Monday, August 18, 2008

Musharraf: Tightrope Walker

Don't believe what you hear
Don't believe what you see
If you just close your eyes
You can feel the enemy

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that

Musharraf has resigned, as you have probably heard. Background here:
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, facing impeachment on charges drawn up by the governing coalition, has announced that he is resigning.

He went on national TV to say that while he was confident the charges would not stand, this was not the time for more confrontation.

He is accused of violation of the constitution and gross misconduct.

Mr Musharraf has been a key ally of the US in its "war on terror" since he took power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Reaction in Pakistan is overwhelmingly one of relief that a bruising and lengthy impeachment battle has been avoided, the BBC's Mark Dummett reports from Islamabad.
There are a few things regarding Musharraf that will always stick with me...

One of which is his role in the 1999 India - Pakistan LOC/Kargil skirmish:
The nature of the India-Pakistan conflict took a more sinister proportion when the U.S. received intelligence that Pakistani nuclear warheads were being moved towards the border. Bill Clinton tried to dissuade Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif from nuclear brinkmanship, even threatening Pakistan of dire consequences.

According to a White House official, Sharif seemed to be genuinely surprised by this supposed missile movement and responded that India was probably planning the same. This was later confirmed in an article in May 2000, which stated that India too had readied at least five nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.[50] Sensing a deteriorating military scenario, diplomatic isolation, and the risks of a larger conventional and nuclear war, Sharif ordered the Pakistani army to vacate the Kargil heights. He later claimed in his official biography that General Pervez Musharraf had moved nuclear warheads without informing him.
According to the rumours at the time, Sharif had to pull Musharraff back from the brink of nuclear war. This freelancing reminds me of the military adventurism of Japan pre-WW2, when the generals would inform the Emperor as to what they were doing, as opposed to the other way around (ie: "Dear Emperor - We took over Manchuria! Next stop: Indonesia!).

Another striking moment was the Musharraf's post 9/11 speech, where Musharraf attempted to move his nation more firmly in the US' camp in an on-air address:
I would like to tell you now that they do not have any operational plan right now. Therefore we do not have any details on this count but we know that whatever are the United States' intentions they have the support of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly in the form of a resolution. This is a resolution for war against terrorism and this is a resolution for punishing those people who support terrorism. Islamic countries have supported this resolution. This is the situation as it prevailed in the outside world.

Now I would like to inform you about the internal situation. Pakistan is facing a very critical situation and I believe that after 1971, this is the most critical period. The decision we take today can have far-reaching and wide- ranging consequences. The crisis is formidable and unprecedented. If we take wrong decisions in this crisis, it can lead to worst consequences. On the other hand, if we take right decisions, its results will be good. The negative consequences can endanger Pakistan's integrity and solidarity. Our critical concerns, our important concerns can come under threat. When I say critical concerns, I mean our strategic assets and the cause of Kashmir.If these come under threat it would be a worse situation for us.
Another was the interaction of Musharraf and Bush in March 2006 when Bush put Musharraf on the spot with a repeated assault in a joint appearance in Pakistan..Skip to the 4:30 mark:

Musharraf basically walked a tightrope on this occassion and others. The challenge of the President of Pakistan was the balancing the interests between the military conservatism and aggressiveness, with the pro-Taliban/Islamist stance of the North West Frontier Province, the separatists of the Waziristan and Baluchistan, with the relatively liberal city centres and the nominally Pro-US foreign policy.

This is by no means an endorsement of Musharraf. He overthrew a democratically elected government. He let the Taliban operate from the NWFP with some impunity which led to Canadian and allied deaths. He has failed to annihilate the pro-Kashmiri terrorists from Pakistans border regions. And most importantly, while under the guise of promoting security and stability, he began dismantling his own country's judiciary, a valuable and well developed check on executive overreach (sound like anyone we know?).

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