Struggle After Musharraf Will be Very Fierce': Ahmed Rashid
Ahmed Rashid is an internationally known Pakistani journalist
and an authority on Muslim extremist groups. He is a correspondent
with the Far East Economic Review as well as the author
of Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia and
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central
an interview with Frontline/World, Rashid traces the
roots of Pakistan's internal struggles to Musharraf's contradictory
policy toward extremist groups that he once supported but now
"He has banned them and restricts them," Rashid said.
"At the same time, the intelligence services have worked
with them very closely, especially in Kashmir and backing the
Taliban.... I think all these chickens are coming home to roost
Do you feel that the peace talks with India this time
around are different?
I hope they are different. I don't know if they will be different
... . I think there is a realization here, in the military, that
the gap between India and Pakistan is growing so much now that
unless there is an accord over Kashmir, then India is going to
out-trump Pakistan in every conceivable field. I think there is
also a realization in India that this continued conflict with
Pakistan is hampering India's acceptance into the world market,
into the United Nations as a global player. So I hope that there
is a realization on both sides, but of course we are just starting
out in this process. It's going to take a very long time.
is trying to kill Musharraf now? And why now?
9/11, Musharraf has had a very contradictory policy toward these
extremist groups. He has banned them and restricts them. At the
same time, the intelligence services have worked with them very
closely, especially in Kashmir and backing the Taliban. But I
think what has happened now is that some of these extremist groups
have realized that in the long term what Musharraf has been forced
to do -- as they see it, [forced] by the Americans -- is a threat
to their own existence and beliefs. And I think some of them have
put together a suicide hit squad to try and eliminate him. They
see his departure as being a signal for the army ... perhaps radical
elements in the army to come forward and not to pursue these pro-American
policies. I think what we are seeing is a mixture of local extremist
groups [and] elements of al Qaeda, who are still in Pakistan.
And I think a silent grid of ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence,
Pakistan's military intelligence agency] officials; some of the
scientists, perhaps, in the Kahuta laboratories; some Islamicist
intellectuals; people in the army; ... [a] grid of very hard-line
radicals right up there in the top of the establishments who I
think would like to see Musharraf go.
kind of pressure do you think Musharraf is under right now?
is under enormous pressure right now. ... He has tried to play
this balancing act for the last two and half years. Since 9/11,
he has tried to satisfy the West, the United States, the liberal
critics inside Pakistan and also the fundamentalists. I think
all these chickens are coming home to roost now. I don't think
you can walk two high wires at the same time.
you think that Musharraf faces any threats from within the army?
think certainly these two assassination attempts had people inside
the army supporting them. I think given what he has been forced
to do on the nuclear issue and on making peace with India and
on other things ... that there is an increase ... within the midlevel
ranks of the army of anti-Musharraf feeling.
think there certainly are security elements inside the military
and intelligence that have been providing the extremists who are
trying to assassinate him with information. I think that threat
is pretty serious.
you comment on the military alliance with the maulvis, the religious
clerics? Why is the Pakistan army in cahoots with these people?
military has used the mullah, or the maulvi, alliance ... to achieve
two foreign policy aims. One is to continue the fight in Kashmir
and to tie down the Indian troops over a long period of time,
which of course has happened. And the second is to pursue a foreign
policy in Afghanistan which is a support for the extreme Pashtun
elements, whether it was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [Afghan warlord and
leader of the hard-line Hizb-i-Islami party that advocates attacks
on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan] or Taliban. ... The
mullahs have served the military's interest over the last two
decades really well. But I think ... post-9/11, the army really
did not understand that you could not at the same time back the
Americans, crack down on terrorism and ... continue this policy
[of support for extreme elements]. Now what we are seeing two
and half years down the road is all these elements coming together
and real pressure. Now Musharraf has to cut his losses with the
Kashmiri jihadis -- do you think that they have a religious agenda
as well or are they simply freedom fighters?
think it is a mixture of both. I think a lot of them are mercenaries,
by the way, and a lot of them been brainwashed -- young kids who
have been through the madrassahs [Islamic religious schools],
who have no idea about Islam or jihad or the history of Indo-Pak
or the history of Kashmir. They have no idea about the Kashmiri
people or anything like that.
