Outside of Pakistan, and especially in the West, General Pervez Musharaf doesn’t want to look like just another military dictator that seizes power in a military coup and overthrows elected civilian governments. The smiling, English speaking, and golf-loving Musharaf certainly hates to look like General Zia-ul-Haq, even though he shares many things in common with him: a parting in the centre hairstyle, adherence to the Pakistani culture of coup d’étate, betrayal and back-stabbing the very civilian leader who handpicked him as his own army chief of staff, meddling in their neighbouring countries, using Islam and extremist mullahs as precision tools, to name but a few.
There has always been an unspeakable mystery when it comes to the Anglo-American love for Pakistani leaders. The General is still considered a blue-eyed boy within the power corridors of
But his appearance backs up what he claims. His smart Western suit, colourful ties, a pair of rimless glasses, his small dog named “Whiskey,” his love for drink as reported by The New York Times, make him nothing short of a high-calibre “moderate” leader like late pro-Western Sadat of Egypt.
His phantasmagoria seems to be endless. In his usual boastful manner, he claims that his very life epitomises his country. His biography is “a biography not only of a man, but of Pakistanas well,” he writes in prologue to his memoirs, In the Line of Fire (hard cover Simon & Schuster, 2006). He even asserts that he rhymes with Kamal Atatürk the way Pakistan rhymes with Turkey’s secular political culture: “ Turkey and Pakistan have many things in common—first and foremost, Islam. Just as Pakistanwas a new country in 1947, Atatürk’s country was a “New Turkey.”
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“I have confronted death and defied it several times…I only pray that I have more than the proverbial nine lives of a cat.” He argues at the outset where he stages the coup de théâtre of his book, by talking about how many times he has escaped death. The first was in his teen when he fell from a mango tree. Then there is the tale of his luck to avoid a flight with Zia ul-Haq on August 1988 whose airplane crashed killing everyone on board, including American generals. He also gives a detailed account of how he had escaped death in assassination attempts on his life by Islamist terrorist.
He is leading a country that stands out in the Islamic world as a country rhymed with military rule hinged on a perverted religious ideology. This ideology flourished with the seeping “islamisation” beginning with General Zia ul-Haq in 1980s. Traditionally every time the military seizes power, the mullahs come to occupy key posts in the government. At present, in two out of five provinces of the country, radical Islamists cling to power. Most of madrassas remain like cells of the communist party in the Soviet Union. Karen Armstrong is right when he writes in his Islam-A short history, “The Taliban’s Islam which reflect their narrow education in some of madrassas of Pakistan, which perverts the faith and turns it in the opposite direction of what was intended.” Under Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, as an analyst called it, “an unreconstructed KGB,” as many as 14,000 madrassas established across the Pashtun tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. The perverted Islam of the maddrassas have been used as an Aladdin’s magic Lamp in Pakistan’s geopolitical strategic depth and in its strategy of undermining Indian rule in Kashmir.
Furthermore, with the use of Pakistani extremist Islamic parties, especially Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islami under Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the ISI managed to paralyse nationalism and secularism in the above provinces.
The September 11 attacks on the USchanged this politico-religious configuration in Pakistanand the trend has now reached a stage where Pakistan finds it very difficult to handle the monster of its own making. Pakistanis unwilling to help the total destruction of the Taliban, simply because a large swath of Pakistani restive North-Western provinces under the control of the Taliban, where about 32 million Pashtuns are living.
Locals Pashtuns feel at home with the Taliban, rather than alien Pakistani Punjabi dominated military establishments. Islamic perversion used as a straitjacket by Islamabad against Pashtun and Baluchi people cannot be promoted by the government because it will jeopardise Pakistan’s relation with the US. Pakistani ISI knows very well that if they listen to the Americans and push harder, they will risk control over its Pashtun and Baluchi provinces.
