Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Musharaff: The General in his labyrinth

“Politics is a soldier’s curse” - Napolean

General Musharaff now fell ignominiously from grace and power after a chain of events triggered when his attempts to fire judges and quash political opponents' rights backfired. His disdain for democratic norms and civilian politicians does him in. He cuts a backroom deal for a face-saving exit from office. Too bad, he was nowhere near becoming the Kamal Ataturk of Pakistan (which he professed to be when he packed Nawazmia to Saudi) when he beat this retreat.

“I have confronted death and defied it several times in the past because destiny and fate have always smiled on me.”

"Considered purely in military terms, the Kargil operations were a landmark in the history of the Pakistani army."

"I would like to state emphatically that whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict,"

"...I was talking to my military secretary, Major General Nadeem Taj, seated to my right, when I heard a loud, though muffled, thud behind us. As my car became airborne I immediately realized what was happening-I was staring terrorism in the face. I thought ruefully that while leaders of other countries only visit scenes of carnage later or see it on a television screen; I was personally in the midst of it. Not only that-I was the target. But unlike most leaders, I am also a soldier, Chief of the army staff and supreme commander of my country's armed forces."
The self-congratulatory tone is all there above to see. All the PR general Pervez Musharaff has been maintaining could very well be Shah Rukh Khan's envy. All those vivid TV images where he tries sounding an earnest general with sugar-coated belligerence immediately spring to my mind.

So who was Musharaff? Was he a Muhajir with his prejudices about Hindu India? Was he a vengeful General reeling under the Kargil debacle after Nawaz Shariff unconditionally withdrew the troops? Was he a wannabe Kamal Ataturk? Was he a trustful ally in the war of terror? Or was he simply a product of the circumstances of war between ISI and Pakistan army during Nawaz Shariff's regime? Too complex are the queries, the General is in his endless labyrinth, it is just that he is no Simón Bolívar nor are we talking any magical realism here.
A commando at heart, he always displayed a taste for military adventurism. It is easy to take him as a sabre-rattling war-monger. In 1999 in Lahore, he boycotted Vajpayee visit. A few months later, he engineered Kargil adventure. In 2001 in Agra he pulled up a media coup, using the summit to gain some respect to his military rule in international community instead of actually making any headway regarding Kashmir or other issues. The Vajpayee government smarted under the debacle for a while. With all this expertise, the present situation must have been quite a retreat for the General.

After playing a wonderful double game with US on taliban and terrorism, his luck seems to have at last run out. Uncle Sam gave up on him but must have just chipped in with enough support to stop Nawazmia from vengefully packing off the General to Saudi.

Some folks in India think Musharaff was even-handed on Kashmir and other issues. Nothing could be farther from truth. Mere rhetoric does not mean flexibility. After all he is the same person who was responsible for the attack on India in Kargil.

Musharraf had only laid sweet-cover on complex issues. He bans Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and other groups but does not arrest those guys. He simply lets them go and regroup under a new banner. That is just one aspect of how he 'handled terror with an iron-fist'.
One more instance is from 2003 confidence building measures (CBMs). India presented some 12 concrete proposals like opening up travel between the Srinagar - Muzzafarabad and treatment of 20 children with heart-ailments on its own cost every year (This was after the successful operation on Baby Noor). These were proposals in good faith.

Ofcourse, Musharaff resisted the first proposal by insisting on involving UN. He then reciprocated with his own CBMs and they are - Pakistan would offer one hundred scholarships for Kashmiri students to study in professional institutions provide treatment for disabled Kashmir’s and assist widows and victims of rape in Indian held Kashmir through international human rights organizations! Wow, that was the General in his right skin, in his true elements.

Then, why was National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan mourning the General's exit? He argues that it is easier to deal with the General than any other 'civilian ruler'. And ofcourse he believes his exit would create a vacuum. This could be true but just because it has relatively been peaceful in Kashmir for couple of years doesn't mean Musharaff contributed to that peace in any way. He was too preoccupied in tackling Pakistan's own internal terrorism especially that linked to taliban, that he couldn’t open another front with India in Kashmir. After all, he was the one who not just engineered the Kargil adventure but publicly glorified it. How could he otherwise just sit silently?
However, this thinking on part of NSA and his ilk only betrays an escapist attitude of Indian establishment. They just want Musharaff to stay simply because he is under too much pressure to deliver on the Afghan front for the US and so he would not be able focus on Pakistan's obsession Kashmir. They assume that US being his main support (in absence of legitimate democratic mandate back home), the General, despite all his chicanery, can not antagonize them. So he would stay focused in at least pretending as if he is fighting terror. Turning on the heat in Kashmir would be too visible and would damage his anti-terror posture.

The Indian establishment must have thought about getting some sleep during this 'silent' period. How I wish they just did that at least instead of raking up the Amarnath issue and making a near-normal situation go bad. Having Musharaff for some more time would have may be given some more peaceful time but would not have helped make progress on any thorny issues between India and Pakistan. Musharaff refused to learn politics and defied pragmatism and so he wouldnt have been of any usefulness. Instead of just sleeping over issues and being escapist, the Indian government should very well look ahead courageously for solutions, as it did in case of the Nuclear Agreement with NSG, IAEA and the US.
So instead of waiting for the Pakistan's feudal political ethos, immature democracy, the ISI-army tussle throw up another general, India should go ahead and do the hard business, even if it is with the Mr. ten percent now in place. Politics and pragmatism when pursued unrelentingly eventually would lead us to the right solution.


Vinayak said...

Totally agree!
he had a mind of a tactician and not a politician. Some would say this was for good :)
Had India happily negotiated some settlement on Kashmir issue with him...it would have hardly changed anything on the ground. We would have been negotiating just with him and not Pakistan.

Amar said...

@ Vinayak,

That is exactly what i believe buddy. Anyway, he was doing more PR exercise than anything else.

vinod said...

Got a very good "gyan"/"Information"/"knowledge of Leadership" buddy...keep posting this kind of intresting things which helps every one.