Can Gen. Musharraf be relied upon?

31 October 2001

Not much is known about the ancestry and family traits of General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of Pakistan Army and self appointed President of Pakistan. What is known is that he belonged to a medicore family living in Darya Ganj, Delhi, which migrated to Pakistan during partition of the country and settled in Karachi as most of the other Muhajirs did. He joined the Army and despite being a Muhajir, he climbed the steps of military hierarchy rather fast. As Pakistan Army has always remained predominated by the Punjabi officers, especially at the top level, it was rather unusual for a Muhajir to rise the pyramid, pushing aside his Punjabi competitors who had all the right connections and clan loyalties. Those who know him since their days as middle rank officers, say that he was adapt at pleasing his seniors but his loyalties used to be short lived. He would shift his loyalty to the officer who was to write his annual confidential report (ACR) with the ease and the manner he changed O.G. shirts. No wonder that he superseded those very officers who were once his seniors and had given him excellent reports for promotion. He rose to the rank of Lt. General, the maximum a Muhajir could normally aspire in Pakistan army and every body thought that he had reached his Zenith.

But Pervez had other plans and secret ambitions. He established liaison with Mian Nawaz Sharif as soon as the latter became Prime Minister of Pakistan and started cultivating him. In a short span of time Musharraf succeeded in convincing Nawaz Sharif about his personal loyalty at the back of his superiors in the army. Having done that Pervez started passing on 'highly sensitive intelligence' to the Prime Minister that his boss, Gen. Jahangir Karamat, the then Army Chief, was conspiring to stage a coup and throw him (Nawaz Sharif) out. Nawaz Sharif, who was otherwise keen to clip the wings of the army and tighten his control over it, removed the army chief and appointed his most loyal officer, Lt. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as Chief of Army Staff over the heads of his seniors. Sharif felt relaxed from one of the flanks, i.e. army, and started addressing other road-blocks of his supremacy, i.e. President and Judiciary. While Nawaz Sharif, the Punjabi Landlord and Business tycoon, got entangled with the President and Judiciary, his most loyal Army Chief had started hatching a deeper conspiracy, this time international. He knew that any Pakistan leader, who could deliver on Pakistan, would be as exalted as Qaid-e-Aazim, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and could rule for ever, not only on the length and breadth of Pakistan, but also on the hearts and minds of Pakistanis. He drew the blue print of a commando operation to go deep into the Snow covered Kargil hills during winter after the Indian troops normally withdraw and entrench there before the latter return in summer to re-occupy their positions. This operation was in fact an extension to 'Operation Topas' which was being pursued since the regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. Much had been written about 'Operation Topas'. It was a plan conceived in the GHQ, Islamabad, to engage India in a low intensity war by sponsoring militancy and terrorism through out the country and keep it bleeding till it exhausts and succumbs to political and diplomatic pressures to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan. The Pakistan was to be spearheaded and controlled by the ISI, drawing human resources from the Islamic Fundamentalist Organization in Pakistan. The funds were to be raised from the international smuggling of drugs, mainly heroin.

Operation Topas was not making much headway and Mian Nawaz Sharif started playing with the idea of smoothening relations with India to pull Pakistan out of economic depression and avoiding it breaking under its own weight. He invited Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, to Lahore.

This led to much expectations and enthusiasm, both in India and Pakistan. America was also pushing for a semblance of peace in nuclear armed South Asia. Gen. Musharraf saw a severe setback to his plans and ambitions. So when Vajpayee and Sharif were busy preparing for the Lahore meet, Gen. Musharraf was ferrying troops to Gilgit and discussing war games with his generals to capture Kargil through stealth in order to cut off Ladakh and Siachin from the valley.

After Vajpayee was happily back home and the Gilgit scouts and other high altitude trained troops were stocking their rations and ammunitions in the newly dug bunkers underneath the snow in Kargil. Gen. Musharraf told Nawaz Sharif about his fait accompli and also briefed him about the win win situation for Pakistan. He is reported to have told Sharif that the Indian troops, despite taking high casualties, would not be able to physically dismount the Pak troops entrenched in the upper ridges overlooking all movements below the slopes. Exhausted and profoundly bled, the Indian troops would widen the conflict beyond the LOC/ International border and Pakistan would go to the International community for cease-fire under the threat of nuclear conflagration. America and other world powers would both the countries. As LOC was not marked on the ground, he argued, Pakistan would hold on to the commanding heights in Kargil and will revive the diplomatic pressures to solve Kashmir 'dispute'. So Musharraf, yesterday's loyal general to Mian Sharif, made it abundantly clear to the latter where he stood, in terms of supremacy of power in Pakistan.

The entire operation went as per plan except that Pakistan had to take much more casualties than India - 1500 against 600 - and India did not cross the LOC while America forced Pakistan to vacate aggression. Gen. Musharraf convinced the Army that it was Sharif who emerged as traitor to the cause of Pakistan by yielding to the American pressure and he must be thrown out . The coup was, there after, ready to be executed, but it was leaked by the ISI chief and Nawaz Sharif made an unsuccessful pre emptive effort. That was bound to fail as the army was behind Musharraf.

