WASHINGTON DC, Feb 13, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Musharraf happy to visit Dam-flooded Balochistan on Saturday, Feb 12

The Pitiless Plight of a General and His Clueless Army

By Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON, February 13: If a politically enlightened crow flew South to North non-stop across Pakistan today, entering the country on the Arabian Sea coastline, it would see a picture that would contain the following images:

- Balochistan is awash with a burst dam with hundreds missing and thousands crying for help. Scared officials and administrators are trying to mute demands to probe why the Dam gave in.

- Further North, Balochistan either is under darkness, with no power supply. The frequent flickers of light are bombs and rockets fired by angry tribesmen on railway tracks, electricity towers, gas pipelines or other government or Army targets.

- In Quetta Corps Headquarters, Generals and their juniors are wondering where the next billion will come from and what mark up they can negotiate in their next real estate deal.

- The political coalition government with Mullas is wondering when they may get the marching orders by the Governor and the Chief Minister is losing sleep about who will succeed him in a ‘democratic’ shuffle ordered by Islamabad.

- The Tribal Sardars are gearing up for an Army assault and trying to reactivate their links to foreign suppliers and supporters in case they had to fight a long entrenched bloody war.

- Common man in Balochistan is wondering what has hit him as it is hard for him to survive the rising cost of living and growing anarchy in the society.

- Enter Waziristan the first image is of total confusion in Army ranks. It is handing out dollars by the million to rebel fighters to repay debts of Al Qaeda’s “foreign militants”. Until yesterday Al Qaeda and these militants were targets of helicopter gun ships. Something has changed quickly.

- Army Generals are again holding jirgas with tribes who go back from their meetings and start firing at Army vehicles. In 9 months of Army Operation, the child born is a half million dollar gift to cash-strapped Al Qaeda.

- US troops across the Afghan borders are unhappy because Pak Army has not rounded up those wanted. Pak troops are unhappy because US marines routinely enter their territory to chase militants. Neither of them publicly protests for fear of embarrassment.

- Rest of NWFP is Mulla territory and Talibanization is progressing at a steady pace with latest law banning clicking pictures of women. All signboard and hoarding are no longer heterosexual. A junior Religious Affairs Minister of General Musharraf has already accused the Mullas they are sexually assaulting children in madrassas. But this is nothing new for NWFP.

- Common man in NWFP is wondering what has hit him as it is hard for him to survive the rising cost of living and growing anarchy in the society.

- Into Punjab and wow, we have the makings of an independent state where every week a new head of state is paying an official visit from India without the Islamabad Foreign Office having a clue. It was Punjab CM, then Haryana, next Chandigarh, next Rabri Devi because Phoolan Devi is already dead. Or whoever.

- Army is happy that Punjab is peaceful and so they have grabbed all lands between Lahore and the Indian border at Wagah to be turned into Defence Housing Societies, commercialized and sold as plots making billions for the Generals and their cohorts. The Choudhries running Punjab are more than happy to get their share and not raise any objections.

- General Musharraf is using the peace in Punjab to run his 2007 election campaign in his uniform. Public meetings are new to him and he gets so excited he may even accept to address a collection of all the Lotas (utensils used for abulitions) left behind after the Tablighi Jamaat congregation of 2 million Muslims in Raiwind.

- The Choudhries are death scared as Musharraf is talking to Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and Shahbaz Sharif. What will happen to their kingdom if these heavyweights enter the ring.

- Basant was such a success for Punjab, even Musharraf forgot his woes and made a surprise landing at midnight at the roof of Crow Eaters Gallery, dressed like an Indian Film Hero, with a long Mughul-style shawl. He was crowded instantly by cuties, rushing to get closer to his bullet proof vest. Even Bapsi Sidhwa, the writer had to wait an endless half hour to shake hands. Kite flying is thus Musharraf’s favorite sports.

- Common man in Punjab is wondering what has hit him as it is hard for him to survive the rising cost of living and growing anarchy in the society.

- Come Islamabad and here Musharraf is stuck deep in a pond of what we daily excrete. He has announced elections for Local Bodies and Nazims in April. He has started secret negotiations with Benazir and Nawaz Sharif. He is paying Al Qaeda the ‘Khiraj’ (ransom). He has been physically attacked from within his ranks and cannot move without ordering ‘Handz Zup’ to everybody, wherever he goes. Even his own Generals are body searched and stripped for hidden guns. It is a day to day existence.

- His problems begin where he thinks they will end. His talks with Benazir and Asif are all on “her terms”. She wants a guarantee that elections will be free and fair and not engineered like 2002. As a test she wants the Local Bodies elections to be made a sample.

- Musharraf cannot afford a free and fair LB poll as that would mean BB and Nawaz would sweep away so many Nazims, the grassroots seat of power as he says, BB will be firmly rooted for a late 2006 or early 2007 general election. He will end up in a situation the US Army now faces in Iraq with the Shias in control of Parliament.

- If he does not concede, BB will not come on board and he would be left with a disenchanted bunch of courtiers of PML-Q who would know that they are there just about to be dumped. They are already showing signs of mistrust and irritation. Poor turncoats now have no place to turn to. But Choudhry Shujaat is smart and has reopened his communication lines with Nawaz Sharif saying he was “one of us.”

