PAKISTAN UNDER MUSHARRAF
Government and Politics-October 12, 1999-October 12,2007
Part I AND II (1999-2005)
Part I AND II (1999-2005)
Between November 1988 and February 1997, the troika comprising the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff ruled the country, reflecting the reality of a power-equation that in practice was not very stable. Despite the system’s parliamentary façade, it was understood that the armed forces would have a decisive say in the matters of defense and foreign policy, including Pakistan’s, then, clandestine nuclear program and its agenda in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Intoxicated with what was referred to as a “heavy mandate”, given in the elections of February 1997, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif transgressed the limits imposed on his power by the informal system of troika.
His government introduced the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that, inter alia, did away with article 58 (2) (b) and thereby deprived the President of the power to dissolve the National Assembly, if in his opinion the government of the federation could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate had become necessary. Under the Thirteenth Amendment, the Prime Minister acquired once again the power to appoint the Services’ Chiefs.
Perhaps, without taking the General Head Quarters (GHQ), (the most important element of the TROIKA), into full confidence, Nawaz Sharif, intoxicated by his, ‘heavy’, mandate, proceeded, in haste, to improve relations with India, creating a big media hype on Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpee’s bus yatra to Lahore in early 1999. The Lahore Declaration made on the occasion was projected as a major breakthrough towards the normalization of relations with India, including progress on the Kashmir issue. It was a non-starter.
It appeared that in contrast to the policy of rapprochement with India, Pakistan, under Nawaz Sharif, went for the Kargil adventure during which the Mujahideens and some elements of Para-military forces of Pakistan, occupied a number of strategic mountain peaks and established heavily armed posts across the Line of Control (LoC), resulting in a mini India- Pakistan war in the region in May-June 1999.
As an all-out confrontation with India appeared imminent, Nawaz Sharif, rushed to the United States to seek President Bill Clinton’s intervention and agreed to withdraw Pakistani troops without any quid pro quo, without having any regard to the sacrifices given by the hundreds, if not thousands.
In the midst of the crisis the serious differences between the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff became publicly known with General Musharraf asserting, rightly so, that Nawaz Sharif was aware of the plan to cross the LoC.
After the Kargil war, the relations between Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf (read the Defense Establishment) were damaged beyond repair. Although Nawaz Sharif appointed General Musharraf as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), to dispel negative impression. Informed people knew that beneath the surface things were not normal.
Nawaz Sharif had earlier sent President Mohammad Farooq Leghari, Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and COAS General Jehangir Karamat home; and the Armed Forces rightly anticipated that he might attempt to remove General Pervez Musharaf any time.
Over-confident and now more reckless, Nawaz Sharif announced, in the late afternoon of 12 October 1999, the dismissal of General Musharraf as the COAS, precisely when the General was about to board or was already on board a PIA aircraft on his return journey from Colombo where he had represented Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif intended to appoint his hand picked and trusted man, Lt. General Zia ud Din, then incumbent chief of ISI, as the COAS. It is another matter that the incumbent, as DG ISI, failed, misread or deliberately misled Nawaz Shareef, into his last, suicidal and foolish act.
However, his “appointee” was not allowed to take charge by the Army Commanders, as per anticipatory decisions taken earlier by the Armed Forces of Pakistan in the then prevailing and predictable environment, at GHQ Rawalpindi.
Nawaz Sharif panicked and ordered the diversion of the PIA plane, carrying General Musharraf, to some neighboring country even if it was to be India and subsequently, as a last resort, to Nawab Shah.
The high drama continued for hours, for whole of the country and the world to watch. Besides, the Chief of the Army Staff, other officials, 200 odd passengers of a regular PIA flight from Colombo. All these precious lives were, knowingly put at peril of certain deaths. A situation was created where state institutions were put to work at cross purposes and a confrontation course.
This was the height of abuse and misuse of powers, the powers, those were supposed to be a sacred trust from the people of Pakistan.
The Corps Commander of Karachi acted very swiftly to take the situation under his control, and General Pervez Musharraf landed safely at the Jinnah Terminal, Karachi.
Within a few hours, it was announced on Radio and Television that the armed forces had seized power and General Musharraf was in command.
In the early hours of 13 October 1999, General Musharraf addressed the nation and referred to the turmoil and uncertainty through which the country had lately passed. He charged that all the institutions had been systematically destroyed and economy was in a state of collapse; self serving policies were being followed which had rocked the very foundation of the Federation of Pakistan. His address was widely welcomed and people of Pakistan heaved a sigh of relief from the most agonizing and frustrating moments in its short history.
He accused Nawaz Sharif’s government of trying to politicize the army, to destabilize it and to create dissensions within its ranks. He also stated that Nawaz Sharif ordered to divert his PIA flight to some destination outside Pakistan, despite shortage of fuel, which imperiled the life of all the passengers. He assured the nation:
“Your armed forces have never and shall never let you down. Insha-allah, we shall preserve the integrity and sovereignty of our country to the last drop of our blood. I request you all to remain calm and support your armed forces in the re-establishment of order to pave the way for a prosperous future for Pakistan.”
(For full text, see Pakistan Perspectives, Karachi: Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, July-December 1999, pp.147-149.)
As one of its first steps, the military government made the Proclamation of Emergency on 14 October 1999 and, apart from that of CJCSC and the COAS, General Pervez Musharraf assumed the office of the “Chief Executive” of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. On the same day, the Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 1999 was issued which, inter alia, provided:
2. (1) Notwithstanding the abeyance of the provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, referred to as the Constitution, Pakistan shall, subject to this Order and any other Orders made by the Chief Executive, be governed, as nearly as may be, in accordance with the Constitution.
3. (2) No judgment, decree, writ, order or process whatsoever shall be made or issued by any court or tribunal against the Chief Executive or any authority designated by the Chief Executive.
(For full text, see Pakistan Perspectives, July-December 1999, p. 149-150)
On 17 October 1999, General Musharraf addressed the nation and articulated his government’s aims and objectives, and future policy. He stated that the country had reached a stage where its economy had crumbled, its credibility was lost, state institutions lay demolished, provincial disharmony had caused cracks in the federation, and people who were once brothers were at each other’s throat.
He declared that he would not allow the people to be taken back to the era of “sham democracy” but to a true one. He promised that the Constitution had only been temporarily held in abeyance and that the armed forces had no intention to stay in charge any longer than was absolutely necessary to pave the way for true democracy to flourish in Pakistan.
General Musharraf was not extravagant in framing charges against the Nawaz Sharif government. Nawaz Sharif’s rule was stained by massive corruption, financial mismanagement and an insatiable lust for power and self-aggrandizement. He had converted the Parliament into rubber-stamp, browbeaten the press (Jang group of newspapers-a case in point) and had not even spared the Supreme Court whose sanctity was blatantly violated through physical assault.
As regards the aims and objectives of his government, General Musharraf identified a seven-point agenda:
1. Rebuild national confidence and morale.
2. Strengthen Federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion.
3. Revive economy and restore investor confidence.
4. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice.
5. Depoliticize state institutions.
6. Devolution of power to the grass-roots level.
7. Ensure swift and across the board accountability.
“Good governance is the pre-requisite to achieve these objectives. In the past, our governments have ruled the people. It is time now for the governments to serve the people,” proudly declared the General.
With regard to his government’s structure, General Musharraf announced that President Rafique Tarar had very kindly agreed to stay. There would be a National Security Council headed by the Chief Executive and including Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, a specialist each in legal, finance, foreign policy and national affairs. A Cabinet of Ministers would work under the guidance of the National Security Council (NSC).
In provinces, there would be a Governor, functioning through a small provincial cabinet. “All these appointments shall be made purely on the basis of professional competence, merit and repute,” General Musharraf assured the nation.
Emphasizing the need to strengthen the federation, General Musharraf announced that this was to be achieved through “devolution of power, from the centre to the province and from the provincial to the local government as actually enshrined in the Constitution.”
As a part of good governance, General Musharraf undertook to initiate a process of accountability. Without naming anyone (perhaps he had General Zia-ul Haq and Nawaz Sharif in his mind), he said that the term “ehtesab” had been abused to an extent that it had lost its meaning and there was a need to re-establish faith in the process of accountability.
He added: “The process of accountability is being directed especially towards those guilty of plundering and looting the national wealth and tax evaders. It is also directed towards loan defaulters and those who have had their loans re-scheduled or condoned. The process of accountability will be transparent for the public to see.” He advised the “guilty” to return voluntarily national wealth and bank loans, and pay their debts within a month, after which the law was to take its due course.
Referring to the menace of religious intolerance, General Musharraf stated that Islam taught “tolerance not hatred, universal brotherhood and not enmity, peace and not violence, progress and not bigotry.” He urged upon the ulema to curb elements that were exploiting religion for vested interests and bringing bad name to Islam. He reassured the minorities that they would enjoy full rights and protection as equal citizens of Pakistan in letter and spirit of true Islam. (For full text, see Pakistan Perspectives, July-December 1999, pp.150-155)
The objectives of his government having thus been set, General Musharraf needed to translate them into reality. Simultaneously, he was required to face the political forces in the arena and to get legitimacy for having committed constitutional deviation, if not outright subversion of the Constitution.
In November 1999, two important institutions were set up. One was the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), to deal with the cases of corruption, and another was National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), to formulate policy / strategy options for national reconstruction, including establishment of “genuine democracy”, for approval by NSC.
By mid-November, it became apparent that banks and financial institutions had failed to make any appreciable recovery out of the total estimated amount of Rs. 356 billion payable by defaulters as on 12 October 1999. (This figure was cited by the Supreme Court in the Zafar Ali Shah case from a report of the Governor, State Bank of Pakistan.)
The people pinned their expectations on the NAB as an instrument to curb corrupt practices and recover ill-gotten wealth, but they were soon to be disappointed as the NAB, after its initial zeal and robustness that led to some admirable performances, fell prey to political expediency and was ultimately used for coercing the politicians to change their loyalties.
The performance of the NRB was better in the sense that it did come up with a devolution plan that introduced some fundamental changes in the structure of government at district level.
As far as political forces were concerned, Benazir Bhutto, Chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), who was in exile to avoid imprisonment and further prosecution on corruption charges framed by the Nawaz Sharif government, welcomed the military takeover, perhaps in the hope that the Musharraf government would seek the PPP’s support in filling the political vacuum and would in due course hold fair and transparent elections.
Although in the prevalent scenario, the PPP appeared to be the natural ally of General Musharraf, no understanding could be reached between the two; in the first place, because Benazir Bhutto was not prepared to accept any permanent role for the armed forces in national politics and, secondly, because General Musharraf himself did not want to carry any past baggage when the people, who were fed up with eleven years of political bickering, instability and rampant corruption, had shown considerable warmth for the army takeover.
On 10 November 1999, a case was registered against Nawaz Sharif on the charges of criminal conspiracy to hijack the PIA aircraft in which General Musharraf was returning from Colombo. Two days later, his political associates, Ghous Ali Shah, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rana Maqbool and Ameenullah Chaudhry were arrested in the same case.
On 6 April 2000, Judge Rehmat Hussain Jafri of Anti-terrorism Court in Karachi sentenced Nawaz Sharif to life imprisonment, fined him Rs. 3 million and ordered confiscation of his property. Although the Court convicted the former Prime Minister for hijacking and terrorism, he was acquitted of the charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. In July the same year, Nawaz Sharif was also convicted on the charges of corruption.
With Nawaz Sharif behind the bars for an indefinite period, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz rose to the occasion to lead the agitation by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) for the release of her husband; whereas several pragmatic stalwarts of PML (N) left the party in search of greener pastures. They were ultimately to form the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) at the agencies’ bidding.
