Musharraf's Cauldron on the Boil

'President's growing isolation within the country, coupled with the waning credibility in foreign capitals is going to compound the problems faced by Pakistan. This is the juncture when Islamabad should pause and meditate a bit more on the wisdom of the divisive policies it is pursuing.'
' Editorial: The NATION
(Pakistan's leading daily January 9, 2006)

Pakistan today is at a critical juncture where its military dictator seems to have lost the confidence of the Pakistani nation. Six years down the line after General Musharraf overthrew the lawfully elected Government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani General and the Pakistan Army preside over a nation deeply divided by the dictatorial policies of its military ruler. In an ironic twist, when General Musharraf rode into power in Islamabad in October 1999, many leading Pakistani media personalities welcomed his advent. Today, Pakistan's leading dailies are focusing intensely on the mess that has taken place in the last six years of military rule and rightly too, as the survey of Pakistan's domestic scene is presented below.

Baluchistan, the country's largest province is in open rebellion against the General's policies of neglect of the gas rich region and what the Baluchis claim as promoting Punjabi 'colonization' of this geo-strategic province. It has gone to the extent of mounting a direct attack by rockets on General Musharraf when he was laying the foundation stone of a new cantonment in Baluchistan. Pakistan's leading political analysts are warning General Musharraf that if he does not rein in his Army, he may be pushing Baluchistan in a repeat of the Bangladesh severance from Pakistan in 1971.

Sind is now smarting under a new onslaught from General Musharraf who has declared that he would go ahead with the construction of the Kalabagh Dam which had been originally conceived by a previous military ruler, General Zia-ul-Haq who shelved the project in the face of stiff opposition. The construction of the Kalabagh Dam would result in diversion of greater water resources to Punjab and deprive Sind of its already dwindling water flow. The Mohajir political party MQM which is a coalition partner at the Centre has threatened to pullout of the Coalition on this issue. The Sindhis allege that this is one more example of General Musharraf promoting Punjabi colonialism and also to please Pakistan Army military hierarchy whose extensive land holdings in the dam's vicinity would stand to benefit.

The North West Frontier Province is equally incensed over the Kalabagh Dam issue as large parts of its fertile Peshawar Valley are likely to be submerged by this dam. The ongoing conflict between the Pakistan Army and the fiercely independent tribals of Waziristan does not show any signs of ending. The Pakistan Army is increasingly suffering casualties in these operations perceived as being done under United States pressure to flush out Al Qaeda militants sanctuaries in the region.

Punjab can be said to be the only province that is relatively at peace in Pakistan. This is because it receives 'The Most Favored Province' treatment from General Musharraf, conscious of the fact that the Pakistan Army which props his military rule is predominantly Punjabi. It is a different matter that all the other three provinces of Pakistan resent what they term as 'Punjabi Colonialism' and 'Punjabi Imperialism'.

The Pakistani daily quoted above is right when it points out that General Musharraf is growingly getting isolated from the nation that he presides. The General is compulsive in his approaches to find military solutions to Pakistan's political problems. People in Pakistan, increasingly view that while the Pakistan Army has a legitimate role in defending the sovereignty of Pakistan, the Pakistan Army has no right to meddle or forcibly assume political power to rule the country.

Pakistan's and General Musharraf's waning credibility in foreign capitals as pointed out by the newspaper can be analyzed as basically arising from its grudging approaches to control Islamic Jehadis of various hues operating from its territory and indulging in pan-Islamic terrorism. Pakistan's other notoriety as a compulsive WMD proliferators is once again coming to the fore as per the latest CIA reports. It is noteworthy that in both these reprehensible activities, it is the Pakistan Army which is the main culprit as these fall within its purview and control. The Pakistan Army is headed by General Musharraf for over eight years now."

General Musharraf's cauldron is certainly boiling as the picture above indicates. It has both domestic and external implications. Domestically, the Pakistan Army is no longer 'the glue that holds Pakistan together'. That myth was broken in 1971 for the first time and now seems to be headed in Baluchistan for the second time. It is a pity that the Pakistani masses who are as industrious as the Indian masses are lagging behind economically (while India prospers greatly); all because of stifling of democracy in Pakistan by the Pakistan Army.

The external implications of growing isolation of the Pakistani military ruler and waning credibility in international capitals is significantly more for the United States and India. The United States will increasingly find it difficult to explain and justify the trust it has reposed in General Musharraf's persona and the myth of the Pakistani General's 'indispensability' for American national security interests, and thereby in the process denying democracy to the people of Pakistan.

India has to revise its assessment of the Pakistani General's ability to deliver on the India-Pakistan peace process. India's Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh too would need to revise his assessment that he trusts the Pakistani General and trusts he can do business (peace dialogue) with him. India has to build peace with the people of Pakistan as represented by legitimately elected political leaders and not with those who usurp power by force.

Analytically, it is difficult to comprehend that both the United States and India can have a political dialogue of any kind with a military ruler who is in growing isolation from his nation. 


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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