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Sunday, June 15, 2008

By The Pakistani Spectator • Jun 15th, 2008 • Category: Politics • (3,324 views) • No Responses

By Pervez Musharraf
Reviewed by

With the publication of his memoir, In the Line of Fire, Pervez Musharraf has virtually launched his campaign for the next presidential election due towards the end of 2007. Through the medium of this book he intends to convey to the people of Pakistan what he has accomplished for his country, and to the world community, how he has endeavored to counter the forces of extremism and obscurantism that have brought bad name to Pakistan.

At the outset it must be stated that it is quite abnormal and inappropriate for a sitting president and chief of army staff to pen down his memoir and divulge information that may be considered as state secrets or have a bearing on the country’s national security. But in the case of Pakistan this is not the only instance. Pakistan’s first military ruler, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, had also produced his autobiography, Friends, Not Masters, while in power.

It is commonly believed that Ayub Khan’s memoir was ghost-written By Altaf Gohar. It is said that Musharraf’s ghost-writer is Altaf Gohar’s son Humayyun Gohar. Indeed, a strange coincidence.

The title, In the Line of Fire, serves to project Musharraf’s image as a bold and courageous leader of a country beset by innumerable internal and external difficulties and threats. The idea is to make him appear as a man of crisis and saviour of the nation __ a leader who salvaged the sinking ship of Pakistan.

Although the photograph on the cover page presents Musharraf in civilian attire ___ understandably for the consumption of the West ___ the title of the book caters to his desire for a commando-like appearance.

The entry on the flap reads, “ Pervez Musharraf’s life has mirrored that of his country, ever since Pakistan’s creation, when he was a four-year-old boy. His and Pakistan’s stories are dramatic, fateful and crucial to the entire world.” It is indeed a tall claim. The leader has been too closely identified with the state or the vice versa. One finds in history the proclamation of a despot, “I am the state.” Thanks, Musharraf does not fall in that category; he is simply a benevolent dictator for whom Pakistan is always first.

Divided into six parts and thirty-two chapters, In the Line of Fire contains a “Prologue” and an “Epilogue”. Inclusive of “Index”, the book is spread over three hundred and fifty-two pages, and contains several memorable photographs.

Musharraf claims in the “Preface” that the book is “a window into contemporary Pakistan and my role in shaping it.” (p. xi). The claim made in the author’s statement duly reflects his inflated ego, and prepares the reader for his “I did this; I did that” versions of many happenings in Pakistan.

Musharraf likes to place Pakistan at the center of what is unfolding in the world and what the future holds in the twenty-first century: “What happens in Pakistan ___ socially, politically, and economically ___ in the coming years not only will help decide the outcome of the global war on terror, it will also shape what the future will look like for Islam and the West.” (p. xi) The author cherishes the role of Pakistan as the frontline state under his command in the so-called “war on terror”. Simultaneously, there seems to be something in his sub- conscious ___ after all he is a Muslim ___ that relates this war to the clash of civilizations in which the future of Islam is at stake.

In the “Prorogue”, entitled “Face-to-Face with Terror”, Musharraf recounts his many encounters with death since he was a teenager. Each time Providence saved him. The accounts of attacks on December 14 and December 25, 2006 have been produced in a sensational manner and with graphic details. (pp. 3-6). The bottom-line is that ___ to borrow the words of Time magazine __ General Musharraf is performing “the world’s most dangerous job”, and the West should recognize his immense contribution to the “war on terror”. Instead of casting aspersions, the West needs to realize the magnitude of risk he is undertaking from the fact that the investigation into his would-be assassins led the agencies to some of al Qaeda’s top people in Pakistan. (pp. 6-7)

The book’s part one, “In the Beginning”, comprises chapters 1 to 5 and is devoted to Musharraf’s early life and youthful years.

The chapter 1, entitled same as Khushwant Singh’s famous novel, “Train To Pakistan”, opens with the words:
“These were troubled times. These were momentous times. There was the light of freedom; there was the darkness of genocide. It was the dawn of hope; it was the twilight of empire.” (p. 11)

Any student of English literature would immediately gather that the source of inspiration for this paragraph is Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities. Set in the background of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities begins thus:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . . .”

If Dickens was depicting the background of the French Revolution, Musharraf’s reference is to the horrors and tribulations that accompanied the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Musharraf proceeds to unfold the story of his family’s migration to Pakistan, which is the saga of a typical ‘Mohajir’ family:

“On a hot and humid summer day, a train hurtled down the dusty plains from Delhi to Karachi. Hundreds of people were piled into its compartments, stuffed in its corridors, hanging from the sides, and sitting on the roof. There was not an inch to spare. But the heat and dust were the least of the passengers’ worries. The tracks were littered with dead bodies __ men, women, and children, many hideously mutilated. The passengers held fast to the hope of a new life, a new beginning in a new country __ Pakistan __ that they had won after great struggle and sacrifice” (p. 11)

A classic imagery of the world’s largest migration.

