed. Democracy has never been practised in Pakistan.
Abdullah, Turkey

What the general did was quite acceptable in the light of the October 12 coup. He could not have the Supreme Court question the coup, which Nawaz Sharif was attempting to do, hence the oath taking under the PCO had to happen. If you accept the coup, the oath-taking was a natural outcome of it. I don't think the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens have suffered in the last three months since the coup. Unfortunately, the current military regime is the best bet that Pakistan has for good governance, given that both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif stand totally discredited for corruption and other crimes.
Rajesh S, India

Pakistan has always been ruled by a dictator, whether democratically elected PMs or the military leaders. Nawaj Sheriff made Ms Butto to flee to UK and the samething is being done to Sheriff by the new dictator now.
Jagadeesh Dantuluri, US

Musharraf has committed a big blunder by forcing the judges to take the pledge of allegiance. The people have supported him so far because they were tired of corruption and misrule. The dismissal of judges shows that he is no better than his corrupt and inept predecessors. All this talk of default collection has yielded pathetic results, and now the country is broke. God help us!!
Raunak Hossain, Pakistan

Islamic democracy is an oxymoron. There is no such thing either in Pakistan or anywhere else.
Al-Subeh, usa

Pakistan as a nation is still immature as a democracy.This has again been demonstrated by the coup.The war among the various centres of power is the only reason for the present situation in Pakistan. It is wrong to say that the General is bringing Pakistan on the right track. This would mean that the General has no faith in the people of Pakistan and the judiciary that is responsible for keep such alledged illegal activities of the Prime Minister and his government.
sourav nandi, india

It is most unfortunate that often the army interrupts the normally elected democratic government from functioning. Now it is even worse that even the judiciary is at the mercy of the military power which is not a good sign. It is feared that the army might wage war with its neighbour in order to retain power.
PROF. S.D. SINGH, INDIA

I fully support the army chief. I think he should move very quick and very harshly against all corrupt individuals and departments. Ninety percent of the people are suffering in the hands of 10% of corrupt individuals, bureaucracy, and so called western elite groups. The common man is sick and tired of social and economic injustices for the past 50 years. If the army chief can put things right, I don't want "democracy". I just want justice, peace, and economic progress for 100% of the people, not only 10%. May Allah protect Pakistan from evil doers.
Dr Tariq Sheikh, New York,USA

Too much should not be read from what has happened. Judges should have been taken when the Provisional Constitution Order was issued. I think the army's agenda remains what it was on day one. The present action has just prevented any possibility of some judge giving a ruling against the army take over. That would have put every thing into a turmoil probably imposition of full martial law and suspension of civil liberties. At present there is complete freedom of expression.. As regards the Chief Justice and his friends, they cannot claim to have taken a principled stand because they had themselves taken an oath of allegiance to Gen Zia ul Haque' Provisional Constitution Order. The difference is that in Zia's time oath was taken by only those invited to do so. Unwanted judges were not called. This time around, oath was open to all the judges.
Syed Masud ul Hassan, Pakistan



Another 10 years of dictatorship under General Mosharaf. I feel sorry for Pakistan.

Denis Gomes, USA
I think that if Pakistan become a dictatorship than the country is inevitably on the path to peace and prosperity.
SK, KSA

Pakistan this year will move to a quasi civilian-military government, as people are in no mood to give politicians another chance so soon. They will after two to three years. It is time Pakistan finds some system of governance for itself, which may not be democracy after all. We have seen how it played havoc with the country's economy. And West should also stop prescribing the "mixture" of democracy like a failed doctor, who has no other medicines.
Daud Malik, Pakistan

Had we ever had Democracy in Pakistan since independence? If you are not free to act as you believe, can you say that you are living in a democracy?
Nasir Butt, Pak/Japan

Yes. Pakistan is definitely moving towards a fully-fledged dictatorship. The people of Pakistan ought to think straight and not be the ostrich with its head in a hole thinking that the whole world thinks they are on the right track. The people of Pakistan should first come to terms with reality instead of wishful thinking and remove the dictator out.
Philip Jopzy, US



It is a critical phase in the life of the Pakistani nation.

