General Musharraf Versus President Bush

30 September 2001

For Pakistan, every thing has happened on the expected lines, except that the blow to the American power and pride was too hard and too humiliating.

When America withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving it in the hands of Pakistan, after packing the Russians back in 1989, Pakistan's ambitions had soared high. It started dreaming of establishing a sort of Ottoman Empire in South and Central Asia, encompassing Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Sinziyang Province of China, and of course Kashmir. For that, it had worked assiduously, drawing a road map of Islamic fundamentalism and an army of Jehdis (soldiers of holy war). With thousands of madrassas and hundreds of terrorist training camps in Pakistan and southern Afghanistan, jointly run by Pakistan, Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, and the jehadi zealots fanning out into Central Asia, China and India, Pakistan was roaring to call the shots in this part of the world. But the Saudi millionaire had his own agenda. His commitment to Islam was not limited to capture or extend territories but to give a fatal blow to the 'evil' exponents of Zionism and Christianity. Not that Pakistan was not aware of the aspirations and plans of bin Laden, with whom it had been working so intimately for decades, but it never cautioned him against taking on the mighty America. Nor it already his prime target, America, to protect its soft spots from within. It was a very calculated approach on the part of Pakistan, which was privy to the developments within the elements of Al Qaeda. Pakistan had rightly calculated that when America would be hurt, it would have to come to Pakistan to help reach Laden, because the stubborn Pathans would never oblige the 'Farangi', and the route to Kandhar passes through Rawalpindi. Pakistan visualized it as an opportunity to be exploited: get its pound of flesh, settle scores with India and keep Uncle Sam tied down to the evasive Saudi hiding across the mountainous border. It was also to serve Pakistan as a sweet revenge on USA since the latter was considered to be progressively moving towards India. That became obvious to the Indian Government only when General Musharraf frowned at India for offering all its logistic facilities to the Americans, and warned India to 'lay off'. Pakistan, must have inside information regarding Osama's designs on America and the likely time of strike. There are some strong indicators to that presumption. Only a fortnight before the terrorist strike in USA, Gen. Musharraf had announced several measures against the associates of Taliban and Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Many of them were even put behind the bars giving full publicity to world media. They were, however, quietly let off after two days. Not only that, 1100 Afghan refugees were thrown out from Naser Bagh and Jalauzi Camp, three days before Osama's boys hit in New York and Washington. Their homes were demolished and they were packed to return to Afghanistan. This news was immediately picked were synchronized to show America and his Western allies that Pakistan was no more helping Osama bin Laden. The cruise missiles fired earlier by the then President, Bill Clinton, did not worry Pakistan much. As Pakistan's ISI, in close liaison with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, had pre warned Laden to shift his tents, it did not protest when the America cruise missiles flew over its air space to hit the house hold garbage of Laden's extended family. Pakistan was expecting a similar scenario in the next round between the Saudi zealot and George W. Bush, Clinton's successor.

But unfortunately for Pakistan, Osama's boys had since graduated in the land of opportunities to make synchronized multiple sacrifices in the sky to shake the very foundations of the symbols and pride of the greatest power on the earth. India, which used to gloat that it was bearing the brunt of the terrorist strikes inficted by the jehadis, really did not have anything akin to the twin towers, that could attract the attention of bin Laden. So when the Twin Towers turned into Zero Ground and over 6000 innocents, belonging to white, black, brown, and yellow races of humanity, were all reduced to singular coloured grey ash. America was awaken to its worst horror and grief. Extremely hurt and humiliated, it was seething with rage. Pakistan fell into the category of those countries, which, in the words, of George Bush, were harbouring the terrorists and were to be punished hard. The day of deliverance had come for Pakistan and General Pervez Musharraf was to make an instant decision: either to pay for his sins or to dig the mass graves for his erstwhile companions in the 'holy war.' Musharraf went for the second option with such an ease as if he had no such thing as conscience. US Secretary of State Colin Powell rang him and told, "You have to choose the side quickly. Do you want to be in alliance with Osama bin Laden or the United States?" General Musharraf replied as quickly, "I extend you unstinted support in your war against terrorism, all kinds of terrorism." His aides later explained that he wanted to draw attention of Powell to the fine distinction between 'freedom fighters' and terrorists as he had very recently explained to the Indians at Agra, but the former Chief of US Joint Staff had no time to go in details. Earlier, Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, had a quiz session with Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, ISI Chief, to get bin Laden, alive or dead. It was really tough for Mahmoud Ahemed to give up Laden, who was brought up by the ISI as a full grown terrorist, at present No. 1 in the world. He, being not as bright as Gen. Musharraf, started demurring, "Much history is involved in any Pakistani decision to go after bin Laden........", Armitage is said to have leapt up from his desk, growling, "History starts today." Obviously Mahmoud must have immediately apprised Gen. Musharraf of the above session on history. It helped Musharraf in making quick response to Colin Powell's call to duty.