Despite the bar imposed by the PCO, the legitimacy of the military takeover came into question when, on 6 December 1999 and its immediate aftermath, the Supreme Court admitted several petitions under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution challenging the action of 12 October 1999.
The Musharraf government responded by issuing Oath of Office (Judges) Order No. 1 of 2000 with precise provisions that a judge, to whom oath was to be administered, should abide by the provisions of Proclamation of Emergency of 14 October 1999 and Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 1999. Several Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, including the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saiduzzaman Siddique, refused to take fresh oath under this Order.
After regular hearings of the constitutional petitions, the Supreme Court delivered its Short Order (Judgment) on 12 May 2000, in which it observed:
“Notwithstanding anything contained in the Proclamation of Emergency of the Fourteenth day of October, 1999, the Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of 1999 . . . . and the Oath of Office (Judges) Order No.1 of 2000, all of which purportedly restrained this Court from calling in question or permitting to call in question the validity of any of the provisions thereof, this Court, in the exercise of its inherent powers of judicial review, has the right to examine the validity of the aforesaid instruments.”
However, the apex Court took notice of corruption, mis-management and institutional failures under the Nawaz Sharif government, and delivered the judgment in favor of General Musharraf.
The Supreme Court, inter alia, stated:
“ With the repeal of Article 58 (2) (b) of the Constitution, there was no remedy provided in the Constitution to meet the situation like the present one with which the country was confronted, therefore, constitutional deviation made by the Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharaf, for the welfare of the people rather than abrogating the Constitution or imposing Martial Law by means of an extra-constitutional measure is validated for a transitional period on ground of State necessity and on the principle that it is in public interest to accord legal recognition to the present regime with a view to achieving his declared objectives and that it is in the interest of the community that order be preserved.”
Although the Supreme Court accorded legitimacy to the army takeover, some of the very significant points of the judgment were:
4. That the 1973 Constitution still remains the supreme law of the land subject to the condition that certain parts thereof have been held in abeyance on account of State necessity.
6 (ii). Those constitutional amendments by the Chief Executive can be resorted to only if the Constitution fails to provide a solution for attainment of his declared objectives. . . .
- (iii). That no amendment shall be made in the salient features of the Constitution i.e., independence of judiciary, federalism, and parliamentary form of government blended with Islamic provisions.
- (vi). That the Superior Courts continue to have the power of judicial review to judge the validity of any act or action of the Armed Forces . . . .
10. That the government shall accelerate the process of accountability in a coherent and transparent manner justly, fairly, equitably and in accordance with law.
17. That having regard to all the relevant factors involved in the case . . . . three years period is allowed to the Chief Executive with effect from the date of the Army takeover i.e., 12th October, 1999 for achieving his declared objectives.
18. That the Chief Executive shall appoint a date, not later than 90-days before the expiry of the aforesaid period of three years, for holding of a general elections to the National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies and the Senate of Pakistan.
(For full text, see Pakistan Perspectives, January-June 2000, pp. 139- 148)
Even before the Supreme Court announced this judgment, in what came to be known as the Zafar Ali Shah Case, General Musharraf had unveiled the outline of his proposed plan on devolution of power and responsibility.
Addressing the nation on 23 March 2000, he declared:
a) Our existing administrative system is based on a colonial structure of control / rule rather than serve, with no community participation in development.
b) In the present political structure there is a political void below the provincial level. This is exploited by our so-called representatives, who control the destiny of the people through vested personal / family interests.
We want to change this. We want to empower the people at the grass-roots level and also bring an end to centralist tendencies threatening provincial autonomy.
The political structure, we plan, involves a trilateral distribution of responsibilities between the centre, the provinces and the district representing the basic (lowest) rung of democracy.
(For full text, see Pakistan Perspectives, January-June, 2000, pp. 134-139)
In the same address, General Musharraf announced that the elections for local bodies would be held in two stages and all governments / council’s upto district level would be in place by 14 August 2001. He sought a debate on national media before the proposed devolution plan could be given the final shape.
By opting to rely on local bodies as a source of support for his government, General Musharraf was repeating the scripts of former military rulers of Pakistan, General Mohammad Ayub Khan and General Mohammmad Zia-ul Haq, both of whom had constructed local government systems with the intention to develop a support base by creating a fresh crop of leaders with vested interests.
To further weaken the rival political forces, General Musharraf issued a decree on 9 August 2000 that amended the Political Parties Act, disqualifying those convicted of “criminal offences, moral turpitude or offences under the Anti-Terrorist Act” from holding party offices.
Obviously, the targets of this legislation were Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif who, at one time or other, had been convicted by special courts.
The PPP and the PML (N), purely motivated by the “survival instinct” responded in November 2000 by forging a grand anti-Musharraf alliance that included some fifteen other smaller parties and was subsequently to emerge as Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD).
Before the new alliance could make any impact on the scenario, in one of the most bizarre incidents of Pakistani politics, on 9 December 2000, General Musharraf granted a presidential pardon to Nawaz Sharif and his brother, former Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who, along with most of their family members, left for a ten-year exile to Saudi Arabia in the middle of the night under a secret deal brokered by the Saudi authorities.
With Benazir Bhutto already in self-exile since April 1998, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, behind the bars since November 1996, the political scenario was favorable for General Musharraf to move ahead with his agenda.
On 20 June 2001, ahead of Agra Summit with the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpee, President Tarar was obliged to step down and General Musharraf became the President of Pakistan.
In the meantime, the Local Government Plan (LGP) had been finalized. It proposed a three-tiered system of elected councils at union, tehsil / town and district levels.
The administrative and financial powers of the divisions were to be transferred to the District Governments under their respective Nazim and Naib Nazim to be elected by the members of the directly elected Union Councils.
The District Nazim was to exercise formal authority over civilian bureaucracy, including the District Coordination Officer (DCO). The LGP also called for providing sufficient funds to local governments so that they could carry out their functions independently and properly.
The elections for the different tiers of the local government were held throughout the country, in stages, from December 2000 to July 2001. They, presumably, were held on “non-party” basis. However, the government ignored the fact that the political parties, including the PPP and the PML (N), had sponsored their respective groups.
By 14 August 2001 the local governments were in place as per schedule. Although the devolution plan was supposedly meant to empower people at grassroots level, this pious claim remained largely unfulfilled, particularly in rural areas where the system further strengthened the landlords.
Without bringing about fundamental changes in rural power-structure based on feudal model and values, the system was destined to be hampered in delivering real benefits to the toiling masses.
The system was relatively more successful in urban areas where local bodies launched many development projects. Perhaps the real beneficiary was Karachi where the city government enjoyed considerable independence from the provincial authority in managing its affairs.
Since the assumption of office, General Musharraf had projected himself as a liberal in social matters and had made no secret of his admiration for Mustafa Kemal, the secularist founder of modern Turkey.
He had time and again expressed his concern about burgeoning sectarianism, religious orthodoxy and attitude of intolerance towards the minorities in the country. In fact, as early as April 2000, General Musharraf had announced to introduce procedural changes in the controversial blasphemy laws to protect the minorities from its misapplication. He had also intended to amend the hudood laws that were seen by many as discriminatory towards women.
But he had failed to introduce contemplated changes in the aforementioned laws due to strong opposition from the religious parties. In August 2001 General Musharraf announced a ban on sectarian outfits, Lashkar-i-Jangvi and Sipah-i-Mohammad. However, the banned out-fits soon reemerged under other names.
After the cataclysmic events of 9/11, General Musharraf made Pakistan an ally of international coalition against “terrorism” and became exponent of “enlightened moderation”. After the protests and emotional outburst against his ditching of the Taliban subsided, he found himself more firmly entrenched in power. By becoming the darling of the United States in its “war on terrorism”, General Musharraf could now think of playing a long innings like General Zia-ul Haq.
As the deadline to hold elections under the Supreme Court judgment was drawing nearer, General Musharraf decided to tread the path of General Zia-ul Haq. In his address of 5 April 2002, he recounted his government’s progress on various points of his initial agenda, namely:
i) Rebuild national confidence and morale: “We can now see a sense of confidence among Pakistanis both at home and abroad.”
ii) Strengthen federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion: “. . . our even-handed policy toward the four provinces will further enhance inter-provincial harmony.”
iii) Revive economy and restore investor confidence: “We have indeed revived the economy and taken it out from a failed state situation.”
iv) Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice: “We have undertaken far-reaching reforms.”
v) Depoliticize state institutions: “. . . nothing is being done on personal whims.”
vi) Devolution of power to the grass-roots level: “. . . the local government has been functioning since last August.”
vii) Ensuring swift and across the board accountability: “. . . no government in the past or even in the future will be able to match our performance.”
General Musharraf stated that the focus of his development strategy had been on four issues:
i) Economic revival
ii) Bringing good governance
iii) Poverty alleviation
iv) Political restructuring
He highlighted the performance of his government by emphasizing that it had brought down fiscal deficit from 7 percent to 5.2 percent, the exchange reserves had increased from $ 500 million to $ 5.3 billion and foreign debt had slightly decreased from $ 38 billion. He claimed that all this could not be attributed to 9/11 because the foreign exchange reserves had crossed the $ 3 billion mark by July 2001.
After speaking at length on development strategy and performance of his government, General Musharraf came to the issue of his continuation in office:
i) What is my personal role? Am I required for Pakistan? Is there any role for me?
ii) What should be the environment of the assembly and the cabinet in post-October period? . . . I am saying that if I have a role in the post-October Pakistan then I should have the right kind of interaction with the prime minister, the cabinet and the National Assembly otherwise democracy will stand where it was.
Read again: “. . . the right kind of interaction with the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the National Assembly. . . .” His answer to the questions he himself posed was that a referendum would be held in the country because he needed to be sure that the entire nation wanted the continuity of the reforms and the restructuring that he had introduced.
(Pakistan Perspectives, January-June, 2002, pp. 220-237.)
On 9 April 2002, General Musharraf as the Chief Executive and President issued Chief Executive’s Order No. 12 of 2002 for holding of a referendum on 30 April 2002. The order invited the people to reply in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following question:
“Do you wish to make President General Musharraf president of Pakistan for the next five years __ for the survival of the system of local government, for the continuity and consolidation of reforms, for an end to sectarianism and extremism, and for the realization of the Quaid-i-Azam’s vision?”
Section 4 of the Order stated:
“4(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution or any law for the time being in force, if the majority of the votes cast in the referendum are in the affirmative, the people of Pakistan shall be deemed to have given the democratic mandate to General Pervez Musharraf to serve the nation as President of Pakistan for a period of five years. .”
This Order was immediately challenged in the Supreme Court under article 184 (3) on the constitutional plane as well as on the touchstone of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Syed Zafar Ali Shah case. On 27 April 2002, the Supreme Court gave a short order validating the holding of the referendum. Significantly the Supreme Court’s Order stated:
13. As regards the grounds of challenge to the consequences flowing from the holding of referendum under the Referendum Order, apparently these questions are purely academic, hypothetical and presumptive in nature and are not capable of being determined at this juncture. Accordingly, we would not like to go into these questions at this stage and leave the same to be determined at a proper forum at the appropriate time.
(Pakistan Perspectives, January-June, 2002, pp. 237-249.)
According to official figures 42.8 million out of 43.9 million voters cast their votes in “yes” and this made up a good 97.7 percent. In fact the turnout of the voters was very low and, since the whole exercise was essentially in conflict with the Supreme Court judgment in the Zafar Ali Shah case, it did not go well with the liberal intelligentsia in the country. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Report on the referendum observed:
“Observers monitoring the referendum for HRCP reported overall turn-out to be very low, and well below the official figures put forward. This was particularly true of women, who remained almost entirely absent from polling stations in all four provinces. It was also noted that the polling that did take place largely came either as a result of balloting by ‘captive’ voters’ i.e., government employees, factory workers, and prisoners and so on or through the efforts of district administrations. Indeed, the large-scale misuse of official machinery to bolster balloting was noted almost everywhere with vehicles seized for this purpose being controlled by nazims and councilors. The councilors themselves remained under immense pressure to bring in votes to polling stations. The impounding of public transport vehicles to convey voters to polls also presented huge inconveniences to ordinary people.