Sam, UK
It is a critical phase in the life of the Pakistani nation. The hope and aspirations of the people were riding high on the shoulders of the General whose actions against the current government were justified, but illegal never the less. However, by the decisions he has made Pakistan is moving once again to the threshold of a tin pot dictatorship.
Sam, UK

Musharraf has committed a big blunder by forcing the judges to take the pledge of allegiance. The people have supported him so far because they were tired of corruption and misrule. The dismissal of judges shows that he is no better than his corrupt and inept predecessors. All this talk of default collection has yielded pathetic results, and now the country is broke.
Raunak Hossain, Pakistan

Yes, Pakistan is moving towards a dictatorship. Corruption will increase, and unless the people resist they will find themselves in the heart of headache. Sure, Musharraff wants to move to democracy but is it also clear he wants total control; by doing that he will be controlling the lack of progress.
Selena, Hong Kong

After reading several Pakistani posters defending the army's action in name of fighting corruption, one cant help but wonder if the Army itself is not involved in actions such as drug trafficking, mismanaging state owned companies and taking a cut from the giant defence budget. While the concept of fighting corruption is laudable, I don't believe the Army has any intention of cutting-off its own gravy train.
Ashesh, USA

The military had no choice but to remove what was in fact one of Nawaz Sharif's stooges. As for moving towards a dictatorship, martial law has not been declared but General Musharraff is essentially a dictator but under his rule we have more justice, liberty and freedom of speech then we ever had under the so called democracy of Bhutto and Nawaz. This coupled with his drive against corruption and mismanagement is why the vast majority of Pakistani do and will continue to support his agenda.
Abdul, Pakistan

I think we have to realise that Pakistan is under military control and this type of moves are obvious in military rules. I think we have to appreciate they still never established military courts and they never took any decision to hurt ordinary persons. If we recall the 52 years history of this nation especially long military dictatorship, corrupt and unethical civil governments (except to some extent Bhutto's era), always willing for compromising Judiciary (specially most evil middle and lower judiciary) - it is quite comprehensible that in this country every pillar of state have share for making worst.
Asjad Bukhari, Singapore

Totally agree with Mr. Arif. If the General is working honestly to remove the corrupt; Why was the judge creating a problem .... After all the coup was bloodless and the General isn't that harsh/staunch as he was expected.
Farhan Naqvi, Pakistan

To clean the ills from different bodies of the government and to provide a clean and healthy democracy these steps are necessary. The people of Pakistan want true democracy. This is only possible if the system is overhauled. Give these people some time. We are all hoping for a better and bright democratic future. A fair chance and time should be given to the military regime. Sometimes one can achieve glory when it's the least expected.
Asif, US



We have to learn from our mistakes and survive in this world of economic hunger.

Shahid Iqbal, USA
When previous so-called democratic governments used to dismiss honest judges and storm the high court and insult a sitting supreme court judge, I never saw a single reaction from the international media or governments. When hundreds of people used to get killed in politically motivated shootings, I never heard of any condemnation from the international community. We have to learn from our mistakes and survive in this world of economic hunger.
Shahid Iqbal, USA

Recent developments in Pakistan confirm to the belief that Pakistan has never had a true democratic state. It has been the dictators whether in the mask of democracy or in open who have ruled the country according to their whims and prejudices. What has happened in Pakistan is not something new for the country. Such political upheavals have a long history from Yahya Khan to General Jia Ul Haq. The responsibility of all this ultimately lies with the Public who bears with all this anarchy. Why should UNO and other powerful countries give their recognition to these military governments who do not have public support.
Gopal Kedia, India

This development will have a corrective effect and will strengthen the constitutional process in Pakistan. The military and civilian adventurers will, in future, think twice before twice embarking on an adventure to undermine the judiciary. This is the last time that the crisis involving judiciary has taken place. The doors of extra-constitutional actions are closed forever.
Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA

It is very unfortunate that Pakistan's people unwillingly are subjected to these dictatorships over the past 50 odd years. The current dictator is exactly doing what his predecessors have done. I do not believe the current dictator will voluntarily relinquish power at a future date hand over to a democratically elected government.
Srinivasa Rao Sanagavarapu, USA



I do not believe the current dictator will voluntarily relinquish power at a future date hand over to a democratically elected government.

Srinivasa Rao Sanagavarapu, USA
The resignation of the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts will have a corrective effect. To the short sighted people Pakistan is moving towards dictatorship, but those people who have some insight see that military adventurers will be discourages and will think twice before they embark on their reckless adventures. In the long run the legal and constitutional process will be strengthened.
Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA

The majority of people in Pakistan support the military and fully endorse it's clampdown on corrupt sections of the previous government. The country is left in economic ruins now and these people must be removed from all aspects of decision making on the future of Pakistan unless they support the Army in it's aim of wiping out corruptness and other illegal activities. The people of Pakistan know what is best for them more than anyone else and they have unanimously backed the Armies actions.
Aqil Aamad, UK

Under normal circumstances removal of the judiciary is an ominous sign. But the circumstances under which the country found itself before Oct 12,99 and the circumstances prevailing since then, are anything but normal. The sacked judiciary where Sharif's men, and if sacking them is what it takes to make sure Sharif and his cronies are punished then so be it. It is all-good for Pakistan.
Murtaza Jamal, USA

As we all have seen, Pakistan has gone through dictatorships so many times in the history and it is going to be more tumultuous in the future. I feel it is typical for a nation that is formed on the basis of protecting the interests of so-called minorities. Dictatorship is the destiny for the kind of countries that do not have the happiness and the prosperity of the people as the main goal.
Dr. Khalid Mohmd, USA



The famous English quote comes to mind - 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'.

