Survival is Linked to Continuation of War on Terror
August 6: Last week General Musharraf (GM) held two back to back
news conferences. One was for the benefit of Desi (native)
media and the other for their privileged kin - foreign Press.
July 25, he took the plane to Lahore, where a packed court of
Pakistani news-writers and opinion-makers was cooling heels for
him at the Governor’s House. When he swaggered into the
waiting throng, they honored him with customary deference. There
was, however, something amiss that struck quite a few of them.
Musharraf showed up at the conference in military uniform, all
bemedalled, starred, crowned, and cross-sworded, to remind dissident
media that he does not give a damn to their rant about his trespass
on the constitution. I wish there were one daring soul in his
audience who would have risked an entry into his “blacklist,”
which he keeps like Nixon’s “enemy list,” and
walked out on him in protest. Or at least one of them would have
used his military attire as a godsend prod to ask him a simple
question: “Is Article 6 of the constitution still enforced,
MR WHATEVER YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
the disquieting hush hung over the air, GM took upon himself to
answer the unasked quiz: “Contrary to my past practice,
I came here dressed in (military) uniform to deliver a stern message
to those who are preaching and practicing extremism!”
the starch of Khaki was meant to terrify the extremists. Was he
telling the truth? You don’t have to go too far to find
the answer. Within days, on July 29, he held another news conference
for the foreign media to deliver the same stern message to extremists.
This time around, he, however, changed his military clothes for
Because, “he has two faces,” as the country’s
truth-teller Asma Jehangir once famously said of him. “He
has a soft face for the West and a harsh one for Pakistan.”
Above all, he treats Pakistan as his occupied territory and its
people as his subjects, who he thinks are no better than a beast
in need of “a strong hand, a full belly, and an occasional
kick in the shin.”
two-facedness is nowhere evident than his phony war on terror.
He is the world’s largest beneficiary of global terror and
yet the frontline soldier in the war being waged against it.
washed the sins of his dictatorship with the blood of three thousand
Americans who died in terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Since then, his pariah status as a military strongman has changed
into a world statesman. Is it the triumph of terror or its trounce?
is the same Musharraf who was keeping the gates of Taliban’s
Afghanistan, which was the ultimate sanctuary of terror, to the
last day of their fall. Even today he is busy sifting ‘good’
Taliban from ‘bad’ ones for prospective buyers in
the halls of world power. But how soon we put all that behind
us, because he is now, as the London Economist politely
put it, “our son of a bitch.” We want to fight terror
with the help of those who are its breeders. If dictators could
terminate terror, the Middle East would have been a heaven on
this lesson was “lost in translation” or in what Christopher
Hitchens describes as Americans’ characteristic aversion
to history. Even if you apply exchange theory to international
relations, Gen. Musharraf is far from having lived up to his end
of the bargain.
he is paraded around the earth as the last savior of the western
world? What did he do to earn this title? He switched sides. But
he did this switching out of convenience, not conviction. He left
the powerless – Taliban – for the powerful –
the US? Is it conviction? Or is it what deserves his weight in
$20 billion greenbacks? But this is exactly what happened. He
spun the war on terror into a goldmine of profit that, by 2003,
left him $20 billion richer than he was on or before September
11. Now we are expecting him to help win this war! Translation:
Turn off the spigot of money, and commit suicide.
down he knows that his survival is linked with the specter of
terror. When the world bleeds, he leads. Just look at the July
7 London bombing that brought him the world full of face time.
Media the world over was beaming his face in every living room
with a television set. His mumbo-jumbo about the war on terror
was the stuff of prime time television. The print media was not
behind in front-paging his face.
then had the gluttony of “ear time” with world leaders
ranging from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US Secretary
of State to President Bush. On July 14, Prime Minister Blair spoke
with him about forging common cause against extremism. Days after,
on July 19, he returned the courtesy with a faux crackdown on
“extremists” in Islamabad, which scored him high visibility
around the world, as Islamabad hosts a number of international
news organizations and above all members of the diplomatic corps.
Falstaffian absurdity, the crackdown began with a raid into a
women’s religious school –Jamia Hafsa – in the
heart of Islamabad. As soon as the police force charged into the
Jamia, around 200 women students, armed with sticks, spilled over
onto the street, chasing the police all over the place.
a rain of free-swinging batons on the students, the police found
it hard to hold the ground. Soon they took to their heels, with
sticks-wielding women on their tail. Yet this opening salvo against
extremists was warmly received in the world shaken by the forces
next day, Gen. Musharraf woke up with “morning-after regrets”
writ large on him. As a “morning-after pill,” he had
the entire police force of Islamabad – right from Inspector
General to the Senior Superintendent of Police -- fired. Raid
was, thus, a sop to the outside world to show that he is at it,
while the firing was a pretend regret to the natives that he had
to do it. Two faces?
is too hard to escape the fakeness of his war on terror. You may
ask why thousands of Americans had to die before he cracked down
on violent extremists in January 2002. Or why scores of Britons
had to perish before he resumed the crackdown that he began in
2002. His rationale for “sleeping on work” verges
world has to adjust itself to the needs of his survival into power.
When a foreign journalist asked him, at his July 29 news conference,
why he did not do anything about militancy since 2002, he replied:
“You have to be realistic and mindful of ground realities.
If I had pushed against extremists then, I would have a million
Taliban marching on me.”
years ago, he reminded the questioner, he was struggling with
a weak economy, the world’s reluctance to accept him as
military ruler, and a live conflict with India. “Today,
it is a totally different environment.” Indeed!! Today,
he is $20 billion richer; world leaders are just a telephone call
away; and India has come a long way to do business with him.
did benefit from all that? War on terror or Musharraf? The answer
is obvious. Today, Musharraf’s enemies are chained, while
terrorists are on the loose. Mukhtaran Mai, Mian Shahbaz Sharif
and Editor Shaheen Sehbai cannot leave Pakistan as they are placed
on his infamous Exit Control List (ECL), while Osama Bin Laden
leave or enter Pakistan at will.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and
the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain cannot
enter Pakistan, but every “third man” of Al-Qaeda
keeps popping up in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Mardan to surprise
those of us who want to surprise. You don’t have to be cynical
to believe that Musharraf sleeps with Osama by night and dates
with President Bush by day. There is an expression to describe
such a two faced cad, but I am too polite to use it.