Posted by: ourvoicestogether | November 13, 2007

Pakistan – Deciphering The Real From The Unreal

I hear people talking in Washington about the ‘endless supply’ of aid that has been provided to Pakistan since 9/11 with an absence of the accountability factor. This is billions of dollars going into the Pakistani hands with no questions asked for the sake of fighting terrorism.

Now that General Pervez Musharraf has imposed emergency in that country and things are going, sort of, topsy turvy, all concerned are questioning the rationale of giving away cash to a regime that may possibly be channelizing funds toward obnoxious expeditions that could potentially end up giving controls of Pakistan’s nuclear program to religious fanatics.

There seems to be some disconnect or a conflict vis-à-vis dealing with Musharraf amongst the decision-making circles in Washington. Considering that at the moment the Pakistani system of governance is in shambles, militants are capturing town after town in the north of the country, suicide bombings are rampant, it is rather important to understand that even though Musharraf may appear to be a secular minded commando who likes to speak English and drink beer, from a historical standpoint he’s been instrumental in inciting religion-based insurgency on a consistent basis.

Protagonists of ‘Musharrafism’ contend that, ‘it is hard to identify any single leader whose removal could open up greater dangers’. Jack Rosen of the American Jewish Congress-Council for World Jewry, wrote a piece recently in the Jerusalem Post that summed up the entire Musharraf ‘support structure’ in an extremely lucid manner.

Below are some of the key points of Rosen’s article:

  • The militants in Pakistan are a well-armed and well-financed force that wields considerable influence within many parts of the government and have close ties with the Pakistani military and intelligence services. Musharraf is the one who has been able to control these nefarious tendencies and has checked the flow of assistance from within the government circles to the jihadis. “Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have, for decades, used religious parties for recruits. The ISI, in particular, includes many key figures who have Islamist attachments. Part of their appeal is that the Islamists embrace strong nationalist symbols, positioning themselves as the protectors of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent capability and the champions of securing Kashmir for Pakistan”. Rosen perhaps wants to emphasize that Musharraf’s strong benefit is his all-encompassing hold on non-moderate forces within the Pakistan military dynamics.
  • ‘Musharraf’s commitment toward the war against terrorism is unprecedented. When, after 9/11, the United States put much greater pressure on Pakistan to cut its ties with militant Islam, Musharraf made a momentous decision to join the war on terrorism. But Musharraf’s personal commitment was not shared by many hard-line skeptics within his own army. Many of them doubted that the United States could be trusted as an ally, given the US commitment to India, and did not want to turn against longtime jihadi allies. In addition, the costs of confronting the well-entrenched mujahadeen in the border regions with Afghanistan were daunting.’
  • “This tension within the Pakistani national security establishment still exists today. If Musharraf, the strongest figure in the moderate wing, were removed, it is very possible that this balance would shift to the advantage of the Islamists and forces hostile to the West.” ‘Musharraf’s critics paint a rosy picture of what might happen if Musharraf were removed. But what if they prove wrong, as critics of the Shah of Iran were in 1979 when they predicted that moderate forces would take power after his removal?’

It appears that Musharraf’s ‘presence’ brings with it ‘unlimited rewards’! It is believed that Musharraf is the one responsible for warding off a disastrous head-on confrontation with Pakistan’s nuclear neighbor, India. He has made the situation realistically suitable for engaging the archenemy in a constructive dialogue that has produced rich dividends for the peace process to carry on.

Those who are well-aware of Musharraf’s past are a bit surprised as to the trust that has been placed by the West on a general who could go down as the most misunderstood phenomenon in recent history. Granted that Musharraf did ‘offer’ to extend a helping hand to the US in a few days after 9/11, the fact of the matter is that he did not have any other option but to go along with Washington’s wishes – the commitment to the war on terrorism is a forced one.

The West is putting its money on the wrong horse. Musharraf has been a patron of jihad himself. A background check reveals that Musharraf was ambitious and adventurous right from the early days of his military career. He even caught the eye of the late dictator General Zia back in the 80s by virtue of his keenness to be a part of the Afghan jihad campaign. Musharraf was actively involved in the creation of what came to be known as the Taliban. Still more, the 1999 Kargil campaign was this very general’s brainchild.

The Bush administration is suffering from an acute case of unwarranted gullibleness. By not creating a system of checks and balances with respect to the aid/grants provided to the Pakistani government, Washington has landed itself in a quagmire of sorts. One who understands the Pakistani psyche and it’s history, I wouldn’t be surprised if the unaccounted funds for the war ON terrorism have been diverted toward war FOR terrorism. Does anyone remember the Ojhri Camp carnage of 1988? The Pakistani military is known for ammunition inventory screw ups.

Further, have we ever wondered why these suicide bombers or the kidnappers who take hostages and brutally kill innocent people, why would they all have some connection or the other with Pakistan?

Is Musharraf a protector of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program? Will he never ever handover the nuclear arsenal to the extremists? Given the fragility and brittleness, orchestrated by impulsiveness of the general’s decision-making skills, his greed to hang on to the reins of power, nothing can be ruled out. He might have, prima facie, denounced extremism, yet, he can go to any extreme to protect his rule and shake hands with elements that can guarantee the continuation of his rule. Musharraf is no statesman – he’s, at best, an over-estimated tribal warlord!

