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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2701

Test of leaders in testing times

By Asif Haroon Raja

The worth of a leader is tested in testing times when the chips are down and hopelessness reign supreme. His behaviour and skills are measured during crisis period or when he has to make a right decision at the right time to avert a catastrophe or to safeguard honour in disregard of mercantile interests. In recent times we have seen some examples of good and bad leadership, some dead and some still living. ZA Bhutto, Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Saddam Hussein, Hassan Nasarallah, Ahmadanijad, Hugo Chavez, western backed Mahmud Abbas and Nuri al-Maliki, darlings of the west Benazir and Musharraf, George Bush and Tony Blair have remained on the centre stage in recent times.

Zardari is still in the melting pot but so far his performance is below average. With media entirely controlled by the Jews and the west, the radical leaders were tarred in black the western leaders and their lackeys in Muslim countries were eulogised. Irrespective of the coloured and biased reporting, history will view all the characters in its true perspective and judge each one from their conduct in the face of adversity or when basking in the sunshine of power. It is rare that so many leaders of various nationalities are put under the microscopic post-mortem at one time when the world politics is experiencing convulsions.

ZA Bhutto was blessed with astounding qualities of head and heart and had phenomenal mental sharpness. Alas! His personal weaknesses for self-aggrandisement, zero tolerance for dissent and fondness for life of comfort watered down his image as a flawless leader.

Benazir is no more in the world; like her illustrious father she too had ardent supporters and haters. Her tragic death enlarged the circle of her sympathisers and well-wishers. Irrespective of mixed impressions, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that her glamorous past was marred with scandals of high-scale corruption which has left a bad taste in the mouths of every conscientious person. Despite protracted efforts of Zardari led Jiyalas to project her in good light by renaming numerous educational institutes, parks, airports, roads with her name and raising vociferous Ji-ay Bhutto slogans to keep her image alive, the stains she left behind will not wash away. The sloganeering will die down with passage of time and the renamed places again changed once the PPP abdicates power. USA and the western world however still hold her in high esteem as was evident from the award bestowed upon her posthumously by the UN.

Musharraf was disempowered after ruling the roost for over eight years. His graph began to tumble after his clash with Chief Justice Iftikhar in March 2007. Thereafter, he could not stem the slide in spite of his best efforts and ultimately had to exit in August 2008. He will be long remembered for the harmful steps he took to prolong his stay. He took infamous u-turn on Afghanistan under US single phone call and opened the gates for the US perverse influence to flood Pakistan. He pushed the army into the furnace of FATA at the behest of USA because of which the whole of tribal belt and settled parts of NWFP got engulfed in militancy. Brutal Lal Masjid operation using phosphorous sparked suicide attacks. Likewise, employment of army in Baluchistan and death of Nawab Bugti gave rise to separatist passions among the Baloch. He took another u-turn on Kashmir to please India and USA and gave a huge blow to Kashmir cause.

His flawed concept of enlightened moderation to impress the west led to weakening of morals and widened the gulf between the liberals and the Islamists. Issuance of NRO was his worst crime since it sanctified corruption and criminal activities and gave a deadly blow to ethics, moral turpitude and values. He patronised a fascist party and turned a blind eye to all its crimes but hunted the religious extremists, Pashtun and the Baloch with impunity.

Apart from mutilating the constitution, he pulverised judiciary which was on its way to achieving independence. His policy of cowardice and acceptance of all charges pasted on Pakistan by USA, India and Afghanistan jeopardised the credibility of state institutions and lowered the image of Pakistan among the world comity. He has inflicted such grievous wounds on the body of Pakistan that its effects are still being felt. Like Benazir, he too is still eulogised in western world, India and Israel and his patrons have disallowed his impeachment or trial. Alas! After Quad-e-Azam, Pakistan is unfortunate not to be blessed with a selfless leader who has measured up to the expectations of the people and stood the test of time.