His family’s journey to Pakistan and early efforts to settle down must have made lasting impression on Musharraf’s mind. It is perhaps this Mohajir psyche that has enabled him to take Muttahida Qaumi Movement on board in his government with considerable ease.

The chapter 2, “Settling in Karachi”, narrates the story of housing and other problems faced by Musharraf’s family in their new homeland. Representing the ordeal of nearly every Mohajir household, Musharraf states: “Other uprooted members of our family ___ assorted aunts and uncles and cousins ___ came to live with us. At one time there were eighteen of us living in those two rooms.” (p.15)

Ultimately, Musharraf’s family settles down, and he as “an uprooted little boy found earth that was natural to him. He took root in it forever.” (p.18) There is the commitment emanating from the innermost depth of his heart: “I would protect that earth with my life.” (p. 18) This represents the crisis of Mohajir identity: preoccupation with the search for roots after having been uprooted, and a desire to monopolize patriotism.

In chapter 3, “Turkey: The Formative Years”, Musharraf talks about his adolescent years in that country where his father was posted in Pakistan’s embassy. It was here that he developed admiration for the founder of modern Turkey: “With the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, Mustafa Kemal had saved Turkey from balkanization and modernized it by dragging it out of dogma and obscurantism.” (p. 19) Ataturk is the role model, Musharraf is in search of his footsteps but the terrain is entirely different.

As if to prove that his family was not “obscurantist”, the author says, “Both my parents loved music and dancing, especially ballroom dancing,” (p. 20) He seems to be conscious of the controversy that was created by the photograph in which he was carrying two puppies, as he reminds, “My love of dogs began in Turkey.”(p. 24).

The chapter 4, “Home”, describes his life back in Pakistan where first Musharraf’s family took residence in Nazimabad Block 3. Here “a boy had to be street-smart to survive. There were the inevitable street gangs, and needless to say, I joined one. Needless to say, too, I was one of the tough boys.” (p. 26). While living in this Mohajir neighbourhood, Musharraf relates with pride that he thrashed a bully and became known as a “dada geer” (p. 27). The discernable reader would not fail to observe the author’s mental affinity to the stuff from which the MQM was to emerge.

Perhaps Musharraf feels that without reference to some love affairs the story of his youthful years would remain incomplete and barren. So one finds mention of a couple of superficial love affairs.

The next chapter, “Leaving the Nest”, takes the reader to Musharraf’s college years where he got his first experience in public speaking as a candidate in the election for class representative. (p. 32) Musharraf also got introduced to Tariq Aziz who was destined to become his principal secretary after he became president and was later to be appointed secretary to the National Security Council. It was also in the FC College that he “learned how to make a time bomb, which I later used as a commando to good effect.” (p. 33).

The part two, “Life in the Army”, chapter 6, “The Potter’s Wheel”, is devoted to the author’s life in Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). Musharraf is all praise for the PMA, and describes it as the best in the world (p. 41). This is the beginning of his lifetime love with the institution of the armed forces.

Here one incident took place that probably became significant in the future: “I was one of four candidates short-listed to go to Sandhurst, England, to complete my training, but another cadet, Ali Kuli Khan Khattak, was selected. He retired as a lieutenant general and chief of general staff when I became army chief, but I suspect that his retirement, which was optional, had more to do with disappointment at not becoming chief himself, which is perfectly understandable.” (p. 41)

A little circumspection and Musharraf could have skipped the mention of above incident.

In chapter 7, “Into the Fire”, Musharraf gives account of his valiant contribution to the India-Pakistan War of 1965, which earned him an award for gallantry. He could have earned two awards but due to certain act of indiscipline court-martial proceedings were to be taken against him, which were dropped as a reward for his performance in the war.

The author is silent about the Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam that had provoked India to attack Pakistan in the early hours of September 6, 1965. His comments on the developments preceding the war would have enhanced the value of the book.

Speaking about the Special Services Group (SSG), “our elite commando outfit”, which he joined in 1966, Musharraf states:

“Commando training demands tremendous physical and mental stamina, so it was exactly the right kind of environment for me. Commandos have to undergo survival training in jungles, mountains, and deserts, and learn to make it on their own. Eating delicacies like snakes, frogs’ legs, and the local lizards (which are like iguanas) is not infrequent. I learned that one can eat anything except plants with white sap.” (p. 47)

It has become a part of Muslim psyche that tough and strong people are respected. In general, Muslim heroes are not scientists and philosophers, but conquerors and warriors. Musharraf knows that there are people in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab, who admire him as a commando, and they would conveniently ignore how the commando training can be helpful in the delicate business of governance and statecraft.

In this chapter there is an account of Musharraf’s marriage with Sehba, who had earlier rejected many proposals. She did not like mustaches. Yet for some reason, she did not reject Musharraf. Our hero is enchanted by her beauty. (p. 49)

Coming to the East Pakistan crisis, Musharraf blames Yahya Khan and his government for being “callous in the extreme” when tsunami hit East Pakistan just before the general elections in 1970. He observes: “I am convinced that the government’s attitude during this disaster reinforced the impression among the East Pakistanis that the western wing didn’t care for them, and that this brought many more voters behind Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League.” (52). Although many political observers subscribe to this view, it is too simple an explanation for the overwhelming success of the Awami League in the elections of December 1970.

