Pakistan: Musharraf and Army In Control
The large band of liberals who have been watching recent events in Pakistan were delighted by the happenings in the country in the past few weeks, with news of President Musharraf likely to board an awaiting aircraft doing the rumor circuit in Islamabad and other regional capitals of South Asia. Skeptics were however unmoved and continued to maintain that the old, die hard commando would not give up so easily. Indeed military generals in Pakistan have not been known to leave their seat of power without a fight, for one at least, Zia ul Haque the hand of fate intervened.
Musharraf is indeed made of sterner stuff. Using his usual ploy of an interview to a select group of journalists in Islamabad at a time when the principal leaders in Pakistan the PPP co chair Asif Zardari and Prime Minister, Gillani as well as his principal antagonist, Nawaz Sharif were out of the country, he firmly stated, 'I won't resign in the current situation ... I will live and die here, there is no other way. I don't have any house outside Pakistan.'
He went on to dare the Assembly to impeach him, 'The Constitution has the modus operandi to impeach someone. Parliament is supreme. Whatever the Parliament decides I will accept it,' knowing fully well that the Senate where his favorite the King's Party, the PML Q has the majority will scuttle any move to remove him, the President is confident that he will survive another few years in office. So much for the hopes of the liberals.
That in the wake of this move, the lawyers are likely to launch a major movement in the country on 10 June may not be a concern for him, nor the likely turbulence that may be caused in the political circles with some PPP legislators willing to join the lawyers against their own government. Come 10 June, we may see more blood shed on Pakistan's streets.
And there may be more blood in Kashmir as well. Despite the initial positive signals given by Mr. Zardari, which were negated by the Army Chief himself, no change in Pakistan's policy on supporting militancy in Kashmir is visible. Violation of the Cease Fire on the Line of Control just before the visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister to Islamabad has been followed with another incident in the sensitive Mendhar sector in the recent past establishing a pattern.
Another credible indication was given by Mirwaiz Farooq, invited by the Pakistan government to visit the country on 21 June. The moderate Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a recent interview to Karan Thapar on the popular program of CNN IBN, Devil's Advocate is reported to have indicated in no categorical terms that Pakistan's Kashmir policy is hostage to the wills and wishes of the army.
"It is very difficult for any prime minister in Pakistan to come up with a set of ideas and try to implement it on its own unless and until there is a backing of other institutions in Pakistan," he said in the interview circulated by the Press Trust of India and went on to add when questioned if he was referring to the army, "In particular ... We know it for sure."
The statement by the Mirwaiz who is a moderate separatist leader of the need to win over support of the Pakistan army to resolve the Kashmir issue is significant denoting the heavy stakes that it has in the issue. The political leadership even when elected in Pakistan is thus unable to turn off the tap of militancy in Kashmir.
Now that the Pakistan army has earned for itself a respite with the numerous deals on the Western border with the Taliban, the traditional approach of focus on Kashmir seems to be the way ahead.
Thus the signs are ominous and while a misadventure on the Line of Control from Pakistan is not anticipated in the days ahead, the possibility of a major terrorist strike in Kashmir or within the country cannot be ruled out. Is it a larger game plan of the President and the Army to indicate to New Delhi, that it is the best bet for any negotiations on Kashmir? Sadly time will also fail to unravel this dilemma of over six decades.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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