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Home > India > News > Columnists > Maloy Krishna Dhar

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Musharraf is down but not finished

August 18, 2008

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Mercifully, the curtains have been drawn on another phase of military dictatorship in Pakistan. The fourth military dictator in line may not be the last one. Out of 61 years of existence Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators for nearly 41 years. Barring the fledgling periods of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan Pakistan's democratic aspirations were rocked several times during the regimes of Z A Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto [Images] and Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan has been more or less benign to its dictators. None were killed and imprisoned either by a civilian government or the succeeding dictator. Pervez Musharraf [Images] is the first one to face the impeachment process by an elected coalition and was forced to quit office.

Musharraf's legacy is a long history of overbearing ambition for political and military power, political manipulation, military adventure against India, a dramatic turn around under US pressure for peace talks with India in 2004, fraternisation with Inter Services Intelligence-sponsored jihadi elements to escalate pressure in Jammu & Kashmir and the Indian heartland, initial collaboration with the ISI in encouraging the al Qaeda leaders that ingloriously implicated the  ISI chief in the 9/11 attack against the USA, later collaboration with the US in the war on terror in Afghanistan and initial encouragement to the tribal groups in Pakistan to help the Taliban [Images] and al Qaeda.

He took credit for converting Pakistan into a nuclear power but bungled the dirty A Q Khan affair in which nuclear technology was exported to several countries. He cleverly played the game of running with the hare and hunting with the hunter till the CIA, Indian intelligence agencies and the Afghan government bluntly pointed out the double roles played by the political forces cobbled by Musharraf, ISI-backed jihadis and sections of the ISI and the army.

Towards the end years of his regime, Musharraf almost became isolated. The mainstream political forces: The Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and parties in the North Western Frontier Province and Balochistan had built up resistance against him. The jihadi forces, including the newly created Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and al Qaeda elements had challenged his fraternisation with the US and Musharraf survived three attempts on his life.

Musharraf announced in his television broadcast: "After viewing the situation and consulting legal advisers and political allies, I have decided to resign�I leave my future in the hands of people," he added. "Please forgive me, I am human."

But he was not repentant for usurping Pakistan's democracy and indulging in contradictory policies. He liked to describe himself as 'Kemalist' who wanted to modernise Pakistan and fight against jihadi forces. Even while resigning Musharraf claimed that history would judge him, he quit in the interest of the nation, he brought back democracy in Pakistan, pushed Pakistan forward in the economic field and finally added that traitors were trying to harm Pakistan by targeting him.

Musharraf is out but not dead. The political forces created by him are around though out of power. The main forces arrayed against him are the PPP, PML-N, MQM, nationalist and ethnic parties, other militant groups, the Islamic parties, pro-Taliban and al Qaeda forces and of course General Pervez Kiyani, the army chief. He has to wait for the next president to settle down and the PPP and PM-N to sort out their differences and start working as a viable government. He has the advantage of being a Mohajir and marrying in a Punjabi family, which produced several important bureaucrats and political figures.

His insistence to stay on in Pakistan and indications from Saudi Arabia and US that they may not offer him asylum, means that Musharraf has failed to garner US support and backing from the armed forces.

But he faces a severe security threat from the Lal Masjid-brand mujahids and Tehrik-e-Taliban and al Qaeda. Protecting Musharraf could be an intriguing task for the ruling coalition: Musharraf has the potential of surviving like a phoenix and coalescing the political forces like PML-Q and remerge as new saviour of democracy. His old friends in the US would not dislike the idea of keeping around a former trusted ally.

Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau

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