Without analyzing the causes of Bengali separatism in depth, Musharraf condemns Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for several of his post-election decisions. He condemns Bhutto for suggesting two separate constitutions with a separate prime minister for each wing of the country. Retrospectively, Bhutto’s suggestion for a sub-federation in West Pakistan appears to be quite sensible and, to the best of the present reviewer’s knowledge, even Mufti Mahmood and Vali Khan were not averse to the idea of bifurcating the Constituent-cum-National Assembly when discussions were held in Dhaka to resolve the crisis.

In Musharraf’s opinion it was a nexus between Bhutto and a small coterie of military rulers that destroyed Pakistan. (p. 53) That he considers the Pakistan’s military establishment equally responsible for the East Pakistan debacle is a departure from past practice of the army. Musharraf’s decision to publish a greater part of the Hamood-ur Rehman Commision Report had earlier earned him respect for his policy of glasnost.

There are some factual inaccuracies in this chapter. The total strength of the Constituent-cum-National Assembly elected in December 1970, inclusive of seats reserved for women, was to be 313 and not 307 (p. 52). The constitution was to be framed within 120 days of the first session of the Constituent-cum-National Assembly and not within three months. (p. 53) The session of the Assembly was postponed on March 1, 1971 and not March 25, which is the date of the commencement of military action. (p. 53)
These silly mistakes could have been avoided if there had been proper checking of facts.

In chapter 8, “Life in the Fire”, Musharraf makes a lot of criticism of Z.A. Bhutto. In his zeal for Bhutto-bashing, Musharraf makes an absurd point that instead of becoming chief martial law administrator Bhutto could have reverted to the Constitution of 1956 with amendments to the clauses that pertained to East Pakistan. (p. 57) He conveniently ignores that Yahya Khan had done away with “One Unit” with effect from July 1, 1970, and elections for four separate provincial assemblies had been held in December 1970. Since the Constitution of 1956 was based on the principle of parity between East and West Pakistan and under that constitution West Pakistan was a single province, the same could not have been implemented.

Musharraf holds Z.A. Bhutto responsible for ravaging the country’s economy and destroying its institutions, including the educational system. In his view, “Bhutto ruled not like a democrat but like a despotic dictator.” (p. 58) And that “he was really a fascist ___ using the most progressive rhetoric to promote regressive ends, the first of which was to stay in power forever.” (p. 58) Musharraf adds that by the time Bhutto’s regime ended, he had come to the conclusion that “Bhutto was the worst thing that had yet happened to Pakistan.” (p. 58). It appears from Musharraf’s vehement condemnation of Z.A. Bhutto that he has no intention of patching up with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), if Benazir Bhutto remains at the helm.

In the same chapter Musharraf makes a brief reference to Balochistan. After describing the system of governance in the troubled province, he complains:

“ A few of the Sirdars in the B areas have been manipulating and blackmailing every Pakistani government for decades, using the militant mercenaries that they maintain as their local militia force. They have also kept their own tribes suppressed under their iron grip through indiscriminate use of force. I have taken on myself to convert all the B areas into A areas and establish the government writ there.” (p. 59)

On the one hand Musharraf is critical of the army’s handling of situation in East Pakistan in 1971 and on the other he expresses the same arrogance while dealing with the Balochistan crisis. The Balochistan issue is far more complex ___ with multiple internal and external dimensions ___ than what he has said, and needs to be resolved delicately. It is imperative that in its legitimate desire to establish full writ in Balochistan, the Pakistan government should remain on guard to thwart any attempt by foreign powers to meddle in the province’s affairs.

Musharraf is also critical of Zia ul Haq’s regime for its cultural and religious policies. He states, “ Zia found it convenient to align himself with the religious right and create a supportive constituency for himself.” (p. 67) Ironically, Musharraf has also maintained a cooperative relationship with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) for political expediency. Without the MMA’s support Musharraf could not have secured legitimacy for his presidential referendum or uniform.

Musharraf is mindful of the pitfalls of martial law. He shares the civilian perception in observing: “First, whenever the army gets involved with martial law, it gets distracted from its vital military duties. Military training and operational readiness suffer. Second, when we superimpose martial law and place the military over the civilian government, the latter ceases functioning. When martial law is later lifted, the civilian functionaries remain ineffective. Their growth is stunted. Last, I learned that whatever the law, civil or military, the poor are always victims of oppression.” (p. 65) His analysis is correct, although his actions do not fully match his words. Martial law or no martial law, the induction of personnel in uniform in institutions that fall within civilian domain is harmful for the country in long term.

The chapter 9, “Living Through the Dreadful Decade”, is primarily an indictment of the civilian façade, 1988-1999:

“Never in the history of Pakistan had we seen such a combination of the worst kind of governance __ or rather, a nearly total lack of governance ___ along with corruption and the plunder of national wealth. During these eleven years, every army chief ___ there were four of them ___ eventually clashed with the prime minister. The head of the government invariably got on the wrong side of the president and the army chief. Advice to Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto fell on deaf ears, leading every time to a confrontation.” (p. 78).