George Bush, whose hands are dripping with Muslim blood, will die away into oblivion after 20 January but will be remembered by many with ill will. He was given the final farewell kiss of indignity in Baghdad by an Iraqi journalist Muntazar al Zaidi in the form of shoes assault and calling him a dog. The spontaneous wave of jubilation witnessed in the entire Muslim world indicated the depth of hatred nurtured against him because of his extremely brutal and unjust eight-year inglorious rule. He will be remembered as the most detested president of USA. Until and unless Herculean efforts are made by the new US leadership based on sincerity and honesty of purpose, these feelings will not fade out and militancy will keep growing with fatal consequences for world security. The world as a whole will turn into war zone with no safe place to hide.

Tony Blair has been consigned to dustbin of history after remaining in power in London for two tenures. He gained popularity because of his good looks, amiable manners and oratory, but Iraq war proved to be his waterloo. His stubborn support to Iraqi misadventure despite protests by the British people dented his popularity. His graph plummeted when it was learnt that he had been instrumental in falsifying weapons of mass destruction charge against Saddam regime to justify the invasion. He had to exit in disgrace and will be remembered as the poodle of Bush.

Abbas and Maliki too are seen as lapdogs of Bush and are highly unpopular among their people. Rule of former is confined to West bank only while populist Hamas are ruling in Gaza Strip. Ongoing Israeli offensive against Gaza strip has further catapulted the image of Hamas and reduced Abbas to a political orphan. No sooner the American troops start pulling out of Iraq from mid 209 onwards, Maliki days will get counted.

Let us now glean through the track record of some on whom heaps of scorn has been poured and are continued to be derided by the civilised world. Saudi born Osama hailed from a rich family and was the hero of USA, western and Muslim worlds throughout the Afghan war in eighties against the Soviet forces. The CIA had cultivated him and helped him in forming a militia of Mujahideen from all over the Muslim world which was later renamed by CIA as Al-Qaeda.

Basically he had grievances against Saudi monarchy which he felt was against Islamic teachings and desired its reversal to caliphate. He volunteered his services for Afghan Jihad in reverence to Quranic teaching and considering it a moral obligation to come to the rescue of Muslims persecuted by the infidels. He turned his guns against USA only when the latter betrayed the Mujahideen and left them in a lurch. He brought most of his wealth into Afghanistan to assist the impoverished Taliban regime in running the state affairs. Thoroughly disgusted by the treachery of USA, he has kept his guns pointed in its direction and has gone underground in the wake of US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

Despite worldwide massive hunt and having combed every inch of the earth, he remains untraced. His harbourers refuse to disclose his location despite being offered mouth watering ransom. There were repeated reports of his serious illness and that he was on dialysis. Having failed to trace him it was then opined by USA that the most wanted man was in all probability located somewhere along the Pak-Afghan border belt including the K-2 mountain range. All the renowned spy agencies including Scotland Yard have been sniffing in the suspected area for over two years. Ground operations are also in progress from both sides of the Durand Line to create a sandwiching effect forcing him to come out of his hiding. Drone attacks are part of the scheme to frighten the locals of Waziristan and compelling them to hand over Osama and his number-two Al-Zawahiri. It is now being widely rumoured that he is dead since long and the CIA has purposely kept him alive till the accomplishment of all the US objectives in the region. In their view Osama led Al-Qaeda is a myth to link all anti-US elements residing in Muslim countries with Al-Qaeda and brand them as extremists and terrorists. The UN under total control of USA has been activated to declare irreconcilable (now termed as non-state actors) as terrorists.. Whether Osama is dead or alive, the fact remains that he has become an icon and has kept Al-Qaeda intact.

Next we discuss Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban who had seized power in Kabul in 1996 and in record time had to a large extent removed chronic ailments in war-torn Afghanistan. Opium trade which had become bread and butter was eliminated; war lordism which was the chief cause of internecine war after withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 resulting in more deaths than suffered during ten-year Afghan war was eradicated; security situation was improved to an extent that people could leave their houses and shops unattended and without locks; vulgarity and obscenity was minimised by keeping the females veiled and indoors and banning music, dance and watching TV; justice was readily available and the criminals and corrupt persons were ruthlessly punished to deter others; five-times prayers were made mandatory. These harsh measures struck fear into the hearts of the dishonest and criminals and the country became peaceful and almost crime free.

