Must Do Before He Talks to the American, World Jews
August 27: When Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf takes
the podium on Sept 17 in New York, before the world’s most
important Jewish forum, he will appear and claim to be speaking
for Pakistan and the entire Muslim world.
that may probably be the only misleading statement he may make
in his historic speech. The rest of his address to the Jewish
world would be well rehearsed and well-considered.
Musharraf has been invited by the American Jewish Congress because
he says so many nice things about enlightened Islam and, more
importantly, because he signs on the dotted line of the script
that Washington writes for him. Thus it was not insignificant
that AJC Chairman Jack Rosen candidly admitted that before asking
Musharraf to come, he had consulted and sought approval of President
George Bush in his Texas ranch.
What Musharraf will say will be
frank and tough and mostly right because that kind of message
should have been delivered by Pakistan to the Jewish State decades
ago and Pakistan and Israel should have been as good or as reliable
friends as any Israeli Arab neighboring country.
Musharraf's problem is that his claim of speaking for Pakistan
will be bitterly contested and while he may make some commitments
on behalf of the Pakistan Army, he would appear to be lacking
credibility when he would make commitments on behalf of a pre-dominantly
Muslim Pakistan or an angry Islamic world.
is true that what Musharraf wants to achieve by trying to resume
a normal diplomatic relationship with Israel cannot be done by
any other political or religious leader or party in Pakistan.
But this is also true that Musharraf alone cannot do it either.
This is so because it is Musharraf’s
Army which has been the main stumbling block in improving relations
with India or taking a realistic position on Israeli-Palestine
issue. The Army has for the last three decades or so pushed Pakistan
into the extremist, almost fanatic mode, where even talking or
shaking hands with a Jew was considered to be a sin.
While Arabs were recognizing Israel
and resuming normal relations, Pakistan Army and its B team of
Mullas, religious fanatics, Jihadi fighters and mercenary militants
from around the Islamic world had forced on Pakistan a completely
unrealistic aura of puritanism which did not allow even looking
at a Jew.
That is Musharraf’s heaviest
baggage, now that he wants to pull Pakistan out of the box it
has been caged in for years.
when the General tells the American and world Jews that he means
normal business, and they would love to hear it, he will have
a hard time convincing himself and the others that the rest of
Pakistan will also be behind him. Thus the word of a military
dictator on such an issue may mark a radical change in track,
but it will hardly mean acceptance of this change without a fight.
Rosen has also admitted this part of the deal when he quoted Musharraf
saying in his Memo to Jewish leaders that Musharraf had tested
the waters and had failed because recognition of Israel was linked
to the Palestine issue. So it becomes clear that Musharraf did
try to fly solo in the past and conceded he could not get anywhere.
But still the opportunity Musharraf
has got as a Pakistani leader should not be wasted to create a
workable understanding with the Jewish lobby in the US and Jews
in general, especially on issues which now bother every civil
What Musharraf can, and should,
do is to try and get genuine representatives of public opinion
join him in this quest as there would be nothing better in Pakistan’s
national interest to have the Jewish world on its side or at least
render it neutral on major issues concerning Pakistan. In US a
sympathetic Jewish lobby means the world of difference on all
key US-Pakistan security and defense related issues.
before he prepares the draft of his speech, Musharraf should forget
about the dubious past and consult with Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz
Sharif, Qazi Hussain Ahmed to convince these representative sections
of the society of the importance of his mission.
He should even talk to Choudhry
Shujaat Hussain, who now happens to be gaining recognition as
a political player in Pakistan in his own right, to the extent
that even US diplomats consider him some sort of a challenger
to Musharraf, because of his political base or because of his
secret connections with other Army Generals.
should speak with one voice when dealing with the world Jewry
and if Musharraf has been chosen to do the talking, be it so.
But he should eschew his political differences or his personal
vested interests on this issue and show the vision of a genuine
leader of a country who can rise to the occasion to talk to the
world for Pakistan.
If he fails to do this, Musharraf
will prove that he has no potential to become a world player because
his word, without a national consensus or even support of the
majority of the mainstream public opinion, would mean meaningless
chatter of a tin pot dictator who was catapulted on the world
stage by 9/11 and made his mark by compromising on all national
issues just to survive in power.
will be a disaster for Pakistan and even the Islamic world as
the Jewish lobby of the world will not be extending such a hand
of friendship to Pakistan anytime soon again.