“The lack of measures to prevent multiple voting meant that this continued on a significant scale. Reports of ballot boxes being stuffed also came in from every province.”
As far as results were concerned, only the extraordinary high percentage of “yes” votes seemed unrealistic, otherwise, after the people watched the destruction of Afghanistan on the T.V. channels and learned about the treatment meted out to Pakistani volunteers in Afghanistan, victory for General Musharraf was a foregone conclusion. Later General Musharraf had to concede that the exercise of referendum suffered from certain flaws.
The next logical step was to tailor a system that would have ensured that General Musharraf, or in other words the armed forces, remained at the helm of affairs even after the promised General Elections were held on 10 October 2002.
For this purpose, on 21 August 2002 General Musharraf issued the Legal Framework Order (LFO), 2002, with a view to drastically amend the Constitution of 1973 as its various provisions were to be revived.
The most significant amendments under the LFO included the restoration of Article 58 (2) (b), which was about the powers of the President to dissolve the National Assembly, and insertion of a new Article 152 (a) that provided for creation of a National Security Council “to serve as a forum for consultation on strategic matters pertaining to the sovereignty, integrity and security of the State; and the matters relating to democracy, governance and inter-provincial harmony.”
The President was to be the Chairman of the National Security Council and its other members were to be the Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Senate, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, the Chief Ministers of the Provinces, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and the Chief of Staffs of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force.
The LFO also contained provisions concerning the validation of laws framed and Orders issued since 12 October 1999, legitimizing the referendum of 30 April 2002, under which General Musharraf was to serve as President for next five years, and the newly determined strength and composition of the National Assembly, the Senate and the Provincial Assemblies.
With this the various government departments and agencies geared up to achieve results that would have served the interests of the military government. General Musharraf decided to patronize the PML (Q), led by Chaudhry Shujaat, and comprising defectors from PML (N) and other political parties, traditional collaborators of the armed forces, time-servers and weathercocks.
Due to unabashed government support, the party became notorious as the ‘King’s Party’. The real stakeholders ___ the Pakistan People’s Party, which participated as the PPP Parliamentarian, and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) ___ were put at a disadvantage by the disqualification of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from taking part in the electoral process.
Six religious parties grouped themselves into the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and in the wake of the sympathy wave created by the US invasion of Afghanistan, emerged as an important force in the political arena.
According to LFO, there were to be 272 directly elected members in the National Assembly with further 60 seats reserved for women and 10 seats for minorities. As a result of pre-poll manipulations and necessary engineering on the polls day, the PML (Q) secured 76 (+1) seats with 25.7 percent of total votes, the PPPP 62 (+1) seats with 25.8 percent of total votes and the MMA 45 (+6) seats with 11.3 percent of total votes. The PML (N) captured only 14, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) 13 and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 13 seats.
The rest of the seats for which polling was held went to minor parties/groups and the independents. This was followed by indirect elections for the seats of women and minorities. In due course, the Senate was also elected.
In order to facilitate the formation of a coalition government led by the PML (Q), General Musharraf amended the Political Parties Act for a short period to allow defections of elected members from other political parties. Ultimately, on 21 November 2002, the PML (Q)’s Zafarullah Khan Jamali was elected as the Prime Minister mainly with the support of the NDA, the MQM, the PPPP turncoats, who became the PPP Patriots, the PPP (Sherpao) and the independents. Jamali received 172 votes in the National Assembly. The Opposition could not field a united candidate.
The MMA’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman received 86 and the PPP Parliamentarian’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi 70 votes.
Although the military’s relations with the religious parties had come under considerable strains, the establishment’s anti-PPP and anti-PML (N) policies had facilitated the MMA in securing substantial presence in the National Assembly, the Senate and the Balochistan Assembly, and a majority in the NWFP Assembly.
Instead of going along with the ARD i.e., the PPP Parliamentarian, the PML (N) and other Opposition groups, the MMA formed its government in the NWFP and became a coalition partner with the PML (Q) in Balochistan.
From the very first session, the Opposition raised the issue of the LFO and refused to accept it as a part of the Constitution. The Opposition demanded the restoration of the Constitution of 1973 without any substantial amendments on the part of the military government.
However, it was in catch 22 because the General Elections had been held according to provisions of the LFO. The Opposition primarily directed its protest against the restoration of the Article 58 (2) (b) and the formation of National Security Council.
The protests against the LFO, made it impossible for the National Assembly to function in a normal fashion. Besides, without the approval of the Parliament, the constitutional amendments, including those related to the validity of laws framed by the military government and the referendum of April 2002 lacked legitimacy. But it took a year before the PML (Q) and the MMA arrived at a compromise formula.
On 24 December 2003, the ruling PML (Q) and the MMA signed an agreement on the constitutional amendment package. Reportedly under the deal the PML (Q), inter alia, agreed that the National Security Council would be set up under an act of the Parliament rather than as a constitutional body; the President’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly under Article 58 (2) (b) would be referred to the Supreme Court within 15 days; the President would seek vote of confidence from the electoral college; the President would consult the Prime Minister on the appointment of armed forces chiefs, although he would not be bound by the advice of the Prime Minister; and the President would give up his uniform by 31 December 2004.
It was clarified that the amendment giving President continuity in office for the ongoing term would be supported but the members of the MMA would not be bound to cast vote of confidence for the President in the Senate, the National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies. Simultaneously, the MMA members would not cast votes against the President nor would they oppose the confidence motion through any activity, and they would remain present in the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies at the time of confidence motion for the President. (Dawn, 25 December, 2003)
Accordingly, General Musharraf, addressed the nation in which he pledged to give up his uniform by 31 December 2004. As per agreement, the MMA voted with the ruling coalition for the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was based on the LFO as modified under the PML (Q) -MMA agreement, and General Musharraf secured vote of confidence from the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies.
The MMA claimed that it had provided an exit to the military by extracting a public commitment from General Musharraf to give up his uniform by 31 December 2004 and by reducing the National Security Council to a non-constitutional body.
Apparently everything was working according to the script. But in fact the pitfalls of the system were becoming visible to the discerning eyes from the very beginning. The selection of Zafarullah Khan Jamali as the Prime Minister demonstrated what was in the stock for the people. From the outset, he failed to display any initiative or infuse life into the system.
Compliant to the point of absurdity, he acted merely at the bidding of General Musharraf showing absolutely no spine.
After nearly one and half year, General Musharraf realized that he needed to impart some cosmetic changes if the dispensation was to survive and give hope to the people. In the midst of a whispering campaign about the failure of the system, he also wanted to prove that he was firmly in the saddles and was calling the shots.
Zafarullah Khan Jamali was made to resign on 26 June 2004 without use of Article 58 (2) (b). The amusing farce of Chaudhry Shujaat’s acting as the stopover Prime Minister paved the way for Shaukat Aziz to take over the assignment on 27 August 2004.
Impression was created that Pakistan required a technocrat, and Aziz with his expertise had a magical wand to improve the lot of the people. Whatever be the performance of the economy at macro level, the harsh reality had remained that no real benefits were trickling down to the common man.
As 31 December 2004 drew nearer, some Ministers and members of the Parliament started airing the views that General Musharraf was indispensable and that his remaining in the uniform was in national interest. General Musharraf was fully aware that not the presidency but the office of the COAS was the source of his strength.
He also started giving indications that he might have to remain in uniform to ensure the continuation of his policies. On 14 October 2004, the National Assembly, taking advantage of a technical flaw or loophole in the Seventeenth Amendment, passed a law,( President to Hold Another Office Act, 2004 Act No. VII of 2004 November 30, 2004 ), to enable General Musharraf to retain his dual role as President and Chief of Army Staff in order to maintain the “ integrity and stability of the state” and to “combat terrorism and subversion.”
The MMA found itself in a difficult position. To save its credibility, it started holding public meetings to press General Musharraf to shed his uniform and threatened to launch an agitational movement from 1 January 2005, if General Musharraf failed to keep his pledge.
General Musharraf had, perhaps, made up his mind quite earlier to remain in uniform and, in order to preempt MMA-ARD collaboration; he had entered into negotiations with the PPP on future political set-up. The release of Asif Ali Zardari on bail and his subsequent statements created impression that considerable progress towards a deal with the PPP had been made and 2005 would be the election year.
On 30 December 2004, General Musharraf formally announced that he intended to retain his office of the Chief of Army Staff till the end of his presidential term in 2007. The MMA’s so-called agitation against General Musharraf’s remaining in uniform fizzled out after a few demonstrations and public meetings. In fact, the MMA understood that if General Musharraf really forged an understanding with the PPP and fresh elections were held, it was almost certain to lose substantial electoral support and would not be able to form government in the NWFP or have the same weight in the future National Assembly.
General Musharraf thus survived the critical phase without much ado because neither the MMA nor the ARD posed any serious threat to the system. The anticipated Musharraf-Benazir understanding did not materialize.
Well into 2005, the next important landmark was the local body’s elections that were held on “non-party basis” at Union Council level in August amidst allegations of large scale rigging. With Arbab Ghulam Rahim at the helm of affairs in Sindh and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in Punjab, the PML (Q) for all practical purposes routed the PPP and PML (N) backed candidates in the Punjab and rural Sindh. Karachi and greater part of Hyderabad went to the MQM.
In the NWFP and Balochistan also, the PML (Q) made a dent in the popularity of the religious groups with the ANP and Nationalists taking small shares.
The elections of the District Nazims on 6 October were reflective of the trend and strengthened the PML (Q) at the cost of the Opposition.
With this overview of constitutional and political developments since 12 October 1999, let us know have a look at overall scenario:
1. The present National Assembly, the Senate and the Provincial Assemblies are not fully representative of the people. Pre-poll manipulations and selective rigging during the electoral process have compromised their legitimacy from the day one. The way some Opposition members were forced or persuaded to defect from their parties to cobble the ruling coalition had further impaired the credibility of democratic institutions.
2. The manner in which President Musharraf played his role to get Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat and Shaukat Aziz “elected” as the Prime Minister within a span of two years speaks volumes about the “independent character” of the National Assembly.
3. Elected from a borrowed constituency in a dubious manner and without a proper base in the party, Shaukat Aziz is a lame Prime Minister with the largest cabinet in the history of Pakistan to sustain him in the Office.
4. General Musharraf himself is in office through constitutional engineering that validated the controversial referendum of April 2002. No doubt under the then prevalent circumstances he was likely to secure a majority of votes in the referendum, but referendum itself and taking vote of confidence from the Assemblies were no proper substitute for the procedure provided in the Constitution of 1973.
5. By relenting from the pledge given to the nation that he would give up his uniform by 31 December 2004, General Musharraf has greatly damaged his public image.
6. The results of recently held local body’s elections are incomprehensible and lack transparency. The Opposition has accused the government of having rigged the electoral process. The unrealistically outstanding performance of the PML (Q) in the strongholds of the PPP (Larkhana) and PML (N) (Lahore) gives credence to the allegations of large-scale electoral irregularities.
7. Bypassing the Cabinet, all vital decisions are made in the meetings of the Corps Commanders under the Chairmanship of General Musarraf, and communicated to the civilian set-up for follow-up action. The Constitution is being violated in spirit if not in letters.
It would be proper here to examine successes and failures of General Musharraf in the light of his seven-point agenda:
1. Rebuild national confidence and morale: From ‘failed state’ and ‘rogue state’ whose future seemed dark, Pakistan is now considered as a viable state. The people’s confidence in its future has been restored to a great extent. One impression needs to be dispelled that the government is doing everything at the US bidding.