It was a consequence of adoption of stringent measures strictly based on Shariah that such a phenomenal progress was achieved within two years. However, it gave a handle to the anti-Muslim forces residing in civilised world to beat the Taliban with. Besides this factor, the real reason for US antagonism was refusal of Taliban leaders to ink a pipeline project from Turkmenistan down south through Afghanistan on American terms. Another reason was successful implementation of Shariah that could create problems for the capitalist world. Already USA was reeling under the reverberations of Islamic revolution in Iran and it could not afford the growth of Sunni led Islam within the same region where nuclear Islamic Republic of Pakistan aligned with Afghanistan and having close ties with China and Iran also resided. The talk of an Islamic bloc of Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan backed by China and possibly Russia had gained currency. With all these strategic considerations in mind, it became necessary to affect a regime change in Kabul and to establish a strong US military base so as to monitor Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

A well-orchestrated vicious media campaign was unleashed to project them as monsters. A mountain was made out of incident of demolition of Buddha statues (although a condemnable act), and inhuman sanctions were imposed on the poverty stricken country. On the contrary, the civilised world never took any notice of the brutal atrocities committed against the living beings in Palestine, Algeria, Kashmir, Bosnia, and Chechnya. With an eye on untapped rich oil and mineral resources in Central Asian states, a plan was chalked out in 1997 to capture Afghanistan. After failing to convince Pakistan to launch commando attacks against militant infrastructures in southern Afghanistan, US Navy launched cruise missiles attacks off Arabian Sea coast against known hideouts of militants led by Osama in August 1988 under orders of Gen Zinney. In order to justify the invasion against Afghanistan, 9/11 drama was cooked up.

Among the 18 terrorists taking part in terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, none was an Afghani. Majority belonged to Saudi Arabia and from other Arab countries. CIA pinned the blame on Osama and asked Kabul to hand him over to USA. Omar refused to hand over his guest without receiving proof of his complicity but conceded to despatch Osama to a neutral country subject to fair trial. His proposal was rejected and Afghanistan was chosen to give vent to American rage.

After upping war hysteria and hurriedly obtaining approval of UNSC, Afghanistan was invaded by US forces along with other allies on 7 October 2001 and captured in November making using of Northern Alliance forces (non-Pashtun Afghans duly trained by India in Iran) without giving any chance to negotiations or diplomacy. US purpose could have been easily achieved had it waited for another month or so since the pressure exerted by the world comity including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was too much to bear for Kabul that had been declared a pariah state. However, the real purpose was not to seek revenge by devastating the country and massacring its inhabitants and getting hold of Osama and his followers, but to convert Afghanistan into its permanent military base and pursue its global interests. Even if Omar had agreed to hand over Osama, some other excuse would have been fabricated.

Under the circumstances, the devil must be given his due. Omar’s behaviour as well as that of his Shura members under trying conditions was commendable. No amount of pressure made them change their principled stand. In the absence of nuclear weapons, air force and air defence system and regular army and crippled economy, they didn’t buckle and decided to fight the aggressors. Had they not been let down by Pakistan, they could not have been ousted.

Encircled from all directions and pounded from air with daisy cutters, cluster bombs, B-52s and cruise missiles, not a bird should have survived. The Taliban after putting up a heroic fight for over a month decided under a well thought out strategy to carryout tactical withdrawal and to resume fighting on a later date. The entire leadership and bulk of fighters managed to flee and within one year of their fall, they regrouped and struck back. They have been able to gradually expand their influence and are now in a position to hit their targets in almost all the provinces of Afghanistan. Casualty rate of foreign troops in 2008 was the heaviest forcing USA to seek negotiations with the Taliban.

Mullah Omar has successfully evaded thousands of snares laid in Afghanistan, FATA, NWFP and Quetta. He has remained in touch with his followers, reorganised them and re-launched them to oust occupation forces. He too carries a huge head money and despite best efforts his whereabouts could not be traced. Despite living in wilderness, he has managed to keep his force intact and fully motivated. The Afghan Pashtun in particular has all gravitated towards the Taliban essentially because all the vices that had been eliminated by them have reappeared in a big way. Afghanistan has turned into a narcotic state; feudal lords have become all powerful; corruption is rampant and justice is absent; life and property has become unsafe and poverty stalks the whole land.

