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Home > News > Columnists > B Raman

Musharraf's deadly endgame

November 04, 2007

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Like a typical commando, General Pervez Musharraf [Images], Pakistan's military dictator, has decided to fight it out in order to break the siege in which he has found himself since March.

He has imposed a state of emergency and suspended the operation of the Constitution and forced compliant judges to take a new oath of loyalty after removing the defiant judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, who have repeatedly been keeping his administration in a state of suspense by questioning its actions. No one can deny that some of the actions of the sacked Chief Justice were unwise and would have outraged people in other countries.

Among examples, one could cite his intervention into the police investigation on the attempt to kill Benazir Bhutto [Images] on October 18, and his orders to re-open the Lal Masjid in Islamabad and hand over its administration once again to pro-Taliban clerics. It is disturbing that no political leader in Pakistan criticised such actions of the judiciary, which have demoralised the Karachi police, which is investigating the case relating to the attack on Benazir and given encouragement to the pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda jihadis not only in the tribal areas, but also in other parts of the country.

The recent upsurge in pro-Al Qaeda [Images] and pro-bin Laden terrorism is largely due to the sins of commission and omission of Musharraf himself. In 2002, he facilitated the election of the six-party fundamentalist coalition called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal to power in the very crucial North-West Frontier Province. He did this  in order to marginalise Benazir's Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League faction led by former premier Nawaz Sharif, which had a strong presence there This paved the way for the resurgence of the neo Taliban and Al Qaeda and the mushrooming of other pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda jihadi organisations all over the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, which are directly ruled by Musharraf through the governor of the NWFP with elected governments having no role there and the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas of the NWFP, which is governed by the government at Peshawar.

Musharraf's divide and rule policy is responsible for the total collapse of state authority in the FATA and the PATA. He first played the MMA card against the PPP and the PML. He then played the card of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam Pakistan, led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman against the Jamaat-e-Islami of Qazi Hussain Ahmed. He then played the Benazir card against Nawaz Sharif.

The vaccum created by the collapse of state authority has been filled up by jihadi terrorists of every hue available in Osama bin Laden's Walmart of jihadi terrorism -- Pakistani Punjabis, Pakistani tribals, Afghan Pashtuns, Afghan Uzbeks, Uzbekistan's Uzbeks, Afghan Tajiks, Tajikistan's Tajiks, Uighurs, Chechens, Wahabi/Salafi Arabs from West Asia and North Africa.You name any jihadi organisation of the world. It has a presence in the FATA and the PATA.

He made matters worse by failing to make amends for the death of 300 tribal girls during the commando action in the the Lal Masjid from July 10 to 13. These girls were  from the FATA and the Swat Valley of PATA. Many of them have relatives serving in the army and para-military forces.

The massacre of the girls has not only angered the ordinary tribals, but all those who had fought for Pakistan as soldiers. It is this mounting anger in the para-military forces, which should explain the growing number of desertions. Why should they fight for a general, who has no qualms about the deaths of their daughters or sisters? That is the question the tribal soldiers have been asking themselves.

Musharraf has taken advantage of the prairie fire of jihadi terrorism, which he himself caused, to remove or silence all those opposing his continuance in power. He knows the US will be initially worried. He is calculating that if he can now show results in his action against the jihadis and Al Qaeda, the US will rationalise his transgressions and continue to back him.

Will his calculation be proved right? Unlikely. He has created so many pockets of anger  in Pakistan against himself and the US that it would be highly improbable that he would succeed in extinguishing the jihadi fire of his own creation.

Musharraf proposes, bin Laden disposes. That may be the ultimate denouement in Pakistan. India has to be greatly concerned over the fire spreading across Pakistan. We have no options in Pakistan itself because we have no leverage there just as we have no leverage in any part of the world. The least that our government should do is to build effective fire-walls to prevent this fire from spreading to India. The government's present policy of courting the US indiscriminately would come in the way of such firewalls.

The writer is additional secretary (retired), cabinet secretariat, government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.


B Raman




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