2. Strengthen federation, remove inter provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion: This objective has not been achieved. The Baloch nationalists have serious grievances. The Sindhi nationalists are not prepared to accept the Kalabagh Dam project. There is no understanding in National Finance Commission over distribution of financial resources.
3. Revive economy and restore investor confidence: From the verge of collapse, the economy has taken a start for good. In the financial year 2004-2005, GDP growth was recorded at 8.4%. Due to 9/11, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have crossed the figure of $ 12 billion. Increase in foreign investment is moderate, obviously due to law and order situation. The people cannot wait for benefits to trickle down. There is need to focus on poverty alleviation and distributive justice.
4. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice: There is hardly any success on this count. The slide downward has been checked. Thefts, robberies, violence against women, rapes, kidnappings, sectarian killings, and intolerance towards minorities continue to occur.
5. Depoliticize state institutions: In Pakistan’s political culture, this is a gigantic task. Interference with civil service and police is need of the ruling coalition. With COAS in power, the armed forces remain involved in politics as a state institution.
6. Devolution of power to the grass-roots level: Over all success on this count. The District Management Group of the civil service has been undermined. But with present socio-economic structure ___ feudal, beradari and caste system___ mostly the same political families have captured the local bodies in rural areas. Without paradigm shift in socio-economic structure, empowerment of people at grass-roots level would remain an evasive task.
7. Ensure swift and across the board accountability: According to an Advertisement Supplement published by NAB in Dawn and other newspapers on 10 October 2002 (the General Elections day), “the NAB’s actions have resulted in convictions of hitherto sacrosanct persons in all fields of public life. . . . To date 532 bureaucrats, 180 politicians, 149 businessmen and 18 armed forces personnel have been investigated.” The advertisement claimed that of those who were investigated, 499 were referred to Accountability Court for trial and 170 plea-bargained, and that the NAB recovered a total of Rs.20.9578 billion till then.
8. Without disputing the figures, one cannot but observe that for political reasons many big fishes were allowed to go when they changed over their loyalties to General Musharraf.
It is not possible to peep into somebody’s mind but it appears that presently General Musharraf is giving thought to the following options:
1. To strengthen the PML (Q) for the elections of 2007. This he can do by bringing about a ‘grand alliance’ or outright merger of the NDA, the PML (F), the PPP (Sherpao) and the PPP (Patriots) with the PML (Q). Defections can also be encouraged in the PPP and the PML (N).
2. With the majority of District Nazims at government’s disposal, it would not be difficult for the “establishment” to ensure through its hidden arms the victory of the PML (Q) led alliance.
3. Until then the present system may drag on with the tacit support of the MMA in the Parliament. The District Nazims may serve as pillars of strength at local level with their stakes in the system.
4. To resort to engineering of the Constitution and establish presidential form of government. The Constitution cannot be amended without two-third majority which the PML (Q) led coalition does not have in the present Parliament.
5. But the country’s past history is witness to extra-constitutional measures that were condoned by the Superior Judiciary on the principle of state necessity and subsequently validated by the newly elected Parliament.
6. To hold free, fair and transparent elections at the earliest. If this option is adopted the PPP is likely to secure a simple majority or to emerge as the largest party in the National Assembly. Short of two-third majority, the PPP would not be able to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment and General Musharraf can continue as President with all the powers granted by the Constitution till the end of his term, although he may have to give up his uniform if the law concerning dual office is changed.
7. The experience of 1988 has shown that the PPP would be prepared to have a deal with the armed forces on the future President (who may be Musharraf) provided the terms are reasonable.
It is this third option that is in the interest of Pakistan. Why?
Pakistan is confronted with a plethora of internal and external issues / problems on which national consensus are required.
There is no understanding/consensus between provinces on the National Finance Commission Award.
A mini insurgency is going on in Balochistan, with foreign involvement that has potentials to threaten territorial integrity of the country. The oposition to Kalabagh Dam in Sindh is strong.
The specter of sectarian violence is not dead; despite positive indicators at macroeconomic level, unemployment is rampant; with increasing oil prices inflationary pressure is likely to aggravate; the composite dialogue with India does not show progress on the “core” issue of Kashmir; Wana is simmering; the United States’ “war on terror” is still in progress; and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has targeted Iran that may ultimately provide justification for international sanctions or unilateral US military action.
With regard to transfer of power at this juncture, the armed forces may have legitimate worries that the civilian set up might make a mess of the things. They may have concerns about the real motives of some political groups and their foreign linkages. Still one finds it difficult to comprehend how Pakistan can face these challenges in the absence of a participatory and democratic dispensation.
The need of the hour is to forge understanding between patriotic political parties and the armed forces on the rules of governance.
Pakistan’s image as a moderate Muslim country depends on the establishment of a representative government that reflects the supremacy of popular will and that is formed as a result of free, fair and transparent elections.
On the whole General Musharraf has managed the affairs of Pakistan better than the preceding government. Even when he played foul (referendum, poll rigging, uniform, NAB’s compromise, etc.), it was because he thought that in the interest of the country.
He may be remembered in history positively for some critically important decisions. But the time has come for him to yield to present dynamics of politics and, instead of considering himself indispensable, let the small plant of democracy, the seed of which he has sown, grow out of its own momentum. If he fails to rise to the occasion, history will place him along side other military rulers of Pakistan who were overcome by events and left unceremoniously.
At the time of assumption of power by General Musharraf i.e., 12 October 1999, the focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy was on two important areas:
To understand where Pakistan stood on issued related to Afghanistan and Kashmir, a brief introduction to the past developments is needed:
Although the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan by February 1989 under the Geneva Accords, a Communist government led by President Najib-ullah remained in power in Kabul and the “jihad” continued. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Communist regime in Afghanistan came under tremendous pressure from the mujahideen groups assisted by Pakistan and fell in April the next year.
During the struggle against the Soviet Union, the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) of Pakistan had treated the Hizb-i-Islami of Gulbadin Hekmatyar with some extra favor and had developed close understanding with it. Now Pakistan’s immediate objective was to have a broad-based government in Afghanistan with a decisive Pashtun presence. The scenario, however, was not favourable for Pakistan to achieve its objective. Jamiat-i-Islami of Ahmad Shah Masud and Burhanuddin Rabbani, and its allies were in a very strong position in Kabul. Pakistan brokered a deal between different Afghan groups on formation of an interim government based on a power-sharing formula. In this regard, the Peshawar Accords concluded in April 1992 provided that first Sibghatullah Mojeddadi and then Burhanuddin Rabbani would serve as interim Presidents of Afghanistan.
The power-sharing formula did not work as envisaged and the conflict between Rabbani and his arch-rival Hekmatyar continued unabated. The situation became particularly ugly during the last months of 1993 after Rabbani refused to step down at the end of his tenure.
Rabbani-Masud duo was angry with Pakistan for its meddling into the Afghanistan affairs and its tilt towards Hizb-i-Islami and other Pashtun groups. Pakistan could not have remained unconcerned after it became evident that Rabbani and Masud were moving closer to India, Russia and Iran to counter Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan’s Pashtun population.
Pakistan wanted a united, peaceful and friendly Afghanistan that would have enabled it to make openings to Central Asia and given it a “strategic depth”. But Afghanistan plunged into a civil war with different mujahideen groups and warlords controlling their respective areas. The common people were disgusted to see that the former allies in the war against the Soviet occupational forces were now at each other’s throat.
They yearned for peace, security and political stability that had remained elusive even after the Soviet withdrawal. The Pashtuns as the largest ethnic group did not like the domination of Tajiks in Kabul under Rabbani and Masud. It was in this atmosphere of conflict and despair that the Taliban (students) emerged as a ray of hope and caught the imagination of the people in predominantly Pashtun south.
The Taliban movement was a product of the madrassah network maintained by the ulema (Islamic scholars) in the Afghan refugee camps and Pashtun areas of Balochistan and the N.W.F.P. in Pakistan. These religious seminaries belonged to Deobandi sect that had inherited a tradition of anti-imperialism and militancy from the days of the British Raj in India.
They received financial assistance from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and a number of non-governmental organizations and individuals based in Pakistan and the Middle East.
These sources of assistance, particularly Saudi, had not dried up after the Soviet withdrawal because the orthodox ulema served as an instrument for countering the influence of revolutionary and Shia Iran in the region. Pakistan pinned its hope on the Taliban as a force capable of unifying Afghanistan and restoring law and order in the war-torn country.
The I.S.I. trained, equipped and financed the Taliban who secured immediate military successes under Pakistani guidance and by 1996 got themselves entrenched in Kabul. By virtue of their success, Pakistan moved closer to realization of its dream of having “strategic depth” and hoped that the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would enable it to open land route to Central Asia.
Pakistan hoped to reap the benefits of peaceful Afghanistan by offering transit facilities to Central Asian Republics through Karachi and yet to be developed Gwadar Port.
The oil giant, UNOCAL, also realized the importance of laying pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to the coast of Balochistan for the export of Central Asian hydro-carbon resources, primarily to Southeast Asia and it entered into negotiations with the Taliban for this purpose. The ascendancy of the Taliban also meant that India would have no say in the decisions taken by Kabul and Pakistan would be able to concentrate on Kashmir without any diversion.
But, imbibed with religious zeal, the Taliban took upon themselves the responsibility of establishing the supremacy of shariah i.e., Islamic law in Afghanistan. Despite their sincerity, the Taliban practiced a somewhat distorted version of Islam.
The Taliban regime proved itself extremely intolerant of political opposition and dissent. It discriminated against ethnic and religious minorities and suppressed women. There was a free movement across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the influence of the Taliban was strongly felt in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan where religious extremists became strong.
Pakistan’s involvement with the Taliban strained its relations with non-Pashtun and Shia groups inside Afghanistan. The neighboring countries ____ Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan ____ that had close ethnic and sectarian affinities with Afghanistan expressed resentment and dismay over Pakistan’s interference in the Afghanistan affairs.
Although Pakistan made efforts to dispel their fears and highlighted the importance of a unified and peaceful Afghanistan for regional cooperation and development, within or without the framework of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), its open support to Sunni and Pashtun Taliban was too visible.
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) were the only three countries that recognized the Taliban regime. Obviously, Pakistan considered it vitally important to have a secured border in the west at a time when it was fighting a low-intensity war with India in Occupied Kashmir. Besides, from amongst the Taliban and their Arab allies, the mujahideen could be recruited for strengthening the freedom fighters in Indian-Occupied Kashmir.
Despite the fact that the Taliban owed a lot to Pakistan for their success, they were not completely subservient to Islamabad. Their commitment to Islam, as the religion was understood by them, was foremost and overwhelming. For them geographical boundaries had no meanings, for Islam transcended such barriers.
By the time the Taliban assumed power, Osama bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan to use it as a base from where to direct his militant activities against American interests at different places in the world. He quite rightly tickled the most popular anti-Isarel anti American sentiments in the Arab and Muslim World and Muslims around the world and successfully propagated that the U.S. backing to Israel was responsible for the bloodshed of innocent Palestinian Muslims.
The U.S.-led war in the Gulf and subsequent U.N. sanctions imposed at the behest of America had killed thousands, mostly children, in Iraq. Bin Laden condemned the injustices being perpetrated against the Muslim ummah in Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir, Philippines and other places.
It is an entirely different matter that for Bin Laden the America became an enemy of Islam after Saudi Arabia gave USA bases in his motherland and his Saudi Brothers in Faith did not opt for him to defend Saudi Arabia during Gulf War.
But his apparently sublime and lofty sentiments did not match his actions. He decided to target innocent citizens also in his war on American interests for which there was no justification in Islam.
For bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda, Afghanistan offered a safe haven, when he was forced to flee from Sudan. Afghanistan, under Talebans, was the most natural and perfect setting, from where he could establish his training bases and from where he could plan his operations.
With enormous financial resources at his disposal, bin Laden exercised tremendous influence on the Taliban regime. Both shared a common worldview and an intense hatred for the United States for its policies.
After it was confirmed that Al-Qaeda was involved in a number of operations against the American interests at different places, for example attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, resulting in human casualties, President Bill Clinton ordered selective missile attacks from U.S. naval fleet into Afghanistan to eliminate bin Laden and destroy Al-Qaeda bases.
For this purpose the United States violated Pakistani air space and some stray missiles even fell inside Pakistani territory.
It was a failure of our foreign office that it could not anticipate American sensitivities and failed to do the needful to impress upon the Taliban to disrupt their connections with Al-Qaeda and expel bin Laden and his associates.
Despite international disapproval of the Taliban policies, Pakistan was reluctant to put any decisive pressure on the Taliban regime to make necessary amends in its policies and improve its image.
Even after General Musharraf came to power, Pakistan remained obsessed with its concept of “strategic depth” and did not immediately introduce any change in its Afghanistan policy.
Apart from Pakistan’s intimate relations with the internationally ostracized and despised Taliban regime, its policy of sending mujahideen into Indian -occupied Kashmir, in particular the Kargil (mis)adventure, brought it to the verge of getting declared “a rogue state” by the time General Musharraf came to power.
It was in late 1980s that the Muslims of Indian-occupied Kashmir rose against Indian government’s high-handedness and its attempts to sabotage the will of the people through rigged elections. There was a public out-cry in Kashmir and, perhaps for the first time since independence, really huge and sustained demonstrations were held calling for Kashmir’s liberation from India and annexation with Pakistan.
The people of Kashmir gave their verdict in no uncertain terms that they were fed up with their status in India. For Pakistan it was a lifetime’s opportunity to revive the Kashmir dispute, to attract international attention and to bleed India white.
The success in Afghanistan and experience of fomenting trouble in Indian Punjab had given Pakistan confidence and its I.S.I. necessary expertise to embark upon the course of a protracted low-intensity war in Kashmir.
Indifference and inaction on the part of Pakistan would have enabled India to suppress the uprising and subdue the people of Kashmir for an indefinite period. Pakistani side of Kashmir became the springboard for the I.S.I.-trained freedom fighters to infiltrate into Indian-occupied Kashmir to assist the locals.
Unlike the Operation Gibraltar of 1965 that resulted in Indian invasion of Pakistan, this time it was a well thought-out plan. India knew that Pakistan had crossed the nuclear threshold and that the uprising in Kashmir was genuine. It could not dare to cross international frontier and clash with Pakistan armed forces that had been modernized in the wake of the Afghanistan crisis.
With impunity Pakistan formed mujahideen groups to wage a holy war against the Indian occupational forces in Kashmir. All these mujahideen were not Kashmiris and had within their ranks Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Central Asia in considerable numbers. The cause was perfectly legitimate and appeared in Pakistan’s national interest but Pakistan’s overt involvement in Kashmir was to prove counter-productive from diplomatic point of view.
With jihadi culture being openly promoted in the country, and funds being collected throughout Pakistan in mosques, madrassahs, shops and on streets, Pakistan’s profile was high and India was able to conveniently convince the international community that uprising in Kashmir was being sustained by Pakistan. Pakistan did not receive the kind of support from the international community it had expected.
It failed to cash on India’s state-terrorism and human rights violation in Kashmir; instead, it appeared isolated with even the traditional friend China emphasizing on a bilateral solution of the problem. In fact, China feared that the jihadi culture might spill into its Xingjian province that had a large population of Uighur Muslims with separatist tendencies.
As Pakistan was giving shape to its Kashmir policy during 1990s, some parallel developments were creating difficulties in its way. After the U.S. President Bush senior declined to certify that Pakistan did not possess any nuclear device, the American economic and military assistance to Pakistan was substantially curtailed in October 1990.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States lost interest in Pakistan and the “most allied ally” of 1950s and the “frontline state” of 1980s was virtually consigned to dustbin. By mid-1990s the nuclear issue became a major irritant in the U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Defying the U.S. pressure, Pakistan continued with its nuclear program and acquired ballistic missile technology and components from China to develop appropriate delivery system for nuclear warheads.
Pakistan also collaborated with North Korea for obtaining missile technology and there were speculations that it supplied know-how of uranium enrichment in return. Pakistan refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as India had declined to do so, and did not open its sensitive nuclear installations for international inspections.
In May 1998, India exploded nuclear devices and, despite intense urging from the United States against any nuclear testing, Pakistan chose to give India a tit for tat.
Although some “doves” in the national intelligentsia believed that Pakistan should have shown restraint and bargained for economic assistance, the detonation of nuclear devices was a right decision for it uplifted the morale of the nation and sent a clear message to India that Pakistan possessed credible nuclear deterrence.
Pakistan’s rationale in conducting nuclear tests was not fully appreciated by the United States and other western powers. Both India and Pakistan were subjected to economic sanctions that were particularly hard-hitting for Pakistan because of its weak economic base, so much so that its economy that was in trouble since early 1990s appeared to be on the verge of collapse.
Apparently under these circumstances Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif realized or may be, it divined upon him, that the low-intensity war in Kashmir was no more in the interest of Pakistan and welcomed Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s peace gesture in the form of bus yatra to Lahore in early 1999.
The Lahore Declaration made on the occasion was an important break-through in initiating the process of normalization with India.
However, it seems that Nawaz Sharif Government’s qualitative shift in terms of Pakistan’s foreign policy vis-à-vis India, without any positive overture from Indian Defense Establishment of having any intention of diluting its oppressive presence in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and LOC, did not go well with the Pakistan armed forces and it did not subscribe to Sharif’s rationale for change in the Kashmir policy and it went ahead and Mujaheedins secretly, occupied several hill-tops in the Kargil region across the Line of Control (LoC).
During May-June 1999, Pakistan and India fought a mini war in Kargil which evaporated “the Lahore spirit”.
In the midst of the crisis, Nawaz Sharif rushed to Washington to seek President Bill Clinton’s intervention to avert a full-fledged war with India.
To restore peace, Pakistan agreed to make an unconditional withdrawal of its troops from Kargil. India offered safe passage to Pakistani troops and Mujahideens, for withdrawal but projected Pakistan as “a rogue state” that did not care about its international obligations, including those enshrined in the Shimla (Simla) Accord of 1972.
Thus when General Musharraf assumed the charge of the Chief Executive of the country on October 12, 1999, Pakistan was deeply engrossed in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
It was generally believed that General Musharraf was the real architect of Kargil and had opposed the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the hill-tops without any quid pro quo.
After the assumption of power General Musharraf attempted to dispel this negative impression by making some symbolic gestures towards India, including unilateral reduction of troops on the Line of Control in Kashmir.
India remained unmoved and refused to deal with General Musharraf whom it called Pakistan’s military ruler. The hijacking of an Indian plane by some Kashmiri militants in December 1999 aggravated the already tense situation and India made it clear that no negotiations would be held before Pakistan gave up its support to Islamic militants and stopped cross border infiltration into Indian part of Kashmir. It was after many ups and downs that finally India agreed to let the ball roll and expressed its readiness to have a dialogue at the highest level with Pakistan.
The Agra Summit held amidst much media hype in July 2001 was, however, a big disappointment with General Musharraf insisting that first the core issue i.e., Kashmir be resolved and Indian hawks, including the Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, preventing Vajpayee from making any meaningful concession during the dialogue.
On the Afghanistan front, Pakistan continued with its pro-Taliban stand. It declined to apply any substantial pressure on the Taliban regime for change in its internal or external policies. Pakistan contended that with persuasion it would make the Taliban realize their faults and that browbeating them would be counter-productive.
Pakistan and China concluded an agreement to develop the Gwadar Port. With the United Stated reluctant to pay any heed to Pakistan’s economic and defense needs, Pakistan opted to further strengthen its “all-weather relationship” with China.
It was at this point that the 9/11 brought about a sea change in Pakistan’s geopolitical and security environment and demanded a paradigm shift in its relations with the United States and the Afghanistan policy.
Although the Islamic militants had lately targeted the U.S. interests at different places, no one had anticipated, except the actual planners and perpetrators, that the event of such magnitude as 9/11 would take place.
The U.S. President, George W. Bush, thundered: “If you aren’t with us you’re against us.” Before long the American officials pointed their fingers towards the Saudi-born former darling of the United States, Osama bin Laden, and his militant network, Al-Qaeda, of having masterminded and successfully executed the plan of attack on the World Trade Centre.
Al-Qaeda had already been accused of having organized attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 and on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000.
As bin Laden was based in Afghanistan, the United States demanded from the Taliban regime his immediate and unconditional surrender.
The Taliban regime had already been under U.N. sanctions since December 2000 due to its failure to hand over bin Laden to “appropriate authorities” i.e., the U.S. government, for his alleged involvement in the bombing of American embassies in East Africa.
After 9/11 it was abundantly clear that the United States would unleash its full military might if the Taliban declined to surrender bin Laden without further delay. But made up of a different stuff, the Taliban at first out rightly refused to accept that bin Laden could be involved in the 9/11 attacks, and later asked for proper evidence to prove his complicity in the event before any action could be taken against him. Without wasting time, the United States embarked upon efforts to form an international coalition to wage its “war on terrorism.”
It needed to demonstrate its military prowess and the Taliban offered itself as an easy prey.
Apparently, the United States had other calculations also when it embarked upon its war-path with Afghanistan. The United States understood that the military occupation of Afghanistan would be advantageous in terms of power-equation in the region.
It would bring the United States right at the borders of Central Asian Republics that were rich in oil, gas and other natural resources, in which its potential rival China was immensely interested to maintain its fast economic growth.
It would enable the United States to monitor closely developments in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on the coast of which Gwadar Port was to be developed with Chinese investment and technological supervision. It would facilitate American policy of maintaining pressure on Iran.
General Musharraf could not have been unaware of what American war against the Taliban meant for Pakistan: internal disharmony, giving up of the much-cherished concept of “strategic depth” and perhaps reemergence of differences with Afghanistan over the Durand Line. The installation of an unfriendly government in Afghanistan with Indian connections would have created immense difficulties for Pakistan at the time when a low-intensity war was going on in Kashmir.
Musharraf’s nightmare was a scenario in which India would have succeeded in getting Pakistan declared a terrorist state with all its consequent repercussions or it would have targeted Pakistan’s nuclear installations with impunity or it would have moved its forces into Azad Kashmir on the pretext of suppressing the “terrorists”.
With the United States in a revengeful mood, Musharraf’s other immediate worry was a possibility that Pakistan could also become a victim of the U.S. rage because of its links with the Taliban.
General Musharraf clearly understood that for any swift and effective action against the Taliban regime, the United States would need intelligence support from the I.S.I. and logistic facilities on Pakistani territory; and offering them to the United States would mean alienating the Pashtun population and displeasing a very large segment of Pakistani society.
Still on American demand that Pakistan should make available logistic support and other necessary facilities in its impending war against the Taliban regime, General Musharraf, without bargaining for a price or showing any hesitation, agreed to ditch the Taliban if they refused to surrender bin Laden. For Musharraf, the choices were stark and he showed leadership and spine and opted to save Pakistan from American wrath and also saved Pakistan from Indian adventurism. Simultaneously Musharraf made Americans not to look towards India for support in its intended war on terrorism.
Indeed, the perception of Indian threat was the principal factor that led to this immediate decision.
