August 28, 2008 / 3:38 PM / 9 years ago

Pakistan's Musharraf friends, foes in Facebook fray

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf (C) inspects the guard of honour after he was sworn in at the President House in Islamabad, November 29, 2007. REUTERS/B.K. Bangash/Pool

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pervez Musharraf is gone from the presidential palace but he is by no means forgotten on the vast Facebook on-line networking site, where friends and foes are fighting over his legacy.

The former army chief gave up the presidency last week, nine years after coming to power in a coup, rather than face an impeachment battle most analysts said he would have lost over charges of misconduct and abusing the constitution.

Welcomed by many Pakistanis in the early years of his rule as a force for stability and economic progress, most turned against Musharraf after a series of political missteps that began with the dismissal of a popular chief justice in March 2007.

But not everyone is happy he’s gone.

Some Facebook users say they appreciated his liberal economic policies and efforts against extremism in a country rife with violent militants. His fans include a number of young Pakistanis, many of them expatriates.

“Thank you for all that you have done for this nation and its undeserving people,” wrote Seema Ahmed from Los Angeles.

Facebook fan Sherbano Ahmed said: “If we as the silent majority don’t speak up this time, then we would have surrendered our decency and freedom to thieves”.

The idea that Western-style democracy is what nuclear-armed Pakistan needs also comes under fire.

“Fixing the system with American or UK systems will be just mimickery (sic) at best that will produce great thieves or worse, third-rate actors,” said Shahedah Ahmed from London.

Their entries are found under headings like “The only hope - Musharraf” and “Pakistan would be lost without Musharraf”.

The anti-Musharraf groups are equally unsubtle -- “Burn in hell Musharraf” and “I hate Musharraf”.

Musharraf’s critics curse the staunch ally of U.S. President George W. Bush, accusing him of killing innocent people in the name of the war on terror.

“Busharraf is the correct name ... to be honest he should be killed in the same brutal manner the way mushy (Musharraf) killed thousands of innocent true Muslims,” Sana Khan wrote.

Although supporters argue one of Musharraf’s strengths was being clean of corruption, critics question his reported wealth, especially a luxury villa on the outskirts of Islamabad.

“How can a general get an expensive villa even if he makes Rs. 300,000 ($4,000) a month. How long would he have to save to make so much money?” Adnan Cyprian wrote.

Ahmed Javed agreed: “I think Musharraf should be tried. He violated (the) constitution not just once but twice. Being an army officer, does it give him a licence to commit crimes?”.

And as always among a people fond of conspiracy theories, some in the Facebook exchanges assume there was more to Musharraf’s departure than is visible on the surface.

“The CIA’s regime change game finally succeeds. Musharraf’s removal is only a milestone in the larger CIA game of taking over Pakistan’s premier intelligence service, the ISI,” says Zaid Hamid.

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