think there is another element that is religiously motivated and
has interpreted jihad in a very narrow way, in a very one-dimensional
way and believe that they have to conquer India -- not only Kashmir
-- in order to fulfill the tenets of what they believe is jihad.
think the third element is the leadership, which is largely politicized
leadership and very corrupt. They make a lot of money out of this,
if you see the way that they move around in their four-wheel drives,
their lifestyles, the houses they live in. They have made a lot
of money out of Kashmir and they have a political agenda. And
they certainly don't want to see peace between India and Pakistan
because they know that it means an end to their economic lifestyle.
would these Kashmiri jihadis resist if Kashmir is brought onto
the table now that the peace talks have begun? And what form of
resistance do you think they can have?
think they will resist. You should understand that a lot of these
militant groups have an enormous amount at stake here -- not only
their lives and future but also economic stakes, political stakes.
Their entire image in society, their whole self-esteem is based
on these parties and what they are doing with this jihad. So I
think a lot of them will continue resisting and fighting. And
then it's really going to be up to the military -- what actions
do they take? Do they actually crack down hard on these militants
who are still their allies and have been their allies for a long
effect would the recent allegations about Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan
have on Musharraf and on Pakistan?
I don't think the story is going to go away. There has been a
huge attempt to whitewash this by the army and by the Americans
and particularly by the Bush administration. But the fact of the
matter is that no Pakistani believes that Dr. AQ Khan single-handedly
proliferated to three countries over 27 years. Everybody knows
that this program was under the military, was run by the military.
And if there has been a case of proliferation, then it is carried
out by the military. I don't doubt that the Americans in their
heart of hearts also know this extremely well. I am sure their
intelligence is telling them the same. It is convenient right
now to whitewash Musharraf, but I think the story is not going
to go away. The silence of the Americans today may not continue
six months or in a year's time. What if there is a different administration?
Will Pakistan suffer sanctions from tougher policies? Even if
the Americans have whitewashed it, then what would be the reaction
from the European community? From the Japanese who are very sensitive
[about] proliferation, for example, in North Korea? From the international
atomic agency? From the U.N. Security Council? We don't know.
I think this proliferation is going to unleash a whole series
of questions for countries around the world. ... What links did
they have with Pakistan?
were allegations against General [Mirza Aslam] Beg [former chief
of staff of the Pakistani army], in terms of the proliferation,
that he assisted in it and turned a blind eye. In your opinion,
was General Beg or military leaders at his level involved in any
think that the military was certainly involved. A proliferation
at this level cannot have been done single-handedly by a small
group of scientists. The military had to be involved. I mean,
the simple fact is that when we are talking about a barter deal
with North Korea, it's fairly obvious ... who is going to benefit
... from the Pakistan side. General Beg, as army chief, I am sure
was involved ... . It was an institutional commitment that the
army had and unfortunately it has been tragic. In the long term,
it is going to be devastating for Pakistan.
you think that the general public in Pakistan is happy with General
Pervez Musharraf? Do you think that there is a sense that he is
failing the people or are people accepting his policies?
don't think he has [ever] been as unpopular as he is right now.
He is hugely unpopular, I think, from both ends of the spectrum.
From the Islamicists, he is seen as toeing the American line,
making peace with India, blaming the scientist for this nuclear
proliferation etc. He is very unpopular with the middle-class
liberals, the democrats, with the opposition parties because he
can't be seen to be doing enough. He is trying to run two horses
at the same time. He is playing with the fundamentalists and with
the Americans at the same time.
whitewash of the nuclear issue by blaming the scientists -- people
are angry at this. And they are angry at the military, and I think
what is happening is, unfortunately ... , that his unpopularity
is rubbing off very strongly on the army. I think some of the
thinking generals and officers understand that very well -- how
unpopular the army is becoming with the public. And not just because
of these issues but because of the corruption that people see:
the perks and privileges that are going to the army; the enormous
amount of benefits that the senior officers have reaped from this
martial law ... the lack of democracy; the fake elections last
year; the parliament that has no powers; a dummy prime minister.