Having achieved his first great ambition to rule Pakistan, Musharraf proceeded with his second great ambition to merge Kashmir into Pakistan and take the title of Quad-e-Azim. But this time he had more difficult task. He had to show his to his adversary, the Prime Minister of India. Being adapt at the game, he started making noises publicly that he would go to any place any time to meet the Indian leader for taking forward the Shimla, Lahore accords. The Indian leadership, always eager to improve relations with Pakistan for stability, peace and prosperity in the South Asian region, was taken in by the friendly noises made by Gen. Musharraf. Track Two diplomacy was revived between the two countries to warm up the atmosphere and to know each other's views and concerns. Gen. Musharraf very tactfully conveyed to Vajpayee that he was very keen to bring peace in the region and he had some mutually acceptable plans to lower the guard and take steps towards long lasting peace.

He further conveyed that he was aware of India's concerns about rising fundamentalism in Pakistan and he was equally worried and wanted India's help to control it. Such feeling were music to the ears of Indian leaders and he was invited to India for a summit meet even as most of the major world powers had not yet recognized his military government. As soon as the meeting was finalized and the Indian government went into preparations, Musharraf started sending mixed signals. His stance on Kashmir as the 'core issue' and the 'only issue' progressively hardened by the time he left for Agra. The Indian leaders still believed that his rhetoric was for public consumption at home. So when he was going to appoint himself as President of Pakistan, it was his erstwhile enemy, the Prime Minister of India, who congratulated him in advance. It was the time when all the secular democracies, including America, were frowning on the coup leader for having usurped the presidency. India seemed too charmed with those wonderful plans, Musharraf had promised Vajpayee to bring to Agra. At Agra, Prime Minister Vajpayee kept looking for those wonderful plans, Musharraf had conveyed to be unfold during the one to one meeting. Instead Musharraf was addressing the World through his "informal" breakfast agenda for talks was the "Kashmir dispute" and that the Indian leaders were not prepared to accept this fact and mention it accordingly in the joint declaration. He further asserted that what India was talking of "cross-border terrorism was in fact the actions of 'freedom fighters' and there was no border across Kashmir. It dawned on Indians only after Musharraf had flew home as hero of Agra that his sudden hand of friendship for Vajpayee was not any deviation from his established trait of short exchanging his loyalties from his earlier days in the Pakistan Army. It is another matter that Vajpayee could somehow absorb the shocks of Agra meet and did not go the Nawaz Sharif way. Fortunately for Vajpayee, the democracy had solidly entrenched in the Indian political soil; he was still the only consensus leader within 24 party coalition government; the opposition had neither the numbers nor a serious contender; and lastly the Indian Army did not harbour political ambitions like its counterpart in Pakistan.

Currently, General Pervez Musharraf, as President of Pakistan, has instantly reacted to the horrific terrorist attack at the very symbols of military and economic power of America, declaring that Pakistan condemns terrorism and extends 'unstinted support' to America in fighting all type of international terrorism. He has said this when the whole world knows that there are dozens of terrorist training camps within Pakistan and that the terrorists trained in those camps are waging Jihad not only in India with main concentration on Jammu and Kashmir, and in Afghanistan, but also in the far flung countries like Kosovo, Bosnia, Chechnia etc. Again, America has identified the terrorists responsible for attack as the 'Al Qaeda' organisation of Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban Government in Kabul has been providing shelter to Osama. Gen. Musharraf has assured America to provide intelligence against Osama and the Taliban, allow Pakistan's air space for the bombardment on Afghanistan and also provide logistic support (for ground attack on Afghanistan). This is in face of the fact that till yesterday there were five to six thousand regular Pakistani troops physically present in Afghanistan fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Taliban militia, against the Northern Alliance troops of president Burhanun Din Rubani. The terrorist groups from Pakistan and the Jehadis of Osama's Al Qaeda are an important wing of ground fighters in Afghanistan. Such a turnaround by Musharraf has astonished not only the Taliban in Afghanistan, the fundamentalists and Jehadis in Pakistan, but also the political observers in India and world over, This has proved, if still space and too hazy to be identifiable.

The above piece would look incomplete without mentioning Gen. Musharraf's address to his nation, telecast by Pakistan TV on September 18. In his effort to explain the political and strategic complexities of America's war against Osama Bin Laden and Taliban and its repercussions for the stability and vital interests of Pakistan to the 'foolish' Mullahs in Pakistan, he quoted Quran to impress upon them that when a Muslim has to opt between the two evils, i.e. America and Taliban, he had opted for America as the lesser evil. He further drew an example from the fights by Prophet Mohammad first singed peace treaty with the jews to fight the kafirs and then signed no war pact with the Kafirs to defeat the jews. Those American leaders, who are filled with glee at the September 18 address of Musharraf, better note his above religious guidelines and Musharraf planes to follow those historical events in the present context. Mian Nawaz Sharif had got the taste of Musharraf's loyalty, Vajpayee got it at Agra, Taliban has got it just now and Uncle Sam will get it soon. God bless him.