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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2396

Brave Commando Chickens Out

By Malladi Rama Rao - Syndicate Features

Henceforth Pervez Musharraf, the garrulous former dictator of Pakistan will find it difficult to shake off the label chicken hearted. Nawaz Sharif, the deposed Prime Minister, who is fighting what appears to be a losing battle against the trio of Military- Mullahs -Qazi has already branded him as ‘coward’.

The provocation for Nawaz was Musharraf running away from facing legal battles which include a treason trial. And the new sobriquet is a ‘gift’ of Pakistan’s Supreme Court which has mocked at him on June 14, saying “how was it possible for a commando to be afraid” to return home from exile and “why he wasn’t frightened when taking over the country”.

Nawaz may have his reasons to run down Musharraf who had ejected him out of office in a coup in 1999, but Musharraf has acted true to the reading of his character by Nawaz.

After availing of several opportunities of being exempted from personal appearance liberally given by the courts during the hearing of cases against him, Musharraf had sent word that he would return to his country, latest by June 13. Yet, there was ‘no show’.

His prevarications infuriated the court, otherwise given to display of deference to military and its erstwhile strongmen. And the Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, who is fast emerging as the darling of the middle class, asked in desperation why the ‘brave commando’ was afraid of returning home to face trial. The top judge also remarked “We have already made it clear that he would not be arrested,” and made it clear that “the court is not bound to accept his (Musharraf) terms.”

Musharraf had gone on a ‘voluntary’ exile in 2013, spending most of his time in London in a flat worth a million pounds or so, in an upscale area. He returned to Pakistan in 2016 after assurances that he would not be sent to jail. But there was no assurance that court cases against him would be withdrawn; he could hardly expect that from Nawaz Sharif.

When the heat from the court cases started to make him scary he decided to fly out again. He succeeded in doing so only with the behind the scene help from the GHQ Shura, who also wanted him to be away from the country. For valid reasons. Mush’s presence and the cases against him were becoming embarrassing for the men in khaki. And so they facilitated his exit in March 2016 by getting lifted a three years travel ban on him. Fearing arrest, he has not come back since then.

Those who have observed the dapper Musharraf’s career post the October 1999 coup will recall that boast and bravado have been a hallmark of his personality. He believes in and loves the good things in life and has a king size ego which makes him think of himself as a superman, He has opinion on everything and everybody; needless to say he thinks his words are final and that he is above questioning.

Musharraf’s great USP is his enviable quality of lying on the face; recall the confidence with which he used to tell the Americans that he was ‘200 per cent sure’ that Osama bin Laden was not hiding in Pakistan. Also his flat denials of exporting terror to India! These days from his perches in Dubai, Boston and London, he has been talking boastfully (in TV interviews) about Pakistan’s use of terror to tie down India.

There is another instance that proves Musharraf lives in a cocooned land of his own. When he returned from his first ‘voluntary’ exile (2013) only a small crowd of his hirelings was present at Karachi to greet him. Asked how he had assumed a high scale of his popularity, he replied that he had guessed that on the basis of his Facebook followers!
In several interviews to the media (he is a regular on one of Pakistani TV channel) he had talked about his intention to return to his ‘watan’ (country) to serve the people who he imagines continue to love and long for him. And what better way to serve the people than to contest polls and get elected to parliament and, hopefully, from there a seat at the country’s throne!

The Pakistani superior courts did not seem to mind his attempts to dodge personal appearance and cleared the decks for him to file the nomination papers for the July 2018 general election. But this judicial generosity proved to be short lived as Musharraf rolled back his promise to return home.

Obviously, Musharraf did not feel sure that his “boys”, the all-powerful Army, would be able to extricate him entirely from the plethora of charges he faces which include in addition to treason an allegation of being complicit in the assassination of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The slain leader’s son has been quite open in hurling the allegation against Musharraf. The former strongman also stands accused of killing charismatic Tumandar (head) of the Bugti tribe, Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006.

A digression into the Bugti case will be in order. As the Wikipedia records, Bugti was involved in a struggle, at times armed, for greater autonomy for Balochistan. The government of Pakistan accused him of keeping a private militia and leading a guerrilla war against the state. On 26 August 2006, Bugti, along with some personnel of the Pakistan army, was killed when his hide-out cave, located in Kohlu, about 150 miles east of Quetta, collapsed after an explosion set off by a Pakistan Army commander.

The Chief of Army Staff at the time, General Pervez Musharraf, claimed that Akbar Bugti was backed into a corner by the Pakistani Army and decided to blow himself up, instead of facing court for the atrocities he had committed against rival tribes. Almost six years after the assassination, an Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) in Balochistan, issued arrest warrants for Musharraf and several other high-ranking officials who were accused of involvement in the killing of Akbar Bugti.

Musharraf always says that he is not a ‘coward’ and is ever ready to face any charges like a ‘brave’ man. But by refusing to show up even by June 14 as decreed by the apex court as a pre-condition to enter electoral fray, he has shown what a shallow and cowardly man he is.

One of his greatest acts of ‘bravery’ (as army chief) was to stab India in the back by invading Kargil heights (May and July 1999) just when his Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was smoking the peace pipe with his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee in Lahore. After weeks of bloodshed, the Kargil ‘adventure’ of Musharraf turned into ‘misadventure’ and loss of face for the country.

Lieutenant general Shahid Aziz, the then head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has confirmed that only regular Pakistan Army soldiers who took part in the Kargil War. “There were no Mujahideen, only taped wireless messages, which fooled no one. Our soldiers were made to occupy barren ridges, with hand held weapons and ammunition,” he wrote in the Lahore daily, The Nation, on January 6, 2013. His article appeared under the heading, “Putting our children in line of fire”. He was not alone to see Kargil as a Musharraf made tragedy. Many among the top military brass did. Some ‘brave’ act of Musharraf, indeed!

A fact widely known but less discussed in public is about his wealth - amassed through dubious means. He was not born with the proverbial silver spoon but he is a ‘billionaire’ today with cash stashed in many on-shore (Geneva, Dubai and London) and offshore banks. He is said to be worth about $3 billion.

For a short time during his 2013 exile, Musharraf, a poor speaker with a lisp, did collect lucrative payments from the lecture circuit where all he did was praise his dictatorship. Soon enough the lecture circuit found no use for him; his source of dollars had dried up -- but not his asset accumulation.

He is said to own extensive prime real estate in the UAE and the UK. In Islamabad he built a palace (some say it is a huge farm house) that can easily rival any rich Arab Sheikh in opulence. This is in addition to the houses he owns in Karachi, the city with a concentration of Muhajirs - refuges from India, like him.

Frankly, it will be premature to write off the ‘brave commando’ whose yoke of serious charges may yet be removed with the help of his former employer, the Army, should the current exercise to manipulate victory for a pro-military party like Imran Khan’s PTI succeed at July polls. The land of the pure is pregnant with such possibilities.

- Asian Tribune -

Brave Commando Chickens Out
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