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October 16, 1999
Pervez Musharraf No Saddam Hussein: Kid Brother
Shanthi Shankarkumar in Chicago
For Dr Naved Musharraf, guns and bullets are not the answers when dealing with the problems with India.
"I don't see India as the enemy," he says. "There is a lack of communication that mistrust has enhanced."
The younger brother of General Pervez Musharraf, Naved is a member of an Illinois-based organization, South Asian Group of Action and Reflection, which quietly works towards Indo-Pak amity and is also a think-tank on various issues affecting South Asia.
Started a few years ago by an Indian, Dr Harinder Lamba, it consists of like-minded liberal Indians and Pakistanis who believe that development, trade and dialogue and not war is the solution to the India-Pakistan conflict.
Dr Musharraf says the army chief spoke to him briefly from Pakistan on the night of the coup.
An anaesthesiologist in Illinois, Naved Musharraf says he was as stunned as the rest of the world when he heard the news while returning home from Dallas. He later got it straight from the man who with lightning speed had changed the political scenario in Pakistan.
While he says his brother "hawkish", Dr Musharraf also stresses that his brother wants to have good relations with India, " but not any price".
"He wants the Kashmir issue to be settled first. He has the same view that most Pakistanis have which is that there should be a plebiscite."
The army chief's rift with over-thrown prime minister Nawaz Sharief is reported to have started when the latter ordered the withdrawal of the Pakistani troops from Kargil. The general was livid with rage that his well-entrenched troops had to back down because Sharief had buckled under American pressure.
But Dr Musharraf does not share his brother's anger. He maintains, "I personally feel it was good that the Pakistani troops were withdrawn from Kargil, otherwise it would have led to a full-fledged war and that would have been a disaster."
However, he is confident that his brother has no intentions of waging another war with India.
"The main agenda of the military government is to establish a transitional government in Pakistan and some semblance of an honest functional government. So all their energies will be directed to that," he says.
While he welcomes his brother's military coup, he believes that this is only a short-term solution.
"A civilian government is the only answer in the long run," Dr Musharraf says. " I am personally of the view that what happened was correct. It is not a setback for democracy because the government there was not really democratic. Democracy does not mean corruption and mismanagement and stealing from the treasury. Anybody who criticized the government was put in jail.
"There is the very famous case of Najam Sethi, editor of Friday Times, a prominent paper from Lahore. He had gone to India and had made a speech in Delhi in an India-Pakistan friendship society. He made some remarks that were not liked by the people back home, including the prime minister. When he returned he was beaten up and put behind bars. What kind of democracy is that?"
But Dr Musharraf hastens to add, " I don't want to say that martial law or a military government is the answer. I am against that. What is needed is to establish the basis for a clean, honest functioning government and if a military government can do that, it is very good. But a military government, we cannot call it martial law here, must not go on for 10 or 20 years."
Dr Musharraf is confident that his brother will rule the country for at least two years and once he feels he has stabilized the country he will have a civilian government. Past experience has shown that every military chief involved in a coup has spoken of "restoring democracy and having early elections" but power once seized is forever.
So what makes him think this government will be any different?
"I think the present government is a little different from the other military takeovers," he says. "When Zia-ul Haq came to power in 1977, he established martial law right away. He dissolved the national assembly and tried to Islamize the country and establish Shariat law. This government has only suspended the national assembly and the constitution. Martial law has not been announced.
"When my brother spoke to me, we did not discuss issues like elections but he told me he was consulting lawyers to establish the legality of the government. Which means his agenda is not to establish military rule for an indefinite time.
"He wants to establish a transitional government consisting of technocrats and people capable of carrying out their job. They want to clean up the government and corrupt ministers will be brought to trial. Once they have established a period of stability for a year or two, then they will call for elections.
"My brother will also keep in mind that his term comes to an end in 2001. The military has learned from the mistakes of the past. It is not a fool. They know their limits. The international environment is also not conducive for establishing a military dictatorship for a long time."
Calling the army chief "very courageous" and "very honest," Dr Musharraf adds, "he is very forthright, what he says is what he means. He is not wishy-washy and doesn't use diplomatic language. He is also absolutely incorruptible. A doer, he will make a very good leader. He is very patriotic and loves his country."
Will he be ruthless like most military dictators? Dr Musharraf insists his brother is far from that. On the contrary he has a strong caring side to him which has made him so popular with his jawans and officers.
He says, " He was a commander of several garrisons. He is a very caring officer and immensely popular with the junior officers and jawans. The coup took place with the solid backing of the army. There were two key people, the corps commanders of Rawalpindi and Karachi without whose backing the coup could not have taken place. This is because he is very popular in the army because of his caring attitude.
"He won't tolerate any nonsense, but that doesn't mean he is ruthless like Saddam Hussein. If he wants a job done, he will get it done and if a person doesn't do it, he'll make sure that person is accountable."
Meanwhile, Dr Naved Musharraf will continue working with SAGAR.
"Politics, religion, Kashmir and other things have created an environment of mistrust that is poisoning relations between India and Pakistan," Dr Musharraf says. Sitting thousands of miles away we will not be able to influence policies in our countries but we can get the Pakistanis and Indians together under one organization which can lobby the lawmakers."
This interview was conducted before General Musharraf declared martial law in Pakistan.
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