Musharraf refers to this period as sham democracy and says that Pakistan had come quite near to being declared a failed or defaulted state. (pp. 78-79) Obviously these observations indicate that Musharraf would not be prepared to give a free hand to Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto in national politics. If held under Musharraf, the elections of 2007 are likely to be contested without participation of the principal stakeholders.

In the same chapter Musharraf expresses his resentment that instead of appointing him, Chief of Army Staff Jehangir Karamat selected Lieutenant General Ali Kuli Khan as the chief of general staff. Musharraf thinks that Ali Kuli Khan was a mediocre officer. “I must confess I was quite surprised and disappointed,” he remarks. (p. 79) He also complains that through some manipulation the former chief of army staff, Abdul Waheed Kakar, had given first position to Ali Kuli whom he wanted to promote. Musharraf states, “ If not for this unfair manipulation, I would have been first in line and Ali Kuli would have retired before the promotion of the next chief was considered.” (p. 79)

It is extremely inappropriate that Musharraf should have made this disclosure or accusation in public. In the first place, he has cast aspersions on the ability of two chiefs of Pakistan armed forces to make correct judgment in assessing the competence of their subordinates. Secondly, he has inadvertently brought into disrepute the institution of the armed forces by alluding that in the armed forces a “mediocre” can get promotion if he has the right contacts. Lastly, he betrays that he has a very high opinion of himself.

In chapter 10, “From Chief to Chief Executive”, Musharraf relates the story of his becoming the army chief and not “chief executive” of the country as the title wrongly suggests. This glaring mistake cannot be condoned in a book meant for high caliber audience.

Musharraf gives some detail of the conflict between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the one hand and President Farooq Leghari and Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah on the other. He accuses Nawaz Sharif of sending “his party goons to storm the Supreme Court building while the court was in session. Their lordships had to hide in their chambers to avoid a thrashing, or worse.” (p.82) Obviously, there cannot be any excuse for what Nawaz Sharif did. However, one finds it difficult to understand why Tariq Aziz of Neelam Ghar fame, the most visible attacker caught by the secret cameras fixed in the Supreme Court building, was allowed to conduct Musharraf’s public meetings when he announced to hold presidential referendum in 2002. (He was removed after criticism in the press) Similarly why is Mushahid Husain, another suspect, is in Musharraf’s camp.

Musharraf brings the Supreme Court into disrepute by stating that “the prime minister convinced certain judges to take his side, and they passed a resolution against their own chief justice.” (p. 82). He commits outright contempt of the Supreme Court by alleging that the prime minister had “bribed and coerced judges.” (p. 85)

The same chapter also contains accounts of some high level meetings of the army establishment held in the midst of the politico-constitutional crisis of 1997 that show how blatantly army was involved in matters that did not fall within its domain. Recalling one such meeting, Musharraf says, “finally it was decided that the only way to break the impasse was that both the president and the chief justice must be advised to go. The army supported the elected prime minister.” (p. 83) Such accounts of army’s role in politics can only bring shame to Pakistan in international community and make mockery of its democratic institutions.

Musharraf also asserts that a number of times during the meetings of army establishment Lieutenant General Ali Kuli Khan had proposed imposition of martial law. (p. 83) This serious allegation is something that Ali Kuli Khan has since denied.

Regarding General Karamat’s speech at the Naval Staff College in which he had suggested setting up of a National Security Council, and due to which Nawaz Sharif had asked him to resign, Musharraf says, “ What shocked me even more was the meek manner in which General Karamat resigned. It caused great resentment in the army, as soldiers and officers alike felt humiliated.” (p. 84) He adds:

“I know that in western democracies, military personnel on active duty, especially the chiefs, are not supposed to make political statements. But then, in western democracies neither do the heads of government and state perennially drag army chiefs into politics. In a country where such a practice is rampant, an army chief cannot be blamed for getting involved, if he acts sensibly.” (p. 84)

This is an extremely weak justification for the army’s meddling into political affairs. Musharraf’s views suggest that he scantly respects the constitutional norms and holds quite negative opinion about politicians.

In chapter 11, “The Kargil Conflict”, Musharraf gives his side of the Kargil story. He stresses that the Kargil operartion was just one in a series of moves and counter-moves at tactical level by India and Pakistan along the Line of Control in Northern Areas. (p. 87). According to him the Indians could have possibly used the reportedly increasing activities of the “mujahideen” as a casus belli to launch operation against the positions of Pakistan armed forces. He states, “We knew that thousands of mujahideen, mostly indigenous to Indian-held Kashmir but also supported by freelance sympathizers from Pakistan, did operate against the Indian forces.” (p. 88) Understandably there is no reference to the ISI managed camps where these mujahideen were and, perhaps, are being trained.