The Americans have since been very happy. Pakistan has delivered, they say, and it is now their turn to concede to the conditions of Pakistan so that it does not dither at any crucial stage. Had they read the lips of General Musharraf when he addressed his subjects in Urdu on September 18, they would have been much wiser and would have worked on alternative plans by now. What Musharraf was hinting to his people, and he has been able to convince them, that he was only hedging to gain time and let pass the accumulated rage of America. He will make them bogged down in the treacherous hills of Afghanistan and will fleece them without letting them causing much harm the Jehadi brethren. "The Americans have no stomach for another Vietnam," he is reported to have advised his army commanders, political leaders, religious leaders, intelligentsia and the senior journalists of Pakistan, during his separate confidential briefings to each group. The fact that they have all shown confidence in Musharraf's resolve to defeat the Americans in their own game and to lead Pakistan to a stronger 'Fort of Islam' should have made the State Department of USA to sit up and ponder before walking into the death traps through the path guided by the ISI. But unfortunately for the soldiers and ordinary citizens of America, the Pentagon is likely to be led by the hand, right up to the caves, by the ISI guides, not to return alive and report the treachery. To those who may consider it to be a far fetched idea, I may explain that the guides would be drawn from none other than the 15000 odd Pakistani regulars who have been fighting in Afghanistan shoulder to shoulder with the Taliban militia and have just returned home. (It is any body's guess whether all of them have actually returned, because the Northern Alliance troops, who are face to face with the Taliban soldiers, claim that they are still very much there guiding the Taliban on their northern flank.)

Musharraf will convince Powell that his boys are prepared to make extreme sacrifice, not only of their lives but also their faith, in the line of duty for a brave new world of secular democracies. General Pervez Musharraf is capable of charming the Americans into believing his new found love for secularism and democracy.

American commentators and press, which is known for poking fun on their Chief Executive, have been calling President George W. Bush as a mediocre, not so bright, a cowboy etc. etc. till the three fire balls lighted the twin towers and Pentagon barracks in a time span of just 20 minutes. Since then they have all stood behind their President, the symbol of their power and resolve. But when the reality on the ground will start unfolding and the body bags of their young would be ferried home through Peshawar and Islamabad , the unity of approach will start cracking. This scenario is not a baseless apprehension. There are hundreds of thousands of Pakistani youth, who are extensively trained and highly motivated in the hundreds of camps across Pakistan and occupied Kashmir. They are reportedly asked to vacate their camps for the time being and lie low. Many of them have or two stints in Afghanistan and Kashmir: Besides, thousands of Taliban militia will enter Pakistan under the cover of refugees. They are going to join by hundreds of Afghan and Pashtun youth in the NWFP. They are presently content with symbolic demonstrations and burning the effigy of President Bush. But they all are likely to function as a resistance force against the American troops operating from Pakistan after the war thickens. As usual, the Pakistan Army will struck a deal with them through ISI, which has intimate liaison with them, that it will not harm them unless their attacks are only on the American interests. These suicide squads attacking from behind the lines will cause havoc on the troops as well as military assets of the Americans. George W. Bush, by then, will be much exhausted, frustrated and bruised, searching ways to bring the boys back home safe. He will again have to look up to Gen. Pervez, who is neither a dud nor a cowboy. At that time he will not listen to or promptly respond to Gen. Powell's instructions, like a school boy. he will like to talk to Mr. President (of USA) as Mr. President (of Pakistan) and may even extend some concessions to America as quid pro quo in Afghanistan and Kashmir. The dream of a new Ottoman Empire in the South and Central Asia has not died with the coming of Uncle Sam. It has only gone into the subconscious part of the brain of Pakistan's bright boy, General Musharraf. George W. Bush, with all the might of America behind him, is no patch to our modern Bonapart.