…and the military even less
Gen Musharraf’s latest advice to students is full of paternal concern — ‘look here kids, leave the politics-wolitics aside and focus on those grades’. But having seen the incidents in South Korea and Thailand in the late 1980s, and the extent to which his fellow dictators in China and Myanmar had to go to suppress their college politicians, Musharraf is not ignorant of the dangers student politics can pose. Besides, the Indian subcontinent has a long tradition of student politics that has produced umpteen heads of states.
If, instead of a self-made President, an elected political leader had proferred that advice, its motivation could perhaps be attributed to genuinely paternal feelings. But coming from an Army chief fresh who just violated (again) a constitutional norm that prohibits him from politics it is rather rich. Indeed, while it may be undesirable for students to get involved in politics at the expense of their studies, it is much more undesirable for soldiers to do so. And those soldiers are not just getting involved in politics, they are all over Pakistan’s education system too.
Pakistan’s political parties are loaded with feudal elites and other establishment types. If it is to ever become a electoral democracy, what it needs most as grassroots leaders who have genuine popular support. Student politics is one good way to create a new class of politicians who can potentially become part of Pakistan’s new democratic infrastructure. That suggests that contrary to Musharraf’s gratuitous advice, Pakistan actually needs healthily political students, of which it does not have many. What it does not need are political soldiers, of which there are one too many.