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Musharraf: Another Posture

The much ballyhooed telecast is likely to see a mere change of posture -- and not mindset -- regarding Pakistan-sponsored terrorism directed against India.

Musharraf: Another Posture
Musharraf: Another Posture
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Writing in its issue of October 4 to 10, 2001, Independent, a weekly journal of Pakistan, quoted an unidentified leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami as saying as follows: "The Pakistani Army is jehadi by philosophy.  Its hidden policy is still pro-jehad and pro-Taliban.  What we see is just a posture and not a policy.  The military Government's support to the US is just a posture."

This assessment was proved correct by the subsequent developments in the US-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan.  While pretending to co-operate with the US-led allies, the military-intelligence establishment ensured that the top leadership of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, escaped capture or decimation by the US so that they could live to fight another day.

Large sections of public opinion in Pakistan, including the "Independent", saw the initial