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Pakistan Occupied Pakistan

Some years ago when Karan Thapar interviewed Pervez Musharraf, the general was self-assured and voluble. That was before 9/11 but after Kargil.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2006 00:24 IST

Some years ago when Karan Thapar interviewed Pervez Musharraf, the general was self-assured and voluble. That was before 9/11 but after Kargil. Last fortnight, he was once again voluble, and when not talking about himself, he was talking about Kashmir. But his body language showed nervousness, impatience, an edginess and even tiredness. And Thapar drove a hard bargain.

Pakistan’s troubles began at the beginning in two ways when incompetent and selfish politicians anxious to prove their ‘non-Indian Muslim’ identity began to use religion as a means to win over unenthusiastic Punjab and the NWFP and the positively hostile Balochistan to the new Pakistan. The Constitution of 1956, abrogated in 1958, provided for an Islamic Republic of Pakistan — the first of its kind in the world. Since then most politicians and all military rulers have manipulated religion in an attempt to strengthen their hold or to cling to power. This alliance between the purveyors of religion and the military has been forged over time, through the Zia years and the Afghan jehad, transferred to the Kashmir theatre and even used to control internal opposition.

The second mistake was that politicians, unable to handle the new country, let the reins slip into the army’s hands. And the army, after each war it fought and lost, went back to proclaim that the threat to the country had increased. In the process it acquired the country for itself. Each general is today estimated to be worth 30 crore Pakistani rupees in personal wealth. The well-known corporate interests of the Pakistan Armed Forces are immense and are derived from its present privileged status which in turn is derived from the perceived threat perceptions from India.

Ayesha Siddiqa-Agha has calculated that the Pakistan Armed Forces own 7-10 per cent of the private sector assets, controlled business worth Rs 200 billion and if the real estate owned by the military were added, then this figure is about Rs 1 trillion. With such a lucrative occupation and all the power and the glory, it is difficult to accept that the Pakistani army, the final arbiter on Pak-India relations, will ever be serious about solving Kashmir.

Over time, the evolved equation has been that loyalty to Pakistan is equated with adherence to Islam and vice versa, and that this is best maintained under military guidance. Therefore, opposition to the regime becomes opposition to Islam and dissent becomes muted. Few in the elitist Establishment will ever have the courage or the inclination to point out to their leaders the huge economic price the country is paying for their obsession with Kashmir. The trend in Pakistan, and also in countries like Egypt, noticeable in the recent elections, has been that the Islamists have begun to use the ballot box route to political power and Islamisation of the country and not just through violence and jehad.

The Islamist Right-wing MMA, in power in the NWFP and in coalition in Balochistan, is the beginning of this trend in Pakistan. The ultimate target will be the central legislature in the political vacuum created by the forced absence of secular political parties.

Thus, the longer the general stifles democracy in his country, the greater the drift towards an Islamised Pakistan. The drift will be incremental not perhaps noticeable in the sophisticated drawing rooms of Lahore but out there in the madrasas, in some of the small town schools where jehad and hatred is the menu, and whose alumni provide recruits to the army and the jehadi outfits. Consequently, Right-wing fundamentalists are encouraged to expand their activities politically and legitimise themselves while the army and its associates keep the jehad factory running because the covert option was still valid. Recent events in Delhi and Bangalore only indicate that the jehad is being extended.

Inadvertently and subconsciously, many of us forget that in Pakistan it is the army that determines the country’s security and foreign policy as well as the future of its politicians, where the inconvenient ones are banished. Negotiations with the civilian leadership in this situation, or with the Foreign Office, is largely a futile exercise. At the same time, negotiating with Armed Forces is also pointless because they are not just interested in results fearing that this would reduce their primacy. Besides, they would have to accommodate the unemployed jehadis returning home from the Kashmir theatre.

Although Musharraf admitted that Pakistan had sponsored ‘militancy’, an euphemism for terrorism (just as fidayeen is a glorification of suicide terrorists), and that he could control this to quite an appreciable extent, he equated stoppage of this with demilitarisation by India in Srinagar, Kupwara and Baramulla. Demilitarisation by India is not to be reciprocated by demilitarisation by the Pakistani Army in POK, even though Musharraf was pushed adroitly into accepting this from at least one POK town.

Musharraf’s anxiety to have India pull back troops may have something to do with new requirements for additional deployments in restive Balochistan and Waziristan. Pakistan and those who sponsor quick-fix solutions must also understand that India cannot be expected to save Pakistani face by cutting off its own head.

Musharraf’s back-handed invitation to Manmohan Singh implying ‘Come if you want to talk business, otherwise do not waste my time’, is indicative of behind-the-scene pressures on him from the Right-wing and the corps commanders who have possibly begun to question his tactics. The problem is: how does a man representing a billion people negotiate with a man who essentially represents only himself or the army which he heads and whose word may not last beyond his mortality? It is also true that repeated high profile summits can be counter-productive until there is some ground broken behind the scenes. In today’s Pakistan, with each province involved in its own unhappiness, they have little time for Kashmir or the peace process, which is increasingly a Punjabi phenomenon — on both sides of the fence.

Musharraf says he has thrown some bombshells at us. Later, as the visit of President George Bush approaches, one would not be surprised if a few bombs are thrown around to draw attention to Kashmir while the US is offered some more important al-Qaeda terrorists, presumably kept in Pakistan’s safe custody as pre-visit gifts. At the same time, more highly publicised but vague offers of quick-fix solutions that do not take into account the trust deficit would be made to show to his mentors Pakistani flexibility and Indian rigidity. In reality, these are smokescreens to be used till the Americans lose interest in the region and go home. Till then, Pakistan’s leaders will continue to pretend to be under extremist threat for external consumption and external (Indian) threat for internal consumption.

Unable to develop its own identity, Pakistan has lived far too long as a utility agency or a service industry where jehad has been outsourced. It has denied its subcontinental moorings and tried to drop anchor elsewhere. It is time to come back to the subcontinent and learn to live at peace with itself and its neighbours. Unless Pakistani leaders learn to do that, the fate predicted by the American National Intelligence Committee, that by 2015 Pakistan would exhibit signs of a failed State seems all too close. If you want to save your country, General Musharraf, it is best for the Pakistani Army to retreat from Occupied Pakistan.

First Published: Jan 19, 2006 00:24 IST