Musharraf claims that he had intelligence reports suggesting an Indian plan to conduct some operations in our Northern Areas. (p. 90) According to him, there were large gaps between Pakistani army’s defensive positions in the Kargil and Drass and therefore a plan for plugging the gaps was formally approved in the middle of January 1999. (pp. 89-90). At the time of ordering action, Musharraf claims, the Pakistani troops were duly given instructions not to cross the watershed along the LoC. He proudly proclaims, “Our maneuver was conducted flawlessly, a tactical marvel of military professionalism.” (p. 90)

After a couple of encounters with the Pakistani army and the freedom fighters in the first week of May 1999, India overreacted by bringing its air force into action. (p. 91) Maybe due to some oversight or slip, Musharraf refers to the militants as “Pakistani freedom fighters” at one place (p. 90). He admits that by May 15, the “freedom fighters” were able to occupy over 500 square miles (800 square kilometers) of Indian-held territory in Kashmir. He adds:

“Our field commanders were fully engaged in supporting them in the face of the growing momentum of the Indian operations. We wanted to dominate the areas held by the freedom fighters. We established outposts to act as eyes and ears, and made raids and ambushes. The bravery, steadfastness, and ultimate sacrifice of our men in that inhospitable, high-altitude battlefield, against massive Indian forces, will be written in golden letters” (p. 91)

It appears that Nawaz Sharif knew about the operation that was planned to plug the gaps in the defensive positions of the Pakistan armed forces along the LoC, but he was not privy to what was perhaps the real intention of Musharraf i.e., to occupy a chunk of territory in Indian-held Kashmir to avenge the occupation of parts of Siachin by India. So Musharraf’s claim that the political leadership was on board is unjustified.

Musharraf’s next claim is very significant:

“India moved in artillery and infantry formations even at the cost of significantly depleting its offensive capability elsewhere along the international border. Evaluating this buildup at headquarters, we realized that India had created a serious strategic imbalance in its system of forces. It had bottled up major formations inside Kashmir, leaving itself no capability to attack us elsewhere, and, most seriously, had left the field open for a counteroffensive with which we could choke the Kashmir valley.” (pp. 92-93)

Having painted this rosy picture, Musharraf holds the political leadership responsible for buckling down before the international pressure.

The haste with which Nawaz Sharif sought some face-saving for retreat of Pakistani troops shows that there was more to the Kargil conflict than what has come to light or revealed by Musharraf. It is particularly amazing that even the naval and air force chiefs were ignorant of the Pakistani moves until India retaliated in a big way. The GHQ did not anticipate the kind of response India gave. In 1965, Pakistan had made a similar mistake when it thought that India would not cross the international boundary. It would be of great service to the nation if a commission is set up to thoroughly investigate into the Kargil (mis)adventure and bring out the truth.

Musharraf unnecessarily discloses in the context of the Kargil conflict that in 1999 Pakistan’s nuclear capability was not yet operational. (pp. 97-98) This should have remained a state secret.

However, there is an element of truth in Musharraf’s assertion: “. . . whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict.” (p. 98)

The part three, “The Hijacking Drama”, chapter 12, “Plane to Pakistan”, contains detail of what happened on board flight PK 805, which was bringing Musharraf back to Karachi from Colombo. Musharraf accuses Nawaz Sharif of not allowing his flight to land in Karachi even if it had to be diverted to Bombay, Oman, Abu Dhabi or Bandar Abbas. The reason: “I had been dismissed and Ziauddin had been made the chief. Obviously, Nawaz Sharif did not want me around to counter his illegal action.” (p. 107) It was only after military took over the control of the Karachi airport that Musharraf’s plane could land.

We know that Nawaz Sharif vehemently denies any attempt at hijacking the plane. The whole truth would only come out when Musharraf is gone. Even if Musharraf’s version is considered correct, is it not unusual that the head of government intended to dismiss the army chief but he was so afraid of the army chief that he had to take all this precaution? This speaks volumes about the character of Pakistan armed forces.

While reading the chapter one also gets a feeling that the contribution of the Karachi corps commander, Lieutenant General Usmani, in executing the coup has not been fully recognized.

In chapter 13, “The Conspiracy”, Musharraf charges Nawaz Sharif of staging a coup against him. According to Musharraf, “It was a gross misuse and misapplication of the law: you cannot summarily dismiss the army chief, a constitutional appointee, without giving him just cause and affording him due process.”(p. 109) Apparently, there is some logic in Musharraf’s assertion. But his first responsibility was to accept the administrative decision of the elected prime minister. He could then have gone to a court of law for redress of his grievances.

As far as Nawaz Sharif was concerned, the Kargil operation offered ample justification for Musharraf’s dismissal. Due to Musharraf’s adventurism in Kargil the Lahore Declaration and peace process with India had been jeopardized. Besides, Musharraf has admitted while giving details of his years at the FC College and PMA that he was not a very disciplined person. He had also sent an indirect message to the prime minister, “I am not Jahangir Karamat.” (p. 110) The reader would immediately recall the “dada geer” of Nazimabad No.3.