Elango V, USA (Indian)
The famous English quote comes to mind - 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. It is sad that Pakistan all through its history has been getting passed around from the hands of one inept military/elected dictator to another. But, I find it hard to believe that Pakistani intelligentsia failed to see this coming just after the coup !
Elango V, USA (Indian)

This move is a big step "backwards" from democracy. Not only is it going to drag Pakistan further towards international criticism, it will also question the existence of the military regime of Musharaff, which strangely has been accepted by the western and European countries.....
Upwan Chachra, India

When rules are made and one is broken it sets a precedent that one person or group has the right to continue breaking rules, and so you have simple and plain, a dictatorship.
Sam, USA



There is no doubt that Pakistan is moving towards Dictatorship. We are losing our basic rights

Anir Paul, Pakistan
Pakistan is currently in a state of change and modification, this is necessary to rectify the previously corrupt judicial branch of Pakistan's government. It is too early in the process of rebuilding the government to assume that Pakistan is heading towards a dictatorship. I believe that more time is needed to evaluate whether or not Pakistan has enacted a democratic government.
Shahid Khan, USA

The notion that Pakistan is moving towards dictatorship is laughable. The removable of the Judge was necessary. How can these people act impartially when they are close friends with the rich and the corrupt? After all, it was Nawaz Sharif who removed the last Supreme Judge and placed Mr Siddiqui there. Their removal was necessary for the judicial system and the future of Pakistan.
Mohammed Arif, Pakistan

Yes, I think our country is being turned into a dictatorship regime. The actions of General Musharraf has been to slowly change the whole democratic set up by placing his own men at the important places in the government.
The world is not able to see clearly what's going on in Pakistan. But this is the most dangerous disaster of the last century which will change the future course of history soon if unchecked!
Niamat Khan, Pakistan

Pakistan has always been a dictatorship that masquerades as a democracy, now it has found itself as a full blown dictatorship.
Cyrus John, USA

This man's actions speak louder than his words. By promising individual freedom and true democracy, and instead violating the judiciary; a peoples only recourse when such rights are violated, he has proved yet again how incapable and narrow minded he really is.
Clinging to power by stripping his opponents of authority and engaging with fundamentalists and terrorists instead of moderates and economists, he is taking Pakistan to yet another political black hole.
Daleep, USA



The West should be careful not to push Pakistan's new government too far.

Keith Cuiper, USA
The West should be careful not to push Pakistan's new government too far. Currently the West's support of a more hawkish Indian government, an unwillingness to hold dialogue on the Kashmir issue, and a complete denouncement of the coup is isolating Pakistan and causing Pakistan to become even more like a dictatorship. With nuclear weapons involved, the West cannot afford to take such a closed position.
Keith Cuiper, USA

Pakistan is surely moving towards a dictatorship, the likes of Edi Amin and Ghadafi. This is very dangerous for the world and could also mean another Iraq. Pakistan's refusal to ban the Harkat group as asked by the US means that country has become a rogue!
Jon Martha, USA

I do fear that Pakistan is moving towards a dictatorship and it may last for 5 to 6 years.
Jacob Koshy, India



It is time for the people of Pakistan to resist this military move and save themselves from tyranny and corruption of armed forces.

Srinivas, UK
After the dismissal of senior judges, Pakistan is one step closer in realising its generals ambition of total control. It is time for the people of Pakistan to resist this military move and save themselves from tyranny and corruption of armed forces.
It should be very clear by now what the military regime is planning for, if it succeeds it will bring immense suffering to people. And the effects could be heard for next few generations.
Srinivas, UK

It is not moving, but already moved towards dictatorship, as we look back towards the history of Pakistan. But it is a serious threat to the entire world community.
Dinesh, USA

Pakistan is moving towards better living standards, and a secure environment for its people from internal and external threats.
Abdul Rafey, Indian living in United States

People of Pakistan should read about the mass protests observed in India during Indira Gandhi's emergency regime. The democracy is by the people and they only can make it strong. Some individual cannot do it and certainly not the chief of armed forces who has just dealt another blow by denouncing the constitution and judiciary system whose main role is to protect the constitution.
Jee, India

Moving toward dictatorship? What is it now? It would be a better question to ask - is it going to move toward democracy anytime soon?
RR, US

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See also:

26 Jan 00 | South Asia
Pakistan chief justice defiant
14 Jan 00 | South Asia
Pakistan 'committed to democracy'
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
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