And people are very angry.
don't you think that Musharraf [is in] a hard place? Do you think
that anyone else would have been able to do a better job or he
is doing the best that he can under the circumstances?
doubt that he is in a hard place. But unfortunately, since 9/11,
when he got a new lease on life, he has not been genuine about
a single policy that he has pursued. He was not genuine about
backing the Americans after 9/11. There was a resurgence of militancy
in Kashmir and a re backing of the Taliban after they were defeated.
has been no real national assessment by the military. There has
been no real thinking carried out by the military. Musharraf has
played politics by the seat of his pants. There have been day-by-day
tactical moves. Today we have to satisfy the fundamentalists;
then it's the Americans. That's the way it has been played, and
it has been tragic. There were huge opportunities after 9/11 ...
if he had pursued [other] policies, it would have dramatically
altered the political makeup of Pakistan. And the key to that
was to bring in the civilians in a genuine power-sharing agreement.
[But] he has consolidated the military power more than ever.
you think that the assassination attempts have had any effect
on Musharraf? That he is a changed person?
is very shaken, and the people close to him have told me that
he is shaken. He was very glib and thought that he could get away
with this kind of a policy. But after these attempts, he has realized
that he cannot. ... It has a very profound personal impact on
him. But how [will] this translate into policies, how [will] this
turn into a crackdown on the militant groups? ... Not a convenient
crackdown ... for two or three months, [but] a real strategy to
deal with tens and thousands [of militants who will] become redundant
if the peace talks in Kashmir succeed. What is the army going
to do with them? Is there going to be re-education of them, a
demobilization process? All this has to be thought through, and
I am not seeing that level of thought process at the moment.
there reason to believe that Pakistan might be attacked by the
United States in the next two or three years?
think even under the current situation, under the Bush administration,
there is a secret deal. There is no way, given its policy on Libya,
on Iran and, of course, against Iraq and North Korea, ... that
we could have been let off the hook if it were not for major concessions.
We are going to see increasing concessions by Pakistan on other
safeguards, not only on nuclear programs and weapons. This would
also be the demand of the U.N., the International Nuclear Agency,
of other countries ... . I don't foresee invasion, but I do see
enormous pressure on Pakistan to concede some kind of control
over its nuclear program.
you think that there would be a power vacuum if Musharraf were
to go tomorrow?
real issue in Pakistan under a military regime has always been
that of grabs for succession -- very uncertain and mercurial.
We saw that after the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988. General Aslam
Beg wanted [to] declare martial law and take over. President Ishaq
Khan prevented him from doing that, and then we had an election,
fortunately. Whoever comes in next in power, I necessarily don't
see these policies taking a U-turn. I don't see a radical general
coming in and combating the US. I don't see anything like that.
see that the struggle after Musharraf would be very fierce. He
has not strengthened the political system. ... Succession in a
military regime is always uncertain.
issue of Kashmir: Is it going to be resolved any time soon, in
your opinion? Is there a genuine effort to resolve it?
not going to be resolved soon. In this dialogue between India
and Pakistan is [the understanding] that Kashmir would be put
on the back burner for a few years and there would be talks on
other fronts, where we would be working on trust, confidence etc.
It would be disastrous if the Kashmir issue were negotiated right
now because the level of trust and confidence is so bad that it
just would not work.
you think that opening up the borders with India and having ...
people-to-people contact [will diminish] the idea that India is
think the people-to-people contact has been critical. It's totally
underestimated by the foreign media and by the Pakistani establishment.
People have been fed up on both sides of the border by this continuous
situation. They want their peace. They want talk, and they want
to come and go, trade, business, every kind of interchange and
exchange ... . What is happening now is unstoppable.
the army itself, how do you perceive the hierarchy and the structure?
Do you think it has changed over the years or since the war with
Afghanistan or since the rise of the Taliban started?
is a great degree [more] of Islamicization in the army than what
you had before because so many officers have been involved in
Afghanistan and Kashmir and there has been a radicalization of
the military. After 9/11, a long-term program was needed to reassess
the education of ... military officers. That has not happened
so far. What exists are a lot of middle-level officers who were
inducted during the 1980s at the height of the Afghanistan jihad.
Many of them were inducted from the religious schools. They became
more radical during the 1990s in the Afghan and the Kashmir war.
These officers are also looking at the corruption of the generals,
the perks and privileges, the plots, houses etc. where Musharraf
is just buying them off ... there would be resentment on that
front too. Certainly they will form a critical element against
what Musharraf's policies are right now.