- To find an easy escape route Musharraf is thinking, yes he thinks for a couple of minutes whenever he has to take a U-Turn, to postpone the Local Bodies polls until he can work out some other political strategy to deal with BB and NS.

- BB and Nawaz have become smart as well and in their first meeting in 17 years, talked of a Charter of Democracy and a Road Map to real representation of the people. This is bad news for Musharraf and his clueless men running around in circles. If BB and NS remain united, all the Sheikh Rashids combined will not be able to escort Musharraf to a safe landing.

- So the Musharraf camp is like a Tsunami hit beach. No one knows where the road is. Who to talk to. What to say and what will happen. There is debris all around.

- While Musharraf says BB and NS will not be allowed to enter Pakistan, Sheikh Rashid says Musharraf and BB are talking about ‘seats adjustments’. What hogwash, but poor Sheikh has to say something before the beehive of TV microphones.

- While Khurshid Kasuri informs the Senate that three Prime Ministers, including his own current boss, spent millions on Umra junkets for their own friends and family, Choudhry Shujaat attacks Kasuri for lying in the House. Poor Kasuri was only talking from the files and may not even have seen the answers sent to the Senate by some JS or Section Officer. But tempers are high and debris is flying.

- While Army is itching to launch an all-out assault on Balochistan nationalist leaders, Choudhry Shujaat knows that this would destroy the entire political house of cards and he is thus making noises which keep hopes of a political solution alive. Or is at least keeping the operation away for a few more days. Now he has given 10 days to resolve the issue and 3 have already gone.

- As Army tries to keep the Sui Rape Case investigation under control, pro-Musharraf Balochi parliamentarians join the Nationalists in demanding that the Army Captain be punished, or at least probed. One junior Officer has become the super ego of General Musharraf. He does not know whether to sacrifice a Captain or sacrifice himself. Utter confusion marks the GHQ on the subject.

- While this confusion on domestic front awaits resolution, Musharraf knows that US and the West are getting restless on other key issues, like Dr AQ Khan, democracy and Musharraf’s own uniform. The imprints of Condi Rice on US policy are emerging as patriotic US media blasts Musharraf on AQ Khan issue and the Commonwealth says he will have to quit his uniform by 2007.

- To optimists, in terms of a time frame, 2007 is just 21 months away and even PM Shaukat Aziz had to concede at the Davos Economic Forum that the clock was ticking for Musharraf as 2007 will be here in a whiff. (What Aziz got from Musharraf for that remark in a one-on-one meeting later is a separate story).

- Common man in Islamabad is wondering what has hit him as it is hard for him to survive the rising cost of living and growing anarchy in the society.

- Islamabad has many more dimensions of disaster brewing and more debris flying but entering Sindh is another ball game. Here the Chief Minister is acting like Jam Sadiq Ali reborn and has tried to act snobbish with every one. Pir Pagara is angry and talking. Largest party PPP is not helping. Karachi has five centers of power: Corps Commander's Office, Governor's House, CM House, Altaf Bhai's 90 Residence and Jamaat Islami Nazim's HQ. Each is over-stepping the other.

- In the interior a power tussle is on between Musharraf loyalist Nazims and CM Arbab. His latest brush has come with Musharraf’s wonder boy, head of National Reconstruction Bureau, Daniyal Aziz, on the powers and elections of Local Bodies and Nazims. Arbab is so angry he stated on TV he will complain to Musharraf against Daniyal's interference. May be he will, but he will also come back to his office in Karachi, cut to his size.

- The MQM is the biggest supporter and the strongest opponent of General Musharraf and his Army at the same time. While sitting in the Sindh and Federal Cabinets the MQM Ministers make pro-Musharraf noises, they are at a loss to defend what Altaf Bhai utters in London or New Delhi or on his phone.

- Altaf Hussain's stand on Balochistan clean bowled Musharraf. By joining the ‘rebel’ cause Altaf Bhai forced Musharraf to back down from “they-will-not-know-what-hit-them” boast. But for how long? Ever since Musharraf blew his misplaced horn, insurgency in Balochistan has multiplied and snowballed.

- Altaf Bhai is now quiet and poor Aamer Liaqat Hussain, the young MQM junior Minister cum TV compere cum best debater cum show boy was cut to pieces by a sober anchor of his rival TV channel ARY. Dr Shahid Masood made Aamer look like what he is, a novice. But he says and behaves as if Musharraf had ordained him to be Altaf Bhai’s successor to take over the MQM, should anything happen to Altaf Bhai. Aamer and Musharraf may have to wait as Altaf Bhai is no amateur in protecting himself.

- Rural Sindh is preparing to explode with its own Sindh Liberation Army, a la the Balochistan Liberation Army, if Musharraf goes ahead with the Kalabagh Dam announcement. Alas that has become the only place where the Army and Musharraf will try to seek refuge but again they need Benazir and Nawaz Sharif on board to get Kalabagh going.

- To deal with them, please refer to the section dealing with them above.

- Common man Sindh is wondering what has hit him as it is hard for him to survive the rising cost of living and growing anarchy in the society.

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