January 2002 News

Behind the Bonhomie

28 January 2002
Times of India
K Subrahmanyam

NEW DELHI: GENERAL Musharrafs speech of January 12,2002 has been hailed all over the world, including by the Indian leadership and public as a progressive move towards rescuing Pakistan from the cults of terrorism and extremism and steering it towards becoming a moderate Islamic state. As is to be expected, some Indian commentators have expressed scepticism about General Musharraf playing the role of Kemal Ataturk. In their view, Pakistani society and polity are sicker than Turkey was in the early '20s and General Musharraf does not have the will, commitment, stature and charisma of Mustapha Kemal. Those who are trying to see a Kemal Ataturk in him may be doing so more to encourage him to go down that way than because of their conviction that General Musharraf has it in him to pull Pakistan out of its extremist and terrorist mess rooted in its irrational two- nation theory. Only the future will tell whether their optimism is justified. Obviously, the rational course at this stage is to encourage General Musharraf to believe he can do it and that the international community will support him in that effort. There is no disputing the fact that the speech of January 12 was delivered under coercion from the US and the UK just as his declaration of joining the post-September 11 alliance against terrorism was also extracted by posing explicit threats to Pakistan's sovereignty, economy and strategic assets. In the last four months, Pakistan has revealed itself to be a stereotype terrorist state and the war against terrorism cannot be brought to a conclusion unless that country is totally purged of terrorism. General Musharrafs speech is the strongest indictment of a country which started its slide into extremism and terrorism way back with the anti-Ahmediya legislation which treated even people who considered themselves Muslims as kafirs. Even the Taliban cannot match that record. General Musharraf disclosed that thousands of Pakistanis were misled into being massacred in Afghanistan by the extremists while fighting the Northern Alliance. This is only a half truth. In Afghanistan, there were servicemen and officers from the Pakistani army. In its latest issue, the New Yorker has come out with the disclosure that thousands of Pakistani armymen and officers were permitted to be airlifted out of Kunduz by the Americans while the fighting was going on. General Musharrafs abject plea was that if such large casualties were suffered by the Pakistani army, he would not be able to carry the armed forces with him in his support of the US war against terrorism. Therefore, extremists as well as the Pakistani army leadership were responsible for the large-scale Pakistani presence in Afghanistan and the thousands of casualties incurred by them. While the US may be keeping quiet at present, it cannot but suspect the sincerity of an ally it has in the war against terrorism which permitted its regular army to fight along with the terrorist Taliban and Al-Qaida. This ally also permitted its nuclear scientists to be in touch with Osama bin Laden and the US had to ban the terrorist organisation concerned. The linkage between Mohammed Atta, the leader of the hijackers on 9/11 and his monetary transactions via Pakistan have been established. Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber was in Pakistan before he moved to Holland. Anti-Kashmiri terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed had their training in bin Laden's Al-Qaida camps. When the US bombed Khost in 1998 targeting bin Laden, following the explosions in the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, scores of Pakistanis were killed. Yet General Musharraf expects the world to believe his statement that he has always been against terrorism. The US knows all this. Its silence in respect of Pakistan is deliberate and there is no doubt while all the above facts are public knowledge, the US media keeps completely silent on Pakistan. This can only be if mediapersons have been persuaded that such discussion would hurt US national interests. The New Yorker story also discusses the possibility that the Pakistani army might have brought over the Taliban's leading cadres into Pakistan and allowed them to disperse. Given this background, the probability of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and other leading Al-Qaida and Taliban leadership remnants now being in Pakistan is high. In these circumstances, it would appear that the US leadership finds it has enough goods on General Musharraf and his associates to coerce them carry out the programme prescribed for making Pakistan a moderate Islamic state. If he does not, all the carrier-based aircraft. Tomahawk missiles, Bl, B2 and B52 bombers are available to deal with Pakistan's military capability. Fortunately, for the Americans, all the Pakistani army equipment is out in the open on the Indo-Pak border, thanks to the Indian army's mobilisation. The Americans may be prepared to wait for a reasonable period of time but not indefinitely. It is note-worthy that General Musharrafs speech was not rewarded by any economic largesse from the US. Obviously, the US is also waiting to see whether he can translate his speech into action. It is reasonable to expect that General Musharraf should prove his credentials before he goes to Washington. The proof will be in terms of the capture and surrender of Taliban and Al-Qaida cadres spread over Pakistan, the steady elimination of pro-Taliban officers from the army and intelligence and effective neutralisation of terrorist forces. According to president Bush, the war will continue till the leadership of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are eliminated. It is obvious that the surviving elements of Al-Qaida and the Taliban are in Pakistan-The Americans do not forgive easily when they think they have been taken for a ride. If the general does not deliver, there is the distinct possibility of his having to face unfriendly US air power over his skies. After the Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939, both sides hailed their friendship as eternal. Even as Hitler was preparing to strike at the Soviet Union, the latter, ostrich- like, behaved as though nothing were amiss. Just an hour before Operation Barbarossa was to be launched, Soviet freight trains carrying wheat passed through the frontier. The present Pakistan-US relationship is as unnatural as the Nazi-Soviet one was. America's eerie silence on Pakistan reminds one of the days and weeks before the fateful Operation Barbarossa.

 

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