The chapter 14, “ The Countercoup”, describes how the loyalists of Musharraf managed to thwart the alleged plan of Nawaz Sharif and removed him from power. With regard to the actors of what he calls countercoup, Musharraf says:

“Consider the cast of actors and their relationship to me. Apart from being their chief, I played squash with the two commanding officers, Shahid Ali and Javed Sultan. Mohammad Aziz was my appointee. The commander of the Rawalpindi Corps, Mahmood Ahmed, had been my regimental commanding officer when I was in charge of an artillery brigade in 1986-1987. The DGMO, Shahid Aziz, is my relative. The commander of the Triple One Brigade, Brigadier Sallahuddin Satti, was my brigade major when I was a brigadier. The officers critical to the countercoup in the other cities, Lahore and Karachi, were also my appointees. Only the head of our premier security service, the ISI, Lieutenant General Ziauddin, was close to Nawaz Sharif __ but Ziauddin did not command any soldiers. The deck was stacked against the prime minister.” (p. 121)

Does Musharraf want to say that personal friendship and loyalties rather than professional responsibilities count more in Pakistan armed forces?

While going into detail of the so-called “countercoup”, Musharraf has been selective in showering praise. Some of those who helped him secure power have since been removed from their posts.

Musharraf’s dismissal was announced on TV. But he claims that he was still officially and legally the army chief. He refers to the Supreme court judgment: “General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, is a holder of [a] constitutional post. His purported arbitrary removal in violation of the principle of audi alteram partem was ab initio void and of no legal effect.” (p. 127) Needless to point out that since the Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan and Usif Patel cases in 1954-55 Pakistan’s superior judiciary has hardly shown any spine against those in power.

In chapter 15, “Anatomy of Suicide”, Musharraf tries to explain why Nawaz Sharif took the decision to remove him. He refers to various irritants that had developed between him and the prime minister. He conjectures, “It could be that such affronts on my part made the prime minister realize his folly in selecting me for my position. He had probably thought that being the son of immigrant parents, I would acquiesce in his demands ___ that I would feel insecure and vulnerable and do his bidding. He couldn’t have been more wrong. For one thing, such parochialism does not exist in the army, where we are all Pakistanis.” (p. 136)

Always there is this feeling in Musharraf that he is a Mohajir. By denying the existence of any discrimination in the armed forces on that basis, he is indirectly admitting it. He adds, “Neither did Sharif understand that the patriotism of those who voluntarily left everything behind and came to Pakistan is beyond question.” (p. 136) Again there is this desire to monopolize patriotism.

Musharraf mentions three possibilities as to why Nawaz Sharif acted to remove him: Sharif wanted a more pliable general as the army chief, he wanted to please the Americans and the Indians or he feared a coup by Musharraf. (p. 138) Given the personal nature of Musharraf as depicted in his book, the first and the last possibilities seem more likely.

The part four, “Rebuilding the Nation”, is about Musharraf’s policies and accomplishments since he became first the chief executive and then the president of Pakistan.

In chapter 16, “Pakistan First”, Musharraf explains the reasons why he did not impose martial law repeating the earlier argument: “Our past experience had amply demonstrated that martial law damages not only military but also civilian institutions, because as the army gets superimposed on civil institutions the bureaucracy becomes dependent on army officers to make the crucial decisions that they themselves should be making. I therefore decided that there would be no martial law.”(p.143)

No one would dispute Musharraf’s observations. But then the army should not develop corporate interests as an institution and the armed forces personnel should not be inducted on civilian posts in public sector corporations, universities and other institutions, which are better managed by civilians. In fact, one reason for not imposing martial law could have been international environment, which was not propitious for such an undertaking.

In the same chapter Musharraf refers to his seven-point agenda and four areas of special focus. There cannot be two opinions about the importance of the points he mentions which inter alia include strengthening of federation, revival of economy, devolution of power to the grassroots level and across the board accountability.

In toppling the government of Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf had violated his constitutional oath. He could have let the system function and confined himself to just removing the prime minister if it was that essential. His scant respect for constitution can be judged from the excuse he makes: “If the nation goes, so does the constitution. But if the constitution, especially a flawed one, goes, the nation still remains and can always give itself another constitution or correct the flaws in the first one.” (p. 153) One favorite past -time of Pakistan’s military rulers has been to play with the constitution and to tailor a political system that suits them. Musharraf is no exception.

The chapter 17, “ The Quest for Democracy” makes a brief and superficial survey of constitutional developments, and government and politics in Pakistan. Here too Musharraf does not spare Bhutto: “Zulfikar Ali Bhutto masqueraded as a democrat but ruled like an autocrat.” (p. 159) Nawaz also becomes Musharraf’s target: “ This time he had a brute two-third majority in the National Assembly and could bludgeon through any amendment to the constitution he wanted. He used his majority to silence dissent. He forced the army chief out of office. He attacked the press and arrested many journalists. And he had his party’s goons physically attack the Supreme Court.” (p. 162) Musharraf’s outspoken and largely true condemnation of Nawaz Sharif indicates that there is no possibility of a patch up with the PML (N) either, if Sharif is in the saddle.

