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General in a labyrinth

Tuesday, 28 July 2009 - 8:34pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Even for Musharraf the task of ruling Pakistan was fraught with dangers.

General Pervez Musharraf is now required by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to defend his decision of November 3, 2007 to impose an emergency and sack the judges of Pakistan’s supreme court.

Musharraf, who is currently abroad on a lucrative lecture tour, must regret his decision to sack chief justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry on March 9,  2007, at the encouragement of his prime minister Shaukat Aziz. But justice Chaudhry —  who had built up a reputation of bringing Pakistan’s higher-ups to book — confronted Musharraf. He was locked up and this eventually led to a massive confrontation between the lawyers and Musharraf, which many believe eventually led to his downfall.

But Musharraf wasn’t the first to sack a Pakistani chief justice. Nawaz Sharif had Sajjad Ali Shah removed by the stroke of a pen. Ironically, Sharif attempted to gain all the political mileage against Musharraf by demanding the re-instatement of the sacked judges! To an outsider, politics in Pakistan could appear as a comic opera, with a heady mix of reality and the bizarre. So to make sense of it all, one should read Murtaza Razvi’s honest-tell-all account, titled Musharraf: The Years in Power (HarperCollins, India).

Razvi, a journalist with Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, has put together a well researched account, that not only explains why Musharraf joined America’s ‘war on terror’(once the US made it clear — ‘it ain’t what you say, it’s what you do’); and equally importantly to us in India, on how the ceasefire along the LOC was initiated along with the Composite Dialogue in 2004, despite Musharraf’s ill-conceived Kargil operation, and the terrorist attack on India’s Parliament that led to a full scale deployment of troops by both countries in December 2002, and fears of another war.

What followed, after hectic diplomacy, following this stand off — a knee jerk reaction of the NDA government — was a re-initiation of bi-lateral talks between India and Pakistan.

As Musharraf and Pakistan stood isolated, the then US president Bill Clinton received a call from Musharraf. He wanted help to restart discussions with Vajpayee, having walked away from the Agra summit empty-handed once his bluff was called by India. Clinton told Musharraf that unless he gave up his demand for Kashmir, he wouldn’t help out. It led to nine months of silence from Musharraf, until Vajpayee cautiously raised the issue with Clinton at a private meeting. Clinton told him about Musharraf’s call, to which Vajpayee said that he was determined to remove the ‘burden’ of an Indo-Pak dispute. Soon, both sides announced a cease-fire along the LoC — one that still stands — and began talking once again, until the attacks on Mumbai.

But Kashmir nevertheless figured in the composite dialogue agenda, because the army in Pakistan would be rudderless without the Kashmir issue, in as much as the brass hats would be without their nuclear weapons. No wonder then, that Musharraf got AQ Khan — the father of Pakistan’s nukes, but also a nuclear black marketer — to confess about his shady doings and then pardoned him. Nukes and Kashmir apart, it is with Afghanistan, and the Taliban with which it has had a long love-hate relationship.

Musharraf, like his army, saw the Taliban as one entity, working to further Pakistan’s agenda. And like his predecessors he couldn’t distance himself from the Taliban. It escaped Musharraf’s calculations that these Islamists would one day aspire to capture a nuclear capable Pakistan, if not to re-shape the world then at least avenge the wrongs against Muslims by the Christian West, a Jewish Israel and a Hindu India! Emerging from Pakistan’s madrassas, these medieval warriors were the legacy of Musharraf’s predecessor, general Zia ul Haq.

Keeping the Taliban intact not only drags America’s ‘war on terror’ in the region and funds flowing in, but it now threatens the very stability of Pakistan. The Lal masjid siege and the rabid return of that bizarre breed of suicide bombers, is both the outcome of Zia’s initiatives and Mushrraf turning a blind eye to the fundamentalists within Pakistan, who abhorred his  policy of ‘enlightened moderation’ which brought dance in public life and gave women freedom.  Musharraf initiated his cultural revolution partly to win acclaim from the West, as his country increasingly came under attack as a home for terrorists.

But running Pakistan, is at the best of times, a tightrope walk. Razvi, a journalist himself, accepts that Musharraf — a Mohajir from Karachi heading a Punjabi-dominated army — gave the media more freedom than even elected leaders like Nawaz and the late Benazir. But ironically, it was the media’s easy access to all the events and the live telecast of the rallies against this accidental dictator that finally made Pakistanis say that he must go. His was an eventful innings indeed. And in a land of so many contradictions, you never know, what might follow next.

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