Nevertheless, Pakistan’s first priority was to avert the possibility of American military action against the Taliban regime. On 17-18 September 2001, a Pakistani delegation led by Maj. General Faiz Gilani met the Taliban authorities in Kandhar to persuade them to hand over bin Laden to the U.S. government. But Mulla Omer, the “Amir ul Mimineen”, (Commander of the Faithful), the leader of the Taliban, set, tough conditions, for the surrender of bin Laden.
His demands included production of evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in the attack on the Twin Towers to the Afghanistan Supreme Court or to a panel of judges from other Muslim countries, approval of bin Laden’s surrender by the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (O.I.C.), grant of diplomatic recognition to the Taliban regime and lifting of U.N. sanctions that had been imposed on Afghanistan in December 2000.
Simultaneously, Mulla Omer announced immediate convening of a council of ulema (assembly of Muslim religious scholars) to give its ruling on the issue of bin Laden’s surrender to the U.S. authorities. The council held its session on 19 September 2001 and decided that the Taliban regime should persuade, but not force, bin Laden to leave Afghanistan “voluntarily”. Obviously all this was not acceptable to the United States and it continued with its plan of military occupation of Afghanistan.
As the U.S. military strike appeared unavoidable, General Musharraf addressed the nation on 19 September 2001 to take the nation into confidence and justify Pakistan’s entry into American-sponsored international coalition against “terrorism”. Referring to the 9/11 attacks, he stated:
“This act of terrorism has raised a wave of deep grief, anger and retaliation in the United States. Their first target from day one is Osama bin Laden and his movement Al-Qaeda.
“The second target are (is) the Taliban and that is because the Taliban have given refuge to him and his network. They have been demanding his extradition and presentation before the International Court of Justice. This has been their demand for many years. The Taliban have been rejecting it.
“This has made them their target. The third target is a long war against terrorism at international level.”
It would be a travesty of fact to deny that the Muslim people all over the world had generally rejoiced over the destruction of the Twin Towers simply because they symbolized the power and prestige of the United States, a country intensely hated for its arrogance, double standards and outright support for Israel despite the latter’s rogue behavior.
Fully aware of the popular anti-American sentiments in the country, General Musharraf made it a point in his address to emphasize that no one was talking about a war against Islam or the people of Afghanistan.
He disclosed that the United States wanted Pakistan’s cooperation in three areas: intelligence and information exchange, use of air space and logistic support. He astutely explained to the nation how critical the situation was:
“Let us now take a look at the designs of our neighboring country. They offered all military facilities to the United States. They have offered without hesitation all their facilities, all their bases and full logistic support. They want to enter into any alliance with the United States and get Pakistan declared a terrorist state. They want to harm our strategic assets and the Kashmir cause.”
Referring to Indian designs concerning Afghanistan, General Musharraf added: “In my view it is not surprising that the Indians want to ensure that if and when the government in Afghanistan changes an anti-Pakistan government should be installed there.”
Having thus outlined the negative consequences for Pakistan if it failed to go along with the United States, General Musharraf stated Pakistan’s critical concerns and priorities:
“These are: First of all the security of the country from external threat. Second are our economy and our efforts for its revival. Third priority is our strategic, nuclear and missile assets. And finally, the Kashmir cause.”
His arguments could be summarized thus: with India bent upon seizing the opportunity to punish and harm Pakistan for conducting the low-intensity war in Occupied Kashmir, Pakistan could not dare say “no” to the United States’ demand for cooperation in the war against the Taliban regime.
The most important question that tormented the common believers was: Could Pakistan’s territory be offered to an infidel power for aggression against a fellow Muslim country? General Musharraf’s indirect answer was: “. . . . it is said in shari’ah that when faced with two adversities simultaneously, it is better to choose the lesser one.”
(For full text, see Pakistan Perspectives, July-December, 2001, pp. 193-197)
On 28 September 2001, confirmation came from the U.S. officials that special military units were operating in some areas of Afghanistan to prepare for the war.
Inside Pakistan, there was an outburst of indignation over well-projected U.S. preparations for military assault on Afghanistan.
Although a considerable segment of Pakistani society understood that there was hardly any option available to Pakistan government other than to join international coalition, the jihadis, the madrassah pupils and an overwhelming majority of the ethnic Pashtuns disregarded material considerations or military calculations in their zealous concern for the safety and security of the Afghan Muslims and survival of the Taliban regime. For a lot of religiously imbibed people, martyrdom was a cherished end in itself.
It may be pertinent to note that political and religious opponents of General Musharraf’s bold and a not so popular decision to opt for the “lesser evil” , have yet to come up with an alternate option. Largely they have criticized General Musharraf to take political mileage out of it and for media hype.
In this highly charged atmosphere, some thirty-five Islamic parties and groups joined hands to form Pakistan and Afghanistan Defence Council (P.A.D.C.) to actively oppose General Musharraf’s decision to make Pakistan a member of international coalition led by the United States. The ulema vehemently condemned the policies of the government and called for General Musharraf’s overthrow.
There were a serious concern that the Islamists within the armed forces and I.S.I. would be reluctant to cooperate with General Musharraf after the change in policy and might create problems. But in the face of all odds and adversities, the Pakistan Army and the people of Pakistan remained solidly behind General Musharraf, on the stand he had taken. Collective wisdom of people of Pakistan was fully cognizant of country’s predicament and generally fully supported his decisions.
The violent demonstrations organized by P.A.D.C. on the arrival of U.S. military personnel and handing over of some airfields to the U.S. Air Force did not shatter his resolve. Encouraged by the religious leaders, a large number of Pakistani jihadis and enthusiasts crossed over into Afghanistan territory in the hope of having direct combat with the “kafir” (infidel) aggressors.
Although General Musharraf had not fixed any price tag before Pakistan opted for a u-turn in its Afghanistan policy, his decision proved economically beneficial too, at a time when Pakistan was under tremendous monetary constraints and likely to default in fulfilling its financial obligations at international level.
On 23 September 2001, President Bush waived the sanctions on economic assistance and military sales that had been imposed on Pakistan after it conducted nuclear tests in response to Indian atomic explosions in May 1998. The United States also rescheduled a debt of U.S. $ 379 million that Pakistan owed it and on 26 September IMF released U.S. $ 135 million, an amount that was due under one-year stand-by arrangement with Pakistan. Subsequently, in mid-2003, the Bush Administration announced a $ 3 billion package over a period of five years for Pakistan.
By early October 2001 the United States and its coalition partners had completed preparation for assault on Afghanistan and on October 7, the U.S. and British forces embarked on their military campaign, code named “Operation Enduring Freedom”, against the Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda organization. Before long it became evident that there was no proper answer to sustained carpet bombings by the most advanced and sophisticated U.S. aircrafts and missile attacks.
In the face of intense bombings the Taliban softened their stand and offered to surrender bin Laden to a third country provided the United States agreed to cessation of hostilities and gave “some” evidence of bin Laden’s guilt.
President Bush was in no mood to call off the military action or even to negotiate with the Taliban on the issue. He demanded immediate and unconditional surrender of bin Laden and his close associates to the U.S. authorities that he knew the Taliban would not do.
In fact, now it was not just the question of bin Laden but that of acquiring a major foothold for American and NATO troops next door to the Central Asian Republics and China. The neo-conservatives had designs beyond the so-called “war on terrorism”.
As the bombings of Afghanistan played havoc with mounting civilian casualties, euphemistically called “collateral damage”, the common Pakistanis whole-heartedly contributed to the funds being raised to alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan Muslims. In the midst of the crisis, truckloads of supplies poured into Afghanistan’s border areas with Pakistan. The recruitment for the jihad also continued with great enthusiasm.
Very conspicuously, Pakistan government and the fundamentalist segments of Pakistani population appeared to be poles apart in their sensitivities, thought and approach to the crisis. It was the most critical moment for General Musharraf and his government.
Instead of using its own troops on the ground, the United States relied on the forces of the Northern Alliance to advance against the Taliban. Simultaneously bribe/graft money was lavishly offered through agents to create defections and dissensions within the Taliban ranks and to win over local warlords.
The Taliban could not match the cunning, power and sophistication of the Americans. To spare themselves of complete annihilation and to change the mode of resistance, the Taliban decided to withdraw, disperse and mix-up with the common Afghans.
The first strategically important city to fall to the Northern Alliance was that of Mazar-i-Sharif, hitherto considered a stronghold of the Taliban.
In the early hours of November 13, 2001 the forces of the Northern Alliance entered Kabul and on December 7, Kandhar fell to them. As the Northern Alliance established itself, the towns and cities of Afghanistan witnessed scenes of unimaginable brutalities against the Taliban and their supporters who were captured.
A case in point is, widely reported inhuman atrocities committed by Northern Alliance Forces on hundreds of Pakistan origin prisoners taken in war, those were confined in containers and killed by suffocating them on purpose.
Besides, amongst the victims were innocent Pakistanis who had opted to participate in the jihad with all sincerity of intention and purpose. A number of them were detained by the local warlords and kept in sub-human conditions only to be freed subsequently on payment of handsome amounts of ransom money by their relatives in Pakistan. It was a shocking experience, indeed, for the believers in the concept of unity of ummah and pan-Islamism.
In the wake of military operation in Afghanistan, the U.S.-led international coalition was working on plans for post-Taliban dispensation in the country. On the initiative of the United States, the United Nations arranged a meeting of four important Afghan groups in Bonn on 27 November 2001.
The participating groups were the Northern Alliance, formally known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (UNIFSA), under Tajik domination, the Peshawar group that was supported by Pakistan and represented Pashtun aspirations, the Cyprus group that was backed by Iran and comprised of Afghan refugees, and the Rome group led by the former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah.
After much bickering, the Bonn Accords were signed on 5 December 2001 providing for formation of an interim government under Hamid Karzai for an initial period of six months. The Loya Jirga (traditional council of tribal elders) was to be convened to decide about the formation of a transitional government for a further two-year period. The transitional government so formed was to hold free elections before the end of its two-year term for the establishment of a representative government in Afghanistan.
On 23 December Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had earlier been ousted by the Taliban, transferred “power” to Hamid Karzai as the President of Afghanistan. A 29-member Cabinet was sworn in to administer the country during the interim period. With that, U.N.I.F.S.A. or the Northern Alliance, hitherto exclusively in authority with U.S. backing was obliged to share power with other Afghan factions.
Since Pakistan’s religious seminaries had been responsible for the creation of the Taliban and its I.S.I. had engineered their military victory over non-Pashtun groups, notably the Northern Alliance, Pakistan could no longer exercise the kind of influence on the Karzai government, heavily loaded with Alliance, that it had formerly enjoyed on the Taliban regime.
Now India could pin its hopes on exploiting the situation. The only solace to Pakistan was the expectation that the United States would not permit the Northern Alliance to act in a manner detrimental to Pakistan’s interests, at least as long as it needed Pakistan’s cooperation in eliminating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda remnants.
On its part Pakistan was reported to have increased its presence to 60,000 regular troops and 65,000 Police and Frontier Corps on western borders. Pakistan wanted to prevent the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements from crossing over into its territory for refuge or to mount attacks inside Afghanistan.
But already there were Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in a sizable number in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the North Western Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.) and the northern part of Balochistan.
The fall of the Taliban and installation of the Karzai government did not end the matter. The United States wanted Pakistan to eliminate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda remnants from its areas bordering Afghanistan, to extend logistic support to the American and NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan and to fully cooperate with the U.S. Central Command in implementing American agenda for the region.
In other words the United States envisaged long-term strategic relationship or engagement with Pakistan and wanted it to serve as American policeman for Central and South West Asian regions. It was evident that the United States was bent upon establishing what could be referred to as Pax Americana or its unquestioned supremacy in a uni-polar world.