In this chapter again there are a couple of factual inaccuracies. Martial Law was imposed by Iskandar Mirza on October 7, 1958 and not October 8, 1958. (p. 156) And Benazir Bhutto’s second government was dismissed in 1996 and not 1997. (p. 162).

Musharraf does not refer to the role of the ISI in making and breaking the governments during the period of 1988-1999 without which any story of government and politics in Pakistan would remain incomplete.

In chapter 18, “ Putting the System Right”, Musharraf points out the flaws in Pakistan’s politico-constitutional setup, and discusses the measures that he has adopted to remove them. He primarily identifies two problems: “the absence of democracy at the grassroots level and the absence of effective checks and balances over the three power brokers of Pakistan: the president, the prime minister and the army chief.” (p. 164) The need for devolution of power is understandable but to concede to the army chief the status of power broker is obviously, to put it mildly, undemocratic. His solution to remove power imbalance is creation of a National Security Council and restoration of article 58 (2) (b) as safety valve.

With regard to Nawaz Sharif’s exile, Musharraf states that Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had asked him to allow Nawaz Sharif to go into exile. But adds. “ I also thought that sending the entire family of Nawaz Sharif out of the country might be politically advantageous. It would avoid the prolonged destabilizing effect of a high-profile trial.” (p. 165-166) It seems for Musharraf it was a matter of political expediency; otherwise in the past Zia ul Haq had refused to entertain all requests by world leaders to let Bhutto go into exile. Although Musharraf’s decision was a mature one it created impression that Nawaz Sharif was spared because he belonged to Punjab.

Musharraf finds no qualms in disclosing the role of the armed forces in the creation of the PML (Q), known as the King’s party, before the elections of 2002. He praises Chaudhry Shujat Husain and Chaudhry Pervez Illahi as seasoned politicians from Gujrat. He asserts, “The Chaudhry cousins had been victims of some mudslinging but they were good men.” (p. 166) This is too much. Good men in what sense? Has Musharraf forgotten the cooperative societies scandal of early 1990s? Is he oblivious of current sugar scandal? Does not he know the amount of loans that the Chaudhry family has obtained from nationalized banks? By protecting the Chaudhries Musharraf has brought himself into disrepute.

At other place he states, “We were cobbling together and launching the new Pakistan Muslim League . . .” (p.167) Now that is what is called pre-poll-rigging and political engineering. Being president, Musharraf should have acted in a neutral fashion.

Concerning the controversial presidential referendum of April 2002, Musharraf fairly observes, “The whole exercise ended in a near catastrophe.” (p. 168) In fact, the constitution did not have a provision of referendum to elect a president. The result of the referendum was accorded legitimacy under the seventeenth amendment to the constitution.

Musharraf admits that the rule barring anyone to serve as president or prime minister more than twice was partially made to prevent Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto from ever becoming prime minister again. (p.169) Indeed a candid and audacious admission of political impropriety.

Musharraf discloses that after the elections of 2002 the PML (Q) had made efforts to form coalition with the PPP but these efforts “failed for the sole reason that Benazir Bhutto would not countenance anyone else from her party becoming prime minister.” (p.175) It is a well-known fact that initially Makhdum Amin Fahim was tipped as the prime minister but he could not secure approval from Benazir Bhutto. In future also the PPP is likely to miss the bus if Benazir fails to strike a deal with Musharraf.

As a last resort the PML (Q) also considered forming a coalition with the MMA, the party of the clerics, although it was not advisable in the wake of the 9/11. Without mentioning the name of Maulana Fuzlur Rehman, Musharraf states: “ The MMA demanded the prime minister’s office for a man who would have been quite unacceptable both internationally and domestically. He even came to me personally to ask for the coveted position, committing himself to a very reconciliatory approach toward the United States and the West and complete support against al Qaeda and other extremists.” (p. 175).

Apart from alluding to the hypocrisy of the clerics, Musharraf is clearly hinting at the prospects that the PML (Q) and MMA may join hands if it is necessary after the elections of 2007. Let political expediency dictate the term.

Next Musharraf explains the changing circumstances on domestic and external fronts ___ confrontational approach of the MMA, heating up of South and North Waziristan, Dr. A. Q. Khan affair, pressure to send troops to Iraq and initiation of peace process with India after a ten-month border standoff in 2002___ due to which he decided not to remove his uniform by December 31, 2004. (p. 177). He contends:

“With all this facing Pakistan, with so many pulls in different directions, there was a dire need for unity of command in governance. By this I imply a single authority over the three important organs of government ___ the bureaucracy, the political system, and the military.” (p. 177).

Through out the history of Pakistan, the army has played a pivotal role in not allowing the civilian institutions of governance to develop. Whatever be the army’s perception, it is also a fact that the most tragic event ___ the separation of East Pakistan ___ took place when the army was at the helm of affairs. Instead of justifying the unity of command, in other words dictatorship of the army chief, Musharaf needs to realize that there is a dire need to promote institutional governance in Pakistan.