Against all odds, Pakistanseems to be walking in a trap the ISI laid for Afghanistanand Indiain the name of Islam. North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Dara Adam Khel are areas that the Taliban and al-Qaida turned into their own turf, where the Taliban ushered their draconian theology as a divine law. In these areas music is burned and barbers don’t dare to shave anyone’s beard. The entire region is sitting on a time bomb, if Islamic extremism mixes with nationalist and secessionist instincts, it will be impossible for Pakistanto tame the Pashtuns. They share blood, tribal, sectarian, and linguistic ties with the Taliban. This remains a hypersensitive issue, a dark secret of Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban.
That is the reason behind the Pakistani web of deceit and double-dealing. It can’t afford to become adversary to the US, nor can it push any harder the Taliban. War against terrorism has delivered a one-two punch to the Pakistani policy makers. It obviously Explains the very fact that the success of the global war on terrorism is not strategically favourable to Pakistan, despite its claims of the opposite. This helps to explain Pakistan’s game of teasing and pleasing the White House, too. Musharraf puts this in his book, “short-term gain for long-term pain is foolhardy.” Traditionally, every time Pakistanenters troubled waters a coup comes along as a pre-emptive measure against turmoil. He is convinced, as he says in the book, that his removal from power would lead to Pakistan’s instability.
A separate chapter is dedicated to the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and Osama. According to the General, Mullah Omar has four wives and four children, “It is said that during a battle one of his eyes was badly injured, and that he removed it himself with a knife without anaesthesia and sewed his eyelid up.”
The poisonous curriculum of the maddrassa includes lectures such as “ Afghanistan has been occupied by “crusaders and Jews,” “suicide bombing is a short-cut to heaven,” “music is tunes of the devil” etc. For fear of the Americans, most of these maddrassas are shifted to the tribal belt of north and South Waziristan, from which foreign journalists are barred. As a show-case, the General has some of them nearby in Islamabad, where bearded mullahs are using computers not suicide technology.
Thousands of madrassas, in fact, were used as training centres for the Taliban and al-Qaida. As Benazir Bhutto wrote her book Daughter of the East, a decade ago, before 9/11, “at
The “countercoup” is General Musharraf’s coinage for his own bloodless coup in 1999 in which he deposed the elected government, “for there can be no other word for it.” An elected prime minister fires his army chief of army staff, and the latter removes his boss from power. How the removal of a general in a country’s army could be called a coup? and how on earth a general legitimises his action as a “counter-coup”? He says, “The countercoup had defeated Nawar Sharif’s coup throughout the country.”
The drama of Musharraf’s coup, narrated in his memoirs, is a perfect piece of theatre of the absurd. The general is in the plane and the pilot suddenly receives command from air traffic control: “Climb to 21,000 feet and just get out of Pakistan and go anywhere… You cannot land anywhere in Pakistan. You have to leave Pakistanairspace.” While the plane is up in the air with only 15 minute fuel left, General Musharraf, who is now trying tooth and nail to stay in power in this year’s election, makes a miracle by saving all onboard and orders the army to occupy Karachi airport where he would land.
With the help of radical Islamic parties, his usurpation of power was endorsed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. In January 2000 he won a further 5year term as Pakistani president. This year it is certain that he will extend his term for a further five years, an elected president in uniform, probably the single one in the world.
Musharraf megalomania has no limits. In the book, he recalls Afghan mountain Hindu Kush as Pakistan’s. He also boasts about Pakistan’s role in enlightening Muslims. “We are initiating a national discourse on Islam, with enlightened Islamic scholars, to influence the minds of the masses in the right direction. This may be the start of a Muslim renaissance, as it were from Pakistan.”
It is not hard to laugh at some of his hubris like the Mughal emperors: “The idea of “enlightened moderation” dawned on me in my study one night when I was meditating on all this.”
It is regrettable that Pakistanis the major stumbling block on the success of the war on terrorism. It is bitter irony that Pakistan’s founding father, as Christina Lamb writes in her book, Waiting for Allah, was a secular, and “a man with a weakness for a drop of whisky.” However General Musharraf continues to back the most retrograde extremist groups while making every attempt not to be caught red handed by the Americans. However General Musharraf is backing the most retrograde extremist groups. The dilemma is why the Bush administration should turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s duplicity in war on terror.
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