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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2523

Musharraf Must Go To Save Pakistan

By J N Raina - Syndicate Features

Global "war on terror" has taken new dimensions, with the proclamation of emergency in nuclear-armed Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf, who must be flogging himself for engineering proxy war in Kashmir, has delivered the last arrow from his quiver, to eliminate Al Qaeda-Taliban combine, well-entrenched in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and federally-administered tribal areas.

Despite what flamboyant Musharraf has done to India, especially till India-Pakistan peace process took shape, many Indians have developed a sympathetic heart for him for the proclamation of emergency, which is being considered his last resort to save the troubled Islamic nation from the brink of disaster.

The General, eager to keep his uniform close to his chest for obvious reasons, had warned people time and again about the impending chaos. Whether emergency (or call it martial law), is justified or not, the situation had come to such a pass that there seemed to be no alternative for him to save Pakistan from yet another partition. Pakistan, at war with itself, has been on the boil for long; ever since Musharraf became an ally of U S President George W Bush to combat terrorism. There is no doubt that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism. Most of the areas in NWFP and tribal areas have become unwieldy, running out of control.

Over 100 people, including security personnel, were killed in a serious clash between the security forces and extremists in NWFP and picturesque Swat valley, just before emergency.

"It (emergency) was needed because of the blasts everywhere. No one was feeling safe", a former minister in Pakistan has said. A large section of Kashmiris, holding moderate views, are sanguine that emergency "would root out terrorism and its remnants" in Jammu and Kashmir. Srinagar-based editor of a local Urdu weekly "Chattan", Tahir Mohiuddin, is of the opinion that emergency is the right step "if it helps fight terrorists". Kashmiris see in the emergency a 'silver lining' to contain terrorist violence, which has resulted in the death of thousands of Kashmiris. But diehard elements like firebrand Syed Ali Geelani continue to criticize Musharraf for his war on terror. People like him are enemies of Pakistan, goading that country to confront India, raising the bogey of Kashmir and thereby inviting perpetual trouble for both India and Pakistan.

Pakistan, which had vowed to inflict a 'thousand cuts' on India, is 'bleeding' profusely, because of its own manipulations against India. The Pakistan Army has been bleeding in its ongoing 'bloody war' with the extremists in the troubled areas bordering Afghanistan, with a high casualty rate as well as 'unprecedented levels of desertions, suicides and discharge applications', according to an assessment by the Indian Security establishment.

The analysts have been closely monitoring new developments in the region, infested with insurgency, especially in Waziristan and Balochistan, where people are unyielding, demanding no interference in their internal matters. Several hundred suicide bombers have been compelling Pakistani soldiers to commit 'suicide' or desert their ranks. Pakistan, under undue U S pressure had deployed 1, 00,000 soldiers in the troubled region, which has had become a haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The region is inhabited by 'fiercely independent' tribes. The U S wanted Musharraf to take on Taliban and other extremist outfits, once nurtured by the ISI. "Now the chickens are coming home to roost", say the analysts. Around 1000 Pakistan soldiers have been killed in daily skirmishes with militants in the tribal belt. It is mind-boggling.

A few days before emergency, a suicide attack occurred near the heavily-fortified Pakistan Army garrison city of Rawalpindi, killing seven people. General Musharraf's office is located nearby. The suicide bombers from Jehadi camps, established by Pakistan itself, have become a bugbear for Pakistani soldiers.

Musharraf, in a midnight televised address on November 3, told his worried people that "the country was in grave danger of becoming destabilized". He was not in his proper form and spoke in disjointed words. "I cannot allow this country to commit suicide".

The tone and tenor of his speech was a bit akin to that of General Yahya Khan, a former Pakistan dictator, when he had addressed on TV in the wake of Pakistan's division and emergence of Bangladesh. Destabilized Pakistan is harmful for India. It will be troublesome for our democratic nation. It is in India's interest that Pakistan should remain intact. Talibanisation of Pakistan is not in that country's interest. It will be ruinous. Now the cat is out of the bag and it is to be keenly watched which way the cat jumps.

Pervez Musharraf had no alternative before him but to impose harsh measures under the emergency laws to ferret out growing militancy. Around 500 people, mostly soldiers and paramilitary forces have got killed in a series of suicide attacks across Pakistan since the ill-famous Lal Masjid episode in July. On October 19, former Prime Minister Ms Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped two bomb attacks that killed over 140 people. Around 600 people were injured, most of them seriously.

Ms Bhutto was under attack from militants for her support to the US-led war on terror. She had also spoken against madrassas (religious seminaries) which she said have 'brainwashed' youth. She described them as 'arsenal of weapons'. She had been urging to change the curriculum of these madrassas, doing little during her two term premiership.

Preceding these skirmishes, the Pakistani soldiers had killed about 50 militants on October 28. It was followed by a ceasefire agreement. The militant outfit, led by radical cleric Maulana Fazl Ullah, who has been waging war for imposition of Islamic laws (Shariat) in Swat, announced the ceasefire agreement on his own 'illegal' radio network.

Just on the heels of emergency, the security forces arrested 500 people, including top opposition leaders (barring Benazir Bhutto), lawyers, and human rights activists. The number of those arrested has swelled to 1500. Musharraf promulgated two ordinances prohibiting media from publishing or broadcasting "statements that abet terrorist activities or terrorism". There is a question mark on January elections.

Musharraf, who had won controversial election on October 6, was awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether he was eligible to run for re-election, while still acting as Army Chief. But he had promised to discard uniform after November 15, if elected. Having an inkling of the judgment, he dismissed the Supreme Court judges and swore in new appointees. However, people had good faith in the SC. Ms Bhutto air dashed to Islamabad soon after imposition of emergency, to be in the midst of his people. Perhaps it was all pre-planned. In her first reaction on emergency she agreed with Musharraf that the country was 'on the verge of destabilization', but felt concerned that emergency was no solution. The problem is "dictatorship. I do not believe that solution is dictatorship" she bemoaned.

Anyway, General Musharraf has to bow out and pave way for democratic forces. Time is running out for him. The country is bleeding. Terrorists are waiting in their wings and might take nasty steps in such a perilous situation. There are fears they might attempt to steal nuclear weapons and invite greater trouble not only for Pakistan but for the entire south Asian region. Be as it may, Pakistan's future will remain uncertain and bleak if militancy is not wiped out completely. People should forget about restoration of democracy for the time being, as terrorism has taken deep roots and enough of damage has been done. The removal of militancy should be the first major task before fully fledged democracy is obtained.

- Syndicate Features -

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