General Pervez Musharraf Threatens West


London: Certain signs precede certain events. Those who read celestial signs seem to believe that finally time has come for a change. The cumulative effects of external and internal developments sound like the death-knell for a regime that believed it can fool the people all the time. Now the dragnet of issues self-generated by it for its survival, are closing on it. The tightening hold of the strangle is writ large on the colour-faded face of General Pervez Musharraf who until recently thought that as the front-liner in the war on terrorism he can get away with everything including murder of democracy, jack-booting of human rights, judiciary and freedom of press. Not only clear battle lines have been drawn on the domestic front, his politic of deception faces a checkmate at the hands of his foreign mentors who have at last started seeing through his game.

The hot air from Washington that is being blown down his neck causing severe sweat is dawning on him the fact that his bluffs have got exposed. Of late strong worded warnings have been conveyed to him. He is also advised that he cannot avoid elections. Polls shall have to be free, fair and transparent and open to all political parties and leaders including those in exile. Besides that, his actions have been found falling too short of the goals he promised in the war on terror and the duplicity of him running with the American hare and hunting with the Taliban/Al-Qaeda hounds stands proven much beyond any iota of doubt.

Not only Bush administration is finding harder to defend and sustain him any longer, Democrats have been openly expressing their distress and dissatisfaction over the continuous denial of democracy, human rights, rule of law and independence of judiciary. To indicate they mean business they have put on the anvil a draconian legislation against Pakistan. And it would surely be enforced to expedite war on terrorism and to facilitate democracy through free and fair election.

The main thrust of pressures from various channels in support of democracy, independence of judiciary and threat-free media among others—and building of a domestic situation on the verge of an implosion—have limited General’s both internal and external options. His desperation was writ large on his face when he tried to dispel by a threat, the widely held western perception that Pakistan was not doing enough in the war of terrorism.

Addressing the concluding session of a two-day land forces symposium (April 12) on “Common Security and Global War on Terror” in Islamabad at the National Defence University, President/General Pervez Musharraf said: “If Pakistan, myself, the ISI and the coalition forces across the border are all bluffing each other, then it is better to end the cooperation. He elaborated that the anti-terror coalition was meaningless, if the coalition partners lacked trust. “Our sincerity must not be doubted. We have contributed a lot and suffered a lot … but we are not disillusioned. If (anyone thinks) I am bluffing or if the ISI is bluffing, we should be out of the coalition.”

His dramatic outburst—while at the same time wiping his overly cold-sweated face that seemed to have lost its commando composure—the General laid bare the fact affirming the global perception that he has been bluffing the West and that ISI is head deep involved in support of terrorists. Strangely, his threat has come at a time when Western intelligence agencies have been trying to sift the truth and half truths in the testimony of terrorist Khalid Mohammad Sheikh who is alleged to have made certain sensational and what many call dubious disclosures that create strong doubts about the possible collaboration of the General and ISI as part of the problem of global terrorism rather than its solution.

In what could be KMS’s attempt to divert Western attention from Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and Taliban, he is believed to have chided his captors for having misplaced their suspicions on a lot of people who live in stone age, are hiding in caves and have hardly any access to hi-tech know-how or have capacity to carry out their global terrorist operations with sophistication and skilful precision. That KMS was more of a key operator working for a very long time for the ISI rather than Al-Qaeda or Taliban. He confessed that on occasions he used to intercede on Osama’s request–with the ISI for help to OBL. And that he was much more on his own–mastermind allegedly backed by ISI at that– who had singly organised 31attacks–rather than working for Al-Qaeda. He also ridiculed the Western intelligence experts for having reached the conclusion that a stone-age Al-Qaeda could do that much of damage to western interests. Such professional and highly skilful operations could only be carried out either by or with the help of a super intelligence agency that had the financial/logistic backing of a state. Attributing highly sophisticated acts of sabotage to Al-Qaeda and Taliban is reflective of western intelligence bankruptcy.