All the developments since the collapse of the Soviet Union ___ the Gulf War, the NATO’s military action against Yugoslavia and the military occupation of Afghanistan ___ pointed towards the real objective of the United States that was to establish its universal hegemony.
To secure this grand objective, the United States desired to control the oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia, so that they could be made costly to other powers or denied to them if required, and to police strategic land and sea routes directly or through proxies. The United States appeared serious about achieving “the final solution” of the Palestinian issue, eliminating “terrorism” (read jihadi culture) and preventing nuclear proliferation.
The United States understood that Pakistan would not be able to perform any meaningful role on the Afghan front if it remained preoccupied with Indian threat on its border and the Line of Control in Kashmir and, therefore, it used its influence to restrain India from taking any undue advantage.
The U.S. objective with regard to India and Pakistan was that they should settle their disputes, including the core issue of Kashmir, so that the jihadi culture in Kashmir could be curbed, danger of nuclear exchanges averted and, in the long term, India and Pakistan could jointly be made to serve as counter-poise to China in the region. During the days of Clinton, China was referred to as a “strategic partner”, after Bush came to power, it had become “strategic competitor”.
However, on December 13, 2001, Indian parliament came under an armed attack and the Indian government lost no time in alleging that the perpetrators of the attack were Islamic militants belonging to Pakistan-based groups operating on its side of Kashmir.
Apparently it was work of the jihadi outfits; those were opposed to General Musharraf’s Afghanistan policy and feared that he might make compromise over the ongoing jihad in Kashmir also.
They wanted to prevent any such eventuality by provoking a direct conflict between India and Pakistan. India seized the opportunity to accuse Pakistan of being a “rogue state” that master-minded the attack on the symbol of Indian democracy through its proxy militant outfits. It snapped communication links with Pakistan, called back its High Commissioner from Islamabad and started massive mobilization and deployment of troops along the Line of Control and on its border with Pakistan.
To placate India, the United States pressured Pakistan to demonstrate its willingness to act against militant organizations involved in jihad in the Indian-held Kashmir.
It was no secret that Pakistan had set up training camps in Azad Kashmir and other areas to prepare jihadis who then crossed the Line of Control to sustain freedom struggle in Indian-occupied Kashmir. As diplomatic pressure on Pakistan mounted that it should curb the militant activities, Pakistan government arrested Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-i- Mohammad, on December 25, 2001, and Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who had lately resigned from the leadership of Lashkar-i-Taiba, on December 30, 2001. The government also banned collection of donations by Islamic militant organizations in the name of jihad.
The jihadis had been collecting donations not only from their rich sympathizers but also from small contributors after prayers in mosques and by placing donation boxes in a large number of shops, restaurants and other commercial enterprises.
On 12 January 2002 General Musharraf made a landmark speech in which he vehemently criticized religious extremism, intolerance and sectarianism prevalent in Pakistani society.
He declared in unambiguous terms: “The day of reckoning has come. Do we want Pakistan to become a theocratic state? . . . or . . . to emerge as a progressive and dynamic state?”
In his address, General Musharraf emphasized upon the need to rid the society of sectarian violence and announced a ban on three sectarian organizations: Sipah-i-Sahaba, Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shari’at-i-Mohammadi and Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqah-i-Jafria. Significantly, he also outlawed two important jihadi outfits, Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad.
These jihadi organizations were very active for the liberation of Indian-Occupied Kashmir and had rendered tremendous sacrifices for the Kashmir cause.
General Musharraf stated that the banned organizations would not be allowed to reemerge under any other names and that in future no organization would be permitted to adopt militant names like sipah, lashkar or jaish. He declared: “No organization would be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir.”
General Musharraf’s address was soon followed by a police crackdown on militant and sectarian organizations in which nearly two thousand of their members were arrested and some four hundred offices were shut down.
In February 2002, Pakistan government reportedly closed down two cells within I.S.I. that were directly involved with the Taliban and Islamic militants operating in Kashmir. International community duly welcomed Musharraf’s address and impressed upon India to have faith in his promises.
But the momentum of Pakistan government’s action against Islamic militants did not last long due to a number of reasons:
1. Probably Musharraf in his heart had remained committed to the existing Kashmir policy and was not serious about giving up jihad in Kashmir without commensurate concessions from India. He distinguished between terrorism and militancy in the cause of liberation. The infiltration from Pakistani side of Kashmir across the Line of Control continued though at a comparatively lower level.
2. India did not relent from its aggressive posture and built a formidable military presence on the Line of Control and along with its border with Pakistan hurling threats and accusations. Under the circumstances it was important that the militants remained active and the morale of Pakistani people remained high.
3. General Musharraf had made up his mind to hold referendum in April 2002 to get endorsement for his policies and to confirm himself as President for next five years before the holding of general elections scheduled for October 2002 as directed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Although the people were likely to support his Afghanistan policy and measures against the sectarian organizations, they did not seem to be in favor of “winding up” jihad in Kashmir after giving sacrifice of more than sixty thousand Kashmiris.
By the end of March 2002, a majority of Islamists arrested during preceding January had been released by the government. It was also reported that the banned Kashmiri jihadi organizations had merged themselves with other groups within the umbrella of the United Jihad Council.
Visibly the Pakistan government had decided to differentiate between the jihadis operating in Kashmir and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants officially referred to as terrorists. Throughout the year 2002, search operations against the “foreign terrorists” and the local sympathizers continued in the frontier areas with Afghanistan whereas a very tense situation prevailed on Pakistan’s borders with India and on the Line of Control in Kashmir.
Reportedly India had decided to launch a conventional attack on Pakistan in June 2002 but was restrained by the hectic diplomatic activity on the part of the United States.
Since Pakistan had made it amply clear that any invasion from India might lead to a nuclear conflict if Pakistan’s territorial integrity was threatened, it would be a greater truth to say that it was primarily Pakistan’s nuclear capability and missile program which averted an all-out war between India and Pakistan.
Indian forces could not have remained in a war-like posture indefinitely, invasion was no option after Pakistan’s loud and clear message that it could use nuclear weapons as a last resort, and ultimately India started withdrawing its troops after the electoral process in the Occupied Kashmir was completed in the autumn of 2002.
In Afghanistan the same year, the Karzai government found it extremely difficult to establish its writ over local warlords and mostly, it remained effective in Kabul and adjoining areas only.
The Taliban and Al-Qaeda remnants resorted to a sort of guerrilla warfare and occasionally inflicted considerable losses of men and material on the forces of international coalition and the Afghanistan government. At times, they attempted to regroup and the coalition forces had to rush to the areas of trouble.
In order to ensure that no unwarranted interference in Afghanistan took place, the Karzai government concluded a non-aggression pact with six neighboring countries: Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Jointly signed on 22 December 2002, the Kabul Declaration on Good-neighborly Relations committed the signatories to the principles of respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
In a very important parallel development at international level, the United States had focused on taking over oil-rich Iraq on the trumped up charges that it possessed biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein’s regime had secret links with Al-Qaeda network.
Despite the fact that the U.N. inspectors had found no evidence of presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and huge demonstrations were held in European countries and the United States against the anticipated war, the Bush Administration went ahead with its sinister plan to invade Iraq. Bypassing the Security Council and misinterpreting its resolution on Iraq, the U.S. and British forces, along with token presence from some other countries, occupied Iraq in March-April 2003.
This mission having been accomplished, President Bush referred to Syria, Iran and North Korea as the axis of evil that could be the next U.S. targets. Syria and Iran were accused of supporting international terrorism and again Iran and North Korea of clandestine nuclear weapons program.
The American neo-conservatives started propagating the doctrine of preemptive strike, preventive war and regime change. Pakistan could foresee that the United States would seek its cooperation if it went for regime change in Iran.
Probably at about this time the United States secretly informed Pakistan that it knew about nuclear proliferation activities of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, implying that Pakistan needed to be more pliable.
Pakistan came under tremendous pressure as a result of formal intimation from International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) that Pakistani scientists were involved in nuclear proliferation. Libya agreed to dismantle its nuclear program and Iran initially opened up its nuclear installations for examination by I.A.E.A. where reportedly Pakistani centrifuge was discovered. The process of “debriefing” of Pakistani scientists began towards the end of 2003 and ultimately led to the “confession” on the part of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, that he had passed on nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea in “good faith” and that his colleagues had acted on his directives.
Although General Musharraf denied the involvement of Pakistan government and pardoned Dr. Khan, apparently there was something fishy about it. In a way Dr. Khan’s confession was an admission at the highest level that Pakistan government had failed to fulfill its responsibilities to prevent nuclear proliferation.
More disturbing question was: Could it be possible that Dr. Khan had acted without the knowledge of the top military and political leadership?
As if the problems related to the so-called “Khan network” of nuclear proliferation were not enough to embarrass General Musharraf, that towards the end of 2003, the United States and the Karzai administration very explicitly alleged that Pakistan’s border territory, in particular South Waziristan, was serving as a sanctuary and training base for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements who mounted attacks inside Afghanistan.
The United States also suspected that some high value Al-Qaeda targets, perhaps bin Laden and/or Aiman Al-Zawahiri, were also based in the area.
“On the western border, certainly everything is not happening from Pakistan but certainly something is happening from Pakistan,” admitted General Musharraf while addressing the military officers at National Defense College on 12 February 2004.
He agreed to take military action against the militants allegedly active from Pakistani territory as a part of “Hammer and Anvil” Operation proposed by the United States. As a result of the military action that was started in Wana and other areas of South Waziristan in March 2004, a number of Arab, Uzbek, Chechen and other former and active mujahideen moved to southern Afghanistan or the Middle Eastern countries.
The military operation in South Waziristan proved very costly for the Pakistan Armed forces. Although exact figures were not available, the government admitted the loss of nearly 250 troops, which was no small figure. Since then the Pakistan government has maintained military presence in South Waziristan and there have been occasional flare-ups in the region.
In the meantime, a major development took place on the Indian front when in April 2003 the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in a speech made in Sri Nagar expressed his willingness to begin dialogue with Pakistan without any prior conditions.
Simultaneously India was opening its consulates in the Afghan cities bordering Pakistan from where RAW was interfering in Balochistan. It seems that Vajpayee wanted to take advantage of Pakistan’s predicament and to compel it to change its Kashmir policy through pressure or diplomacy.
Surprised by this offer and not in a position to stick to its earlier stand that the Kashmir issue should be taken first, Pakistan responded in a positive manner and there came proposals and counter-proposals from both sides for confidence-building and normalization of relations. Before long the two sides agreed to resume full diplomatic relations and restore over-flights, air-links, bus and train service and sports relations for which details were to be worked out in due course.
In the first week of January 2004, Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Islamabad to participate in the SAARC Summit Conference. On the sidelines of the summit, General Musharraf and Vajpayee met to discuss India-Pakistan bilateral relations and decided to resume a composite dialogue on all issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, nuclear and conventional confidence building measures (CBMs), Siachin, Baglihar Dam, Wullar / Tulbal navigation project, Sir Creek, terrorism, drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields. Unlike the Agra summit in mid-2001 when General Musharraf had insisted that no progress could be made without first addressing the core dispute of Kashmir, this time the whole gamut of issues was to be taken up for discussion.
In anticipation of the meeting General Musharraf had already declared that Pakistan was prepared to go beyond its stated position that the Kashmir issue could only be resolved in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions that called for holding of a plebiscite in the disputed territory.
In India-Pakistan joint statement issued on the occasion of Vajpayee’s visit, Pakistan undertook not to allow any territory under its control to be used for “terrorist” activities across the Line of Control in Kashmir. Understandably, the joint statement did not clarify whether Pakistan or Azad Kashmir–based militancy for liberation of Kashmir was included in the definition of terrorism or not.
India had been accusing Pakistan of “cross-border terrorism” and was not prepared to move forward without assurances that it would be discontinued.
