By B. Raman

 Musharraf or Worse?

"You are fighting the war against terrorism with your eyes half-closed.  You are afraid of opening your eyes fully, lest you start seeing Musharraf for what he really is--the fomenter, the instigator and the sponsor of terrorism in the name of freedom-struggle.  Unless and until you open your eyes fully, you will go nowhere in your war against terrorism."

"After me, the fundamentalist deluge in Pakistan. 

That is the fear Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan, has successfully planted in the minds of many policy-makers and moulders of public opinion in the USA, by skillfully projecting before them carefully cultivated images of himself as an anti-terrorist warrior, who has taken  upon himself, at tremendous risk to himself and his political future, a courageous fight against religious extremism and international terrorism and by waving before them the spectre of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)-wielding terrorists assuming control of Pakistan were he to be thwarted in his efforts to continue in power by hook or by crook and were he to be pressurized to totally give up his use of terrorism as a weapon to achieve Pakistan's strategic objective of annexing Jammu & Kashmir.

That is the over-all impression in my mind after a short visit to the US last week (first week of June), the second since February, 2002.

I was reminded of another military dictator who held American political and public opinion to ransom for years by creating in them the fear of "after me, the Communist deluge".  His name was Gen. Pinochet. Apprehending a Communist take-over were he to be discarded, the USA blindly supported his massacre of democracy in the name of saving democracy from Communism.

Similarly, one could discern an anxiety to support Musharraf right or wrong, lest undue pressure on him weaken his perceived (in US eyes) contribution to the war against terrorism being waged by the international coalition led by the US.  The creator and the creation of WMD-threatening terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to be supported in the name of thereby saving the civilized world from religious terrorism.

The man, who contributed enthusiastically to the creation of  Pakistan's WMD-threatening Army of Islam in the 1980s  under the pretext of saving the Islamic world from Communism, is now being supported in the hope that he is the only Pakistani who can help the USA in getting rid of this pernicious Army, which has taken its jehad right into the USA and has started dreaming of the day when it could replicate Bosnia in the USA by successfully waging a jehad for the creation of a "Muslim homeland" in the USA through the surrogates of American Muslims recruited and trained in the terrorist camps of Pakistan in increasing numbers.

However, the support to Musharraf, though  still as strong as in February, 2002, is no longer as blind as it was then.  During my discussions with my interlocutors in February, I had said: "You are fighting the war against terrorism with your eyes half-closed.  You are afraid of opening your eyes fully, lest you start seeing Musharraf for what he really is--the fomenter, the instigator and the sponsor of terrorism in the name of freedom-struggle.  Unless and until you open your eyes fully, you will go nowhere in your war against terrorism."

It was gratifying to see the eyes opening, but not yet fully and not as rapidly as they should.  There is now a greater convergence of views between India and the USA on the real dimensions of the military-sponsored terrorism radiating from the hub of Pakistan. Before February, 2002, India's arguments that what one is witnessing in Jammu & Kashmir is no longer Kashmiri militancy, but pure and simple Pakistani Punjabi terrorism in the name and under the guise of the Kashmiris fell on deaf ears.

Now, the ears are no longer as deaf as they were before.  One is heard---patiently, attentively and with much greater understanding than before February.  One could sense a  realization, still hesitant, that Jammu & Kashmir is the victim and not the cause of terrorism of the most brutal kind infecting the world from Pakistan.

One is gratified by a willingness--- not yet whole-hearted--- to admit in tête-à-tête discussions that the war against terrorism cannot be decisively won unless and until the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory--whether directed against India, the USA, Israel or the rest of the world-- is destroyed truly and permanently and not in a make-believe manner as Musharraf did after his televised address of January 12, 2002.

Unfortunately, however, this greater openness and receptivity to India's case has not yet led to a realization that in its charge against terrorism, the USA is riding the wrong horse.  Despite all his deformities, Musharraf is still the best horse available.  That  continues to be the prevailing wisdom in the USA.

How to end permanently the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan by working through Musharraf and not by discarding him? That is the question often posed, whomsoever one met.  The alternative to Musharraf can or will be worse. That is the fear still influencing opinion and decision-making in the US.  Despite his post-January 12 perfidy, there is still a readiness to see him as a genuinely-reformed man who wants to put an end to terrorism in Pakistani territory.

It is pointed out that Pakistan is not Afghanistan and that what the US did in Afghanistan, it cannot in Pakistan.  One has to find a different way of dealing with the problem, it is said.

Arguments that there will be no end to terrorism without an end to the pernicious role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), that no military dictator will voluntarily defang the ISI, that only a genuinely-elected political leadership, free from the stranglehold of the military-intelligence establishment and fully backed by the US and the rest of the democratic world, can be expected to rid Pakistan of this evil etc  are heard, but not yet accepted.

The argument that if Pakistan has to be decontaminated of the virus of terrorism, the Army has to go back to the barracks and Musharraf sent on his long overdue superannuation does not have many takers. Statistics to show that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism goes up when the military is in power, that all the seven hijackings against India were carried out by Pakistan-sheltered terrorists when the Army was in power and that democratically-elected political leaderships have co-operated more genuinely with the rest of the world in dealing with terrorism and narcotics smuggling than military leaderships are noted, but without any discernible  impact on the minds of many interlocutors.

Despite this, India should keep up its efforts to make the USA see the reality that is Pakistan and  that is Musharraf.  The brutal murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, the grenade attack in an Islamabad church, the murder of 11 French experts and the latest explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi have caused  the incipient signs of an unease in the USA over Pakistan and Musharraf.

At the same time, there is still considerable reluctance to come to terms with reality.  To make that happen should continue to be the principal objective of Indian diplomacy. 

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai).




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