Musharraf’s and the West’s best hope for freedom and democracy in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, was a main force behind the creation of the Taliban back in the 1990s. Whereas today Benazir is shouting against extremism, her government was hand in glove with the fundamentalist groups, such as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, when the world was ‘gifted’ with the devils that changed our way of thinking forever.

Musharraf may have contributed toward creating some goodwill with India but it does not imply that it was his ‘steadying influence’ that calmed the explosive situation in the sub-continent. India’s growing economy and that country’s change in priorities meant that they have better issues to deal with! Moreover, the Pakistani military intelligence got ‘distracted’ in the so-called war on terrorism. They say, ‘fund is fundamental’ – the corrupt generals found an ‘alternate outlet’ to make some extra cash, thanks to generous dollar contributions received!

Where do we go from here? What route should Washington ideally adopt in order to resurrect hopes of a stable, secular Pakistan in order to ensure that the scourge of extremism is rooted out for good?

Let’s face it, Musharraf is not going to rule forever. The Bush administrations ‘body language’ suggests that they are willing to work with the general, provided he complies with certain conditions. This effort characterized by utmost tolerance can bite the US bad. Musharraf has exceeded all limits of indecency and his extra-constitutional steps have utterly wrecked the Pakistani system. Anarchy and street bloodshed can erupt anytime. This would provide the terrorists with an opportunity to solidify their stronghold and perhaps indulge in an abrupt activity that could eventually destroy the delicate balance that the US has established.

Washington must stop banking on Musharraf and ensure his removal in a peaceful manner. His exit from the scene will calm down the strife on the streets for now. An ad hoc mechanism, headed perhaps by the deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should ensure that free and fair elections, overseen by organizations such as Amnesty International, are held according to the rule of law.

The military leadership should be engaged in parleys about the future role of the institution in the country’s politics. A commitment should be taken that the army will continue to facilitate the Western forces in the war against terrorism and Al-Qaeda but must not become a party to encouraging extremism or create dissension amongst the military ranks on the basis of religion.

By the same token, money given to the government of Pakistan should be accounted for. Adopting a ‘supervisory role’ vis-à-vis the disbursement of funds and weapons is a must.

The Pakistani nuclear program should be guarded and manned by the US nuclear experts or if that is too much to ask, may be a UN created body may not be a bad idea.

Return the people their freedom and encourage a genuine human rights oriented Pakistan where respect for humanity is right at the top of the list of priorities. The US embassy in Islamabad and consulates in other cities can monitor government high-handedness and excesses.

The US must work for the support for freedom of speech and freedom of Press and the rights of all Pakistani journalists in conjunction with the general support for the overall rights of the people of Pakistan.

Basically check the army and purge the system of self-proclaimed politicians. Benazir Bhutto is a hoax. Pakistan is suffering from an intensive crisis of leadership. Beyond Bhutto is another former two-time Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif – a nincompoop of the highest order!

The political system stands in dire need of a thorough cleansing. The primary task should be to cultivate a leadership that is open-minded enough to accept Western values, facilitate in eliminating extremism, appreciate the US geo-strategic concerns in the area and, in return, establish a socio-economic infrastructure that would ensure prosperity for millions of deprived youth who fall a prey to the fundamentalist brainwashing tactics. This investment done today in this direction would guarantee Pakistan’s stability for many years to come.

One would wonder why would the US do all this? History is witness to the fact that Washington always rushes its emissaries to Pakistan in times when stress levels rise in that part of the world, when Islamabad’s cooperation is needed to break the ice or use that country’s resources to neutralize and nullify anti-US forces. Nixon’s Ping Pong diplomacy, Afghan jihad, and of course, now the war against terrorism are some of the examples that readily come to one’s mind.

The US needs Pakistan and its interests can only be safeguarded if there is peace and stability in the country. A reliable long-term system inclined to be cooperative rather than resist is the solution to the situation. Something like the Marshall Plan for Pakistan may be considered to revamp the infrastructure.

The evolving situation is highly challenging. The US government machinery should come in motion and re-orient itself as soon as possible. No one wants the Islamists to take over the nuclear program; no one wishes to see the turbaned, bearded figures occupying the seats of power.

The task requires courage, to say the least, and a well planned concerted effort that could end oppression and the environment of unconstitutionality. It is time to realize that General Musharraf has served his purpose and the US must move on, for the sake of its own safety and security to a different set of allies in the Pakistani context. The focus should be to get rid of the vulnerable and replace them with those who have the long haul gut.

–Ahson Saeed Hasan

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Responses

  1. why can’t the U.S. mind its own business and stay out of the affairs
    of other countries?maybe the world would be a better place to live in!

  2. i couldn’t agree more with Ahson on the dismal situation in Pakistan. Just a few months ago noone could have predicted this terrible turn of events and a sense of loss of control is felt all over the country. However the proposal that US experts take charge of the nuclear assets is a bit too much to digest. Agreed that the nuclear arsenal which was supposed to give us strength, has now become our greatest weakness. But I strongly believe that this was precisely the reason why Washington turned a blind eye in the 80’s and 90’s when Pakistan was busy in bomb making and proliferating. The arm twisting being faced by pakistan today has come in real handy for the western powers.


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