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MUSHARRAF & BENAZIR: A THREE-LEGGED RACE TO SAVE PAKISTAN

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion
in response to reader comment: Musharraf's attempt at a political solution to peace in the region had backfired by giving al-Qaida a place and time to regroup

Submitted by Lawrence (India), Aug 2, 2007 at 07:41

Pakistan's President Gen.Pervez Musharraf and Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, twice Pakistan's Prime Minister in the past, have met in Abu Dhabi to discuss their plans for a three-legged race to refurbish their dented image and save Pakistan from a fate similar to what happened to Afghanistan post-1994, when the two acting in tandem----she as the Prime Minister and he as the Director-General of Military Operations--- brought the Taliban into existence and allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from Khartoum in the Sudan to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

2. Nobody can question their patriotism. Both wish well of Pakistan and want it to play an important role not only in South Asia, but also in the Islamic world and the international community as a whole. Unfortunately, both have a strongly dented image.

3. Benazir's image got dented during her two spells as the Prime Minister (1988-90 and 1993-96). Her most important contribution to Pakistan during this period was in persuading North Korea, through the intermediary of Beijing, to sell medium and long-range missiles and related technologies to Pakistan in return for Pakistan's help to North Korea in getting over its food crisis and developing a military-related nuclear technology. The proliferation activities of Dr. A. Q. Khan reached their zenith when she was the Prime Minster and continued thereafter under Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

4. She had no other contribution to make to the well-being of Pakistan and its people. Karachi was up in flames. The Sindhis and the Mohajirs hated her despite the fact that she was from Sindh. Pakistan's economy went into the intensive care unit (ICU) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fears that Pakistan might become a failed state surfaced for the first time when she was the Prime Minister. She let her husband Mr.Asif Zirdari handle the governance of the country for all practical purposes and draw financial benefit from it.

5. When Musharraf seized power in October,1999, and jailed his democratically-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his action was greeted with some public applause. Not because he was popular with the people, but because Benazir and Nawaz through their misgovernance had become so unpopular that anybody after them was seen as a possible source of salvation. Musharraf's brief honeymoon with his people was not the outcome of any positive qualities which he had, but because of the people's disenchantment with the political class in general and with Benazir and Nawaz in particular.

6. Musharraf, a zig-zagger and a tactician par excellence, exploited the newly-realised importance of Pakistan for the US post-9/11, not only to improve his image in the eyes of the West, but also to take Pakistan out of the IMF's ICU. Pakistan has benefitted in some ways under Musharraf. Its economy has done well. Its strategic importance to the West is once again admitted. Its Armed Forces have once again been the recipients of military equipment from the US. Musharraf too has been a beneficiary of these changes. He is no longer seen as an unadulterated military dictator in the mould of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq. He has managed to have himself perceived as an enlightened authoritarian ruler----- just the medicine the jihadi-ridden Pakistani society supposedly needs.

7. But, unfortunately for him, his honeymoon with his people ended after the ham-handed manner in which he tried to intimidate Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury of Pakistan. His honeymoon with the US shows signs of ending after his repeated failures to implement his promises to modernise the madrasas, bring them under effective state control and put a stop to the use of Pakistani territory by Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and other terrorist organisations.

8. After Musharraf, the jihadi deluge. That was the impression he had managed to create in the US State Department. That impression now shows signs of changing. The present belief in the State Department is: Musharraf is good for the US so long as he lasts, but the jihadi deluge is already there.

9. The exercise to explore the possibility of power-sharing by Musharraf and Benazir, which has been undertaken, is an attempt by two leaders----one military and the other political--- whose image has been dented by their sins of commission and omission, to prop up each other and help each other in retrieving some of their lost image. Domestically in the case of Benazir and domestically and internationally in the case of Musharraf.

10.If the two reach a final understanding and rule Pakistan jointly---he as the President with or without the uniform and she as the Prime Minister--- will Pakistan and its people benefit, will it be the beginning of the end of jihadi terrorism,will moderate forces ultimately prevail in Pakistani society?

11. Unlikely. Benazir and Musharraf let loose the jihadi Frankenstein's monsters during her second tenure as the Prime Minister. It will be unwise to believe that these two joint creators of the monsters will be able to vanquish them. Both are manipulators and opportunists to the core. Look at the way Musharraf is prepared to ditch the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), which he brought into existence in 2002, in order to ensure his continuance in power. Look at the way Benazir is prepared to ditch the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders, who had suffered under Musharraf, in order to get back into the political orbit with the help of Musharraf.

12. What Pakistan needs today is a sincere ruler genuinely committed to the task of ridding Pakistan of the evil of religious extremism and jihadi terrorism. Neither Musharraf nor Benazir is such a figure. There is no such candidate for power visible on the horizon. Pakistan will continue to bleed till such a leader emerges

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