Foreign forces living in barricaded bases come out of their hiding in tanks and jammer fitted humvees only under cover of helicopters and jets. Suspected areas are ruthlessly pounded causing huge collateral damage. Even marriage ceremonies and funerals are not spared. Under such grim conditions, it is natural for the locals to nostalgically recall the era of Taliban and pray for their early return.

The American puppet Hamid Karzai who was installed with lot of fanfare after farcical elections has become so unpopular that he feels scared moving out of his palace. He is repeatedly entreating Omar to conciliate and enter into negotiations. The latter that had earlier on rejected all such offers till the withdrawal of all US-Nato has now expressed his willingness to share power provided a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces is announced. He has suggested Muslim peacekeeping forces for peaceful transition to consensus government and has sought merger of Taliban fighters in Afghan army and amnesty for them. In all probability, he has made this offer to counter the intended Indo-US-Afghan-Pakistan forces plan to conduct coordinated operations against the Taliban in 2009. Zardari is likely to give in to US pressure to open western border for combined operations to release Indian pressure exerted on the eastern front.

Now a word about much maligned Saddam Hussein. As is known, he was brought in power by CIA in July 1979 and as long as he served their regional interests, he was kept on board. He was pushed to attack Iran in October 1980 to be able to bleed the two stronger Muslim powers and to destroy Iraqi nuclear plant. He was instigated by USA to invade Kuwait in August 1990 to justify invasion of Iraq. After a full-throttled media war, the country was ransacked by US troops and allies in 1991 and put under brute sanctions. Saddam stood up to American pressure and his people did not forsake him. Shias in the south and Kurds in the north were instigated by MI-6 and CIA. (CIA and Iran had stoked insurgency in Kurdistan to destabilise Iraq in 1973). His harsh measures against the two communities to keep the country intact were blown out of all proportions but he kept up his defiance till the last. It discomfited his detractors see him in a defiant mood even when the stranglehold dangled in front of him and he was jeered at. There was not a trace of fear in his eyes or his face when the noose was fixed around his neck and he recited Qalma Tayyaba with full force before the rope was pulled. His conduct in the face of sure death was exemplary with few parallels. His extraordinary grit catapulted Iraqi resistance forces to continue with their struggle with even greater fervour. Iraq under so-called cruel dictator was a peaceful and prosperous country which has now been turned into an anarchic state.

When USA and its western allies decided to invade Iraq in March 2003 on a trumped up charge, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Gulf states assisted the invading forces to capture it since none had the courage to displease USA. Turkey refused to allow its territory and air space for use by US troops despite being a western ally and given an offer of $10 billion and a promise to be made part of Nato and a member of EU. By so doing Turkey passed the litmus test in the face of crisis and inducement.

Ayatollah Khomeini emerged as the spiritual leader of Iran in 1979 and the effects of Islamic revolution brought about by him were felt in the entire Islamic world. He defied US helicopters attack to rescue American hostages and released them on his terms by getting Iranian funds in US banks unfrozen. He galvanised his nation to not only face the combined pressure of the two super powers and effects of total isolation, but also fight back Iraqi forces for eight years and to ensure that the Islamic revolution reached its logical end. He lived a Spartan life and left behind a legacy for his successors to emulate. Ahmadanijad has also passed the test of a leader by standing up to the US-Israeli menacing threats boldly and refusing to compromise on national interests at any cost. The Iranians are behind him because he has made them proud. Since the leadership and the people are in sync with each other, no offender howsoever powerful can dare cast an evil eye on Iran. Obama has already hinted at giving a chance to diplomacy through dialogue.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is another forthright and courageous leader who has won wide applause from all over the world. Not only he has defied US aggressiveness he ridiculed Bush in his presence while addressing the UN General Assembly Session. He has now denounced Israeli holocaust against hapless Gazans and has expelled Israeli Ambassador. His dignified stance is a slap on the faces of Muslim leaders who prefer to live a life of indignity and dishonour under US tutelage.

Asif Haroon Raja is a defence and political analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

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