While the General stage-dramatised his anger, distress and dismay over the growing American distrust at the Islamabad Global Security seminar, his Prime Minister—Shaukat Aziz—more of a deceitfully softer and suave image of his regime, pleaded in his address to the participants including US Army Central Deputy Commanding General Major General Dennis Hardy, that “given the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the War on Terror, any legislation critical of Pakistan would invoke a negative public reaction and would prove counter productive.” Not only that, he emphasised the need to addressing the differences between the two countries “quietly”. In other words, he pleaded—do disrobe us but please don’t do it publicly. We look uglier.

Analysts see in the presidential outburst on deepening American distrust in Islamabad as something that needs to be read with reference to the context of him being isolated with power apparently slipping out of his hands. And perhaps indication of a certain denouement of his illegal power empire is what is motivating his moves aimed at creating civil war-like anarchy, confrontation between secular and religious forces and his carte blanche to Pakistani Taliban including Islamabad’s fundamentalist Hafsa seminary and Lal Masjid—all extensions of ISI.

There is lot of evidence that see through the regime’s madness. In their multi-faced moves GMP and those in cahoots with him—the objective is only one—how to perpetuate his rule indefinitely although now he says he needs only four years more to complete his agenda. He, however, does not say how much he has achieved in the last eight years that he should be allowed another four. He has, on the other hand, instead of giving good governance, has reduced into tatters the writ of the state. He has systematically destroyed all the institutions that go a long way in sustaining a state and his policy of bloody confrontation has plunged tribal areas and Balochistan into fratricidal war. His intelligence agencies have allegedly been picking up scores of individuals from across the country on vague and misguided presumptions trampling upon human rights.

While he has rendered genuine political leadership into a football, the dragging of the Chief Justice of the country by his hair on fabricated charges was a blow severest of them all. Now his obviously tacit support to the religious leaders of Lal Masjid to set up Sharia courts is definitely a message to the Supreme Judicial Council and the Supreme Court judges that if they would not dance on his Praetorian tunes, Sharia Courts would not confine to Islamabad alone. These would replace the Supreme Court all over the country with Mulla/Jihadi vigilantes peeping into the private lives of the citizens.

The Hafsa seminary scandal and the rebellious response by the perpetrators at the Lal Masjid need to be assessed in their rightful dread as to what extreme ends the General would go if it comes to his head. Thanks to the media, regime’s involvement with the Mullas was adequately exposed when Musharraf’s Religious Affairs Minister Ejazul Haq was put on the mat by a TV channel. His association with the rebellious Maulana Aziz and Maulana Rashid of Lal Masjid and how he intervened to save them from being tried as terrorists with the help of General Musharraf—should be enough to indict the regime of being a collaborator in terrorism.

The General does not get tired of saying time and again that he would restore the writ of the state but when it comes to doing it under his very nose he buckles in to the pressure of his Taliban collaborators who, according to media reports, have amassed lethal weapons both in the Lal Masjid and Hafsa seminary. He, his ISI and other agencies need to answer the alarming question as to who allowed the occupants of the Hafsa seminary and Lal Masjid to accumulate arms, trained men and women in the capital city next door to ISI’s HQ. Are they not being protected by them to be used as a second line of defence in case the judicial crisis blows up in his face, growing democratic challenge cannot be managed by him even by injecting large doses of confusion through disinformation of political deals and his foreign mentors seeing through his game withdraw their support to him ? The answer is simple yes.

The General must understand that his goose is finally cooked and the only exit route available to him is to install a government of national consensus for the purpose of holding elections and call it a day. It is already too late, any further delay could possibly lead to split in and the collapse of the army and then it would be no use crying over the spilt milk. And finally, a word of caution for the Pakistani politicians and the forces that want to see supremacy of the civil society. The General is desperate. Every step that he takes is dragging him deeper into the abyss. They must remember that in his desperation to save his hold on power, he will abuse it further and the worst for them is yet to come. They must not fall into his seductive machinations. Neither he is in a position to give nor would anything from him now be worthwhile.

* Wajid Shamsul Hasan is Pakistan’s Ex High Commissioner at the UK

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