A Dictator Reduced Pakistan To His Will
July 7: In a democratic Pakistan, General Musharraf has only one
place to go to: Prison. Since his coup on October 12, 1999, his
every move has been aimed at evading that fate.
very day he gunned his way to power, he was quaking in his boots
at the thought of having been carted off in cuffs. All day, on
October 12, his fellow Bonapartes in the General Headquarters
(GHQ) kept pleading with him to have him get down to Islamabad
right away. Instead, he sat cowering in Karachi, awaiting an “all
clear.” So much so that he had his first speech recorded
in the port city for fear of life in Islamabad.
Gen. Musharraf, all dictators are cowards. His predecessor Gen.
Zia-ul-Haq set up his command post in the GHQ to topple the Government
of the day. His biggest headache was to find someone who would
“safely” tie down the “wolf,” a reference
to Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. His top comrade, Gen. Faiz
Ali Chishti, took upon himself to “do the job.”
he stepped out of the “war room” to hunt down Prime
Minister Bhutto, Gen. Zia called out after him: “Murshud
KIthey Merva Na Dayeen” (Lest you saint have us all
killed). Prime Minister Bhutto was asleep with his arms folded
on his chest, but his wakeful generals were trembling at “what
if scenarios.” So was Gen. Musharraf, who survived to this
day by having been missing in action (MIA), even on the day a
coup was being staged in his behalf.
the past nearly six years now, he has been living from day to
day. He has never been sure of tomorrow. This abiding uncertainty
is anchored in his distrust of everyone around him. Which is why
he has chosen to be his own bodyguard, i.e., staying in military
knows that the day he quits the army command, he will be history.
The very constituency of corps commanders that he flamboyantly
claims stands solidly behind his power-grab does not keep his
faith. Every corps commander is a “suspect conspirator”
until the day he doffs his uniform.
the lonely planet that Gen. Musharraf has now come to inhabit,
there is only one person that he trusts: himself. This is true
of every dictator. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq never went to sleep without
calling each of his corps commanders and making sure that they
are tucked away in homes, especially after midnight. According
to his Chief of Staff, Gen. KM Arif, he would stick to this routine
even on his overseas trips. It was not enough for Gen. Zia to
find his commanders, after midnight, in the safe confines of their
bedrooms. He could still be rattled if, in the wee hours, a general
would answer his call at the first ring. He once called a general
well past midnight. The general answered his phone at the first
ring. Startled, Gen. Zia greeted him with a nervous quiz: “Aap
Abhi Tak Jaag Rahey Hein.” “Saab, Hum Gunah-garoon
Ko Neend Kub Aatee Hey,” defensively retorted the general.
Musharraf is no different. Unlike Gen. Zia, he is favorite of
the few among “men and men” in uniform. And even those
few are ready to stab him should he turn his back. If anyone got
lucky with his ambitions, he would find the “free world”
with its arms and heart wide open to take him into an ever tighter
embrace. This is because the international community believes
that no dictator in Pakistan can survive without its blessing.
any soldier who is adventurer enough to make it to the top is
welcome into the “free world.” This saddest of all
facts further places Gen. Musharraf on an even shakier ground.
To hedge his bets, he already has named a co-ethnic as his Vice
Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS). Yet even the co-ethnic is not trusted.
He has been assigned to oversee the work of “boy scouts”
in the army. He is kept light years apart from the real work of
case in point is the MS (military secretary) branch, which is
believed to be the nerve center of the GHQ. Nothing moves there
without a nod from the COAS, i.e., Gen. Musharraf. As a matter
of fact, VCOASs are set up as straw men to show who actually wields
power. To understand how haplessly hopeless their job is, look
no further than Gen. Zia’s model. One of his Vice Chief
of Staffs, Gen. Sawar Khan, a four-star general, sent out a request
for purchasing a computer, only to be turned down by his subordinates!
Such exercises in humiliation are well-calibrated to keep the
stay within his shoes.
addition to a co-ethnic VCOAS, Gen. Musharraf has appointed his
cousin as corps commander of Lahore, a city that is credited with
making and unmaking governments. His cousin takes the court of
politicians, publicly advises on running the affairs of the Quaid-i-Azam
Muslim League, and watches over the Chief Minister and Governor
cousins are in short supply, Gen. Musharraf has substituted them
with layers after layers of authority. All provincial governments
are overseen by his self-appointed governors. They in turn are
overseen by respective corps commanders, who in turn are watched
by the ISI (Inter-services Intelligence) and MI (Military Intelligence),
and the latter are pitted against one another.
Byzantine way of governing does not make things easy for the COAS
either. As a result, the balance of power has now shifted in favor
of intelligence agencies. It is no wonder that every attempt on
Gen. Musharraf’s life was traced back to one or more than
one of such agencies. The hand that shields him is more tempted
do him in also.
of the most dangerous outcomes of this “hound-after-hound
approach” is mutual distrust that has risen to unmanageable
extremes since his coup. After surviving a succession of assassination
bids, Gen. Musharraf has now come to accept that no one in the
military will pass up an opportunity to bump him off.
sense has further deepened by the opposition’s demand for
his head under Article 6 of the Constitution. He thinks he may
survive intra-military scheming with counter-scheming of his own;
but he cannot survive the opposition’s accountability should
he be overthrown. His predecessor dictators – right from
Sikandar Mirza down to Gen. Zia – however could not survive
even internal conspiracies to have a day in court.
all dictators, Gen. Musharraf, too, thinks that his end will be
different from his predecessors. With this belief, he has hitched
his star to his co-ethnic Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to escape
the opposition’s demand for justice. He believes the MQM
can and will “blackmail” any government in Islamabad
into leaving him alone. History speaks to the contrary, somehow.
is, however, evident is that his wayward ways of ethnicizing,
personalizing, and politicizing the military already are proving
divisive. As a result, the enlisted base of the military stands
opposed to the officer corps; the officer corps to the general
officers, and the general officers to the corps commanders.
is this split that has different inspiration for the enlisted
men and members of the officer corps who have mounted several
attempts on his life; and for the general officers and especially
the corps commanders who he claims are firmly lined up behind
senior military officer told The Nation, a Lahore-based
centrist broadsheet, that colonels, and not generals, would be
the future makers of coups in Pakistan. It comes, then, as no
surprise that opposition leaders were barraged with letters from
dissenting middle-ranking officers who urged them to try Gen.
Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution. When the opposition
leader Javed Hashmi articulated their concerns, Gen. Musharraf
had him sentenced to 23 years in prison. A man who divides the
military rules; one who questions his divisive ways gets 23 years!
democratic opposition has a chance to undo such paradoxes once
and for all. In doing so, it will stem the tide of downward spiral
of the military. Opposition can take the first step toward this
goal by sticking to its demand for trying Gen. Musharraf for sedition,
which is punishable with death, under Article 6 of the constitution.
of “deals” and “dialogues” with a felon
do not inspire faith in democracy. It is, however, heartening
for all democratic forces in Pakistan that both Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had nixed such
of democracy must understand that no general will second guess
his decision to force his way into Islamabad, unless Gen. Musharraf
is brought to justice and made into a “price tag”
for future seditions. Leaders of democracy must live up to the
immortal pledge of the ultimate democrat, late Nawabzada Nasrullah
Khan: “Gen. Musharraf will be the last dictator Pakistan
ever had; and he will be the first one Pakistan ever tried.”
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