After the failure of Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali in prime minister’s slot, the PML (Q) could not agree on a replacement. Musharraf states, “I had come to the conclusion that Shaukat Aziz, our successful finance minister, would make the best prime minister.” (. 179) He adds, “I did not discuss any of this with Shaukat Aziz. He was simply presented with a fait accompli.” (p. 179) This much is sufficient to make mockery of the parliament’s superiority and its prerogative to elect the country’s prime minister.

In chapter 19, “Kick-Starting the Economy”, Musharraf presents a lot of figures to make the point that under his government there has been a revival of economy. What he conveniently ignores is the fact that since early 1990s Pakistan was facing sanctions whereas the actual starting point of revival was 9/11 when Pakistan became a US ally in its “war on terror.” And sanctions were lifted. It is yet to be seen if there has been any structural change in the economy or the present kick off is short-lived. The recent scandal concerning the sale of Pakistan Still Mills, the sugar crisis and uncontrollable inflationary trends are black spots on the management of Pakistan’s economy.

The part five of the book deals with “The War on Terror”. This part begins with chapter 20, “One Day that Changed the World”, an obvious reference to 9/11. During an important meeting at the Governor’s House, Musharraf received the famous phone call of the US secretary of state. He recalls, “Powell was quite candid: ‘You are either with us or against us.’ I took this as a blatant ultimatum.” (p. 201)

Then comes the most controversial passage:

“When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director general of Inter Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the U.S. deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age. This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the United States had decided to hit back hard.” (p. 201)

Reference to Armitage’s threat by Musharraf while speaking to media helped him in a big way in promoting his book. Armitage has since said that although he had used tough language he never threatened to bomb Pakistan to stone age. The then director general of ISI has declined to give his version.

This controversial passage has created Pakistan’s image as a spineless country. Although Musharraf adds, “Richard Armitage’s undiplomatic language, regrettable as it was, had nothing to do with my decision”, (p.204) the irreparable damage has been done. In line with his commando trait, Musharraf states, “Needless to say, though, I felt very frustrated by Armitage’s remarks. It goes against the grain of a soldier not to be able to tell anyone giving him an ultimatum to go forth and multiply, or words to that effect.” (p. 204)

Apparently as an after thought Musharraf says that he had war-gamed the United States as an adversary before taking the decision. He agues that due to military, economic and social weaknesses, Pakistan could not have confronted the United States. (pp. 203-204) and so he went along. But the question then was not that of confronting the United States but that of not buckling down in an abject manner.

Musharaf is aware that he is often criticized for not resisting American pressure when Powell telephoned him. He, therefore, clarifies that his conversation with Powell was not about specifics. (p. 201) It was on September 13, 2001, that the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, brought him a set of seven demands. The U.S. State Department also communicated these demands to the government of Pakistan. Musharraf has reproduced this set of seven demands to prove that he did not accept them as they were. He states:

“How could we allow the United States ‘blanket overflight and landing rights’ without jeopardizing our strategic assets? I offered only a narrow flight corridor that was far from any sensitive areas. Neither could we give the United States ‘use of Pakistan’s naval ports, air bases and strategic locations on borders.’ We refused to give any naval ports or fighter aircraft bases. We allowed the United States only two bases ___ Shamsi in Balochistan and Jacobabad in Sindh __ and only for logistics and aircraft recovery. No attack could be launched from there. We gave no ‘blanket permission’ for anything.” (p.206)

The above statement contradicts what people have been learning from local and foreign media reports about his accepting all demands without conditions.

The chapter 21, “Omar and Osama”, contains details about Mulla Omar’s and bin Laden’s background and their worldview, and discusses the origin of the Taliban. Musharraf “suspects” that the United States did not disapprove of the Taliban phenomenon in the hope that they could bring peace to Afghanistan. (p. 211)

In this chapter Musharraf’s following observations need to be given serious thought:

“It is very well for us to say that Islam is. . . . in fact a very progressive, moderate, and tolerant religion ___ which indeed it is ___ but why should the people of the world bother to go out of their way and spend their precious time to explore the authentic sources of Islam? They are going to judge Islam by the utterances and actions of Muslims, especially those actions and utterances that affect their lives directly, and not by the protestations of academics and moderates, no matter how justified.” (p. 215)

The chapters 22, “The War Comes to Pakistan”, 23, “Manhunt” and 24, “Tightening the Noose” are about the network and activities of Al-Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan. These chapters also contain the details of Pakistani agencies’ operations to break terrorist network in the country.

Referring to Al-Qaeda members, Musharraf boasts: “ We have captured 689 and handed 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totaling millions of dollars. Those who habitually accuse us of ‘not doing enough’ in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan.” (p. 237)

Since Musharraf has time and again been accused of hunting with the hound and running with the hare, he wants to dispel the impression that he is not fully committed to war on terror. However, the assertion that a huge prize money was received by the Pakistan government led to embarrassment for the American CIA. The Pakistan government also clarified that the money was paid to individuals whose information led to arrest of Al-Qaeda elements. Commenting on Musharraf’s disclosure about the number of people handed over to the United States, one detractor of Musharraf has said that he should have given the title of “In the Line of Hire” to his book.

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