In mid February 2004, the two sides agreed on the schedule of composite dialogue. This was followed by euphoria during which Pakistani and Indian show-biz personalities, journalists, writers, politicians, parliamentarians, peace activists and the like exchanged visits and the Indian cricket team played in Pakistan. However, the progress on substantive issues like the Kashmir dispute, the Baghlihar Dam and Siachin etc was slow.
India was more interested in increasing people-to-people contacts, promoting cultural exchanges and expanding economic cooperation than meaningfully addressing the substantive issues, in particular the core issue of Kashmir. General Musharraf went to the extent of considering the former State of Jammu and Kashmir as comprising of different territorial units that could be taken up separately for resolving the dispute.
Although the newly elected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to explore various options when he met General Musharraf in New York in September 2004 on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly session, a twist was subsequently given to his statement by the Indian officials that Singh had only agreed to explore options within the framework of Indian Constitution.
On Pakistan’s expression of concern, this interpretation by Indian officials was diluted and the peace process continued. An important development on the Kashmir dialogue was exchange of visits by the Kashmiri leaders from the two sides.
Disappointed with Indian attitude in negotiation over the Baghlihar Dam, Pakistan referred the matter to the World Bank for nominating a neutral expert as provided in the Indus Basin Treaty of 1960. The findings of neutral expert are awaited. Discussion on demilitarization of Siachin is in progress and there are some indications that they would be successful.
It is expected that the LoC would be softened and Khokrapa-Monabao train service would commence from early next year. Although there are reports that Pakistan has not completely dismantled the jihadi infrastructure, in view of its international compulsions, Pakistan is likely to continue its peace process with India even if no substantial progress is achieved on the Kashmir dispute.
As stated earlier, the United States wanted Pakistan to serve its interest in Southwest and Central Asia and to join hands with India in containing China It was in this backdrop that it ignored the lapses of Pakistan government concerning the activities of the Khan network of nuclear proliferation and accorded Pakistan the status of a major non-N.A.T.O. ally in the spring of 2004. The United States also offered the sale of F-16 aircrafts to Pakistan and promised to boost its conventional defense.
For Pakistan, the most crucial question was how to maintain a balance in its relationship with the United States and China, knowing that the United States did not like China to project its presence on the coast of Balochistan or have transit facilities across Pakistan for its western region. On its part, China was modernizing its navy and securing port and other facilities to ensure that oil supply for its growing economy remained undisturbed.
On April 5, 2005, the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, arrived in Islamabad for a three-day visit to Pakistan. He was to inaugurate the first phase of the Gwadar Port but due to law and order situation in Balochistan the idea was dropped weeks before the visit began. It was reported that apart from some Baloch Sardars, who were against the tighter control of the federal government over the province, India was also involved in destabilizing Balochistan as it too did not like China to have an outlet to the Arabian Sea.
On the occasion, China gave a categorical assurance to Pakistan to defend its “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” (Dawn, Karachi, 6 April 2005) The two countries signed twenty-two agreements, including a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborly Relations, to boost cooperation in the field of defense, promote commercial and economic relations and strengthen political ties. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz offered China an energy corridor.
The same day i.e., 5 April, the launching ceremony of JF-17 thunder aircraft production project was held. General Musharraf described the launching of multi-role fighter plane jointly developed by Pakistan and China as a giant leap towards indigenization and self-reliance stating that Pakistan would maintain minimum level of defensive deterrence in both conventional and unconventional fields.
Due to some inexplicable reason, the Pakistan Foreign Office did not publish the text of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborly Relations concluded between Pakistan and China on 5 April 2005. The website of the People’s Daily, Beijing, released some parts of the treaty which are very significant.
According to this source, the treaty reiterated Chinese side’s “respect for Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” and expressed China’s appreciation and support for Pakistan’s efforts to settle peacefully all the problems with its neighboring countries and all efforts to safeguard its state sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
Pakistan also supported “China’s great cause of national reunification and all the efforts of the Chinese government in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Obviously China had Taiwan and Xinjiang respectively in mind when reference was made to its “national reunification” and “territorial integrity.”
The treaty said: “Each contracting party shall not join any alliance or bloc which infringes upon the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party, nor shall it take any action of this nature, including the conclusion of treaties of this nature with a third country.”
The treaty further provided: “Each contracting party shall not allow its territory to be used by a third country to jeopardize the state sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party.” Under the treaty, the two sides agreed to “enhance and consolidate trust and cooperation in the military and security fields to strengthen their security.” (Mohammad Ali Siddiqui, “New Level of Friendship with China”, Dawn, 9 April 2005).
Apparently, China wanted to ensure that Pakistan would not be a part of any American design against it and that Pakistani territory would never be used by the United States for any action detrimental to Chinese security interests. On its part Pakistan intended to relieve some of the pressure that the United States had been applying on it since 9/11 to serve American interests and wanted to have some sort of assurances that in case its territorial integrity was jeopardized due to cooperation with China in mega projects, like the Gwadar Port in Balochistan, China would stand by it in the hour of crisis.
In his key-note address to the opening ceremony of the fourth Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) held in Islamabad on 6 April 2005, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao stated: “Some people are worried that a stronger and more developed China will pose a threat to other countries. Such a worry is completely misplaced.” He added: “We still have a long way to go before China is modernized.
Even if we become stronger and more developed, we will not stand in the way of others, still less become a threat to others. China will never seek hegemony.”
From Pakistan, the Chinese Prime Minister went to India where the two countries agreed to join hands as “strategic partners” to shore up peace and prosperity in Asia and beyond. The Joint Statement issued on the occasion stated:
“In the light of the development of their bilateral relations, in order to promote good neighborliness, friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation and taking into account the profound changes in the regional and international situation, the two sides agreed that India-China relations have now acquired a global and strategic character.
“The leaders of the two countries have, therefore, agreed to establish an India-China strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity.”
In order to remove irritants in their relationship, India reiterated that it recognized the Tibet Autonomous Region as a part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China, and China recognized Sikkim as a state (province) of India. (Jawed Naqvi, “India, China Join Hands as Strategic Partners”, Dawn, 12 April 2005)
Commenting on India-China relations, a Pakistani analyst observed:
“India now enjoys the unique distinction of being the ‘strategic partner’ of both the U.S. and China. If economics drives politics, the growing economic ties between India and China at least partially explain the breakthrough in their political relations.”
Referring to India-China trade, the same analyst pointed out that from $ 2.9 billion in 2000, the level of trade had jumped to more than $ 13 billion, bringing the target of $ 25 billion by 2010 within reach.
(Afzaal Mahmood, “Sino-US Rivalry & South Asia”, Dawn, 16 April 2005)
Since the United States wanted to make India a major world power to counter China in the region, it observed these developments with grave concern. When the United States conferred status of “a major non-N.A.T.O. ally” on Pakistan in the spring of 2004, it had made India a “strategic partner”. When the United States allowed the sale of F-16 aircrafts to Pakistan, it had simultaneously offered India sale of F-18s and Patriot Advanced Capability-2 System to defend itself against missile attacks.
Now, on June 28, 2005, the United States and India signed what was referred to as “New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship” that provided for joint production of weapons, cooperation in missile defense and combined military exercises. Reportedly, the United States agreed to supply Patriot Advanced Capability-3 in which India was interested. All this happened despite Pakistan’s protest that it would disturb the balance of power in the South Asian region to India’s advantage.
In July 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the United States to further consolidate India-U.S. “strategic partnership” and enhance bilateral cooperation in a variety of fields. On 19 July the two countries signed an accord, subject to Congressional approval, which provided that the United States would allow India to enjoy all facilities in the field of nuclear cooperation as were accorded to member states of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
It implied a restructuring of nuclear non-proliferation regime to accommodate India as a nuclear power despite the fact it was not a signatory to the N.P.T. President Bush designated India as a responsible nuclear state with advanced nuclear technology that had strong commitment to preventing weapons of mass destruction. Under the agreement, India was expected to open up its civilian nuclear reactors for inspection by I.A.E.A. Analyzing the implications of the U.S.-India nuclear deal, Dawn observed in its editorial:
“The difference between reactors geared to military needs and those meant for civilian purposes is thin. Any government can divert products of civilian facilities to military ones if and when it chooses to do so. As analysts in Washington have pointed out, America should now expect Pakistan enjoying major non-Nato ally status to press the US for a similar deal.”
(“US-India Nuclear Deal”, Dawn, 22 July 2005)
One consequence of the U.S.-India nuclear deal was that India voted against Iran on an important resolution in I.A.E.A. that could pave the way for reference of Iran’s nuclear program to U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions. Since India is entitled by the deal to acquire nuclear fuel and thereby fulfill its energy requirements, it has also jeopardized the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.
India was investing in Iran to develop transit outlet for Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics via Chah Bahar port. It appears that the United States would not allow this to materialize. Instead it would like India to concentrate on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline or the Qatar gas pipeline directly via the Indian Ocean or through the Arabian Sea-Pakistan-India to save cost and create interdependence.
It is an interesting situation that, on the one hand, the United States has acquired military facilities in Kyrgyztan and Uzbekistan and India has forged defense cooperation with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and, on the other hand, Russia and China are endeavoring to check American influence in the region.
Not unmindful of American designs, China and Russia have cemented their relations by concluding an agreement to oppose domination of any single state in international affairs.
The agreement emphasizes the “inadmissibility of efforts at monopolizing world affairs, the dividing of states into leaders and led, the imposition from outside of models of social development [and] the application of double standards.” (Tariq Fatemi, “Changing Equations in Asia”, Dawn, 10 July 2005) China and Russia also use platform of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to counter American influence in Central Asia.
Paradoxically, in July 2005, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization admitted Pakistan, India and Iran into its fold as observers. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz stated on the occasion that Pakistan had a vital stake in security, stability and well-being of the region. Recently China and Russia organized joint military exercises to strengthen their defense cooperation.
The question is where does Pakistan stand?
The visible features of Pakistan’s foreign policy at present are as follows:
1. To continue with normalization process with India without completely dismantling the jihadi infrastructure. Pakistan cannot afford to have hostile India even if it means no early solution of the Kashmir dispute. Through peace process and policy of restraint in Kashmir, India may be prevented from interfering in Balochistan by way of quid pro quo.
2. To cooperate with the United States in its “war on terrorism” but not to participate in any activity that may be construed by China as a threat to its security interests.
3. To let China invest in mega projects in Balochistan, including development of Gwadar and trans-Balochistan highway, but with a low profile.
4. To promote good neighborly relations with Afghanistan so that transit facilities can be offered to the Central Asian Republics and progress can be made on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
5. Not to cooperate with the United States in any efforts at regime change or military strike against Iran and to adopt relatively independent policy on Iran’s nuclear program as was evident from voting pattern in I.A.E.A.
6. To initiate a process for establishing diplomatic relations with Israel so as to neutralize any India-Israel nexus in the offing and to ingratiate the West.
An analyst has rightly observed: “There are unmistakable indications that South Asia is unwittingly getting involved in the escalating U.S.-China strategic competition.” (Afzaal Mahmood, “Sino-U.S. Rivalry & South Asia”, Dawn, 16 April 2005)
For Pakistan, it is really a tight-rope walking and no one knows how long Pakistan would be able to maintain balance in its relations with the United States and China.
Let us hope that some appropriate power-equation ensures peace and stability in South, Southwest and Central Asia. However, if the clash of interests over the energy resources ignites fierce conflicts, then let the bridge come and we will cross it, keeping our national interests foremost in whatever is the international scenario.
(This is a two part series on General Musharraf October 1999 12 October 2005. The second part deals with his Government’s performance on the external front.)
Advocate Yousuf is a free lance writer. He writes under the pseudonym of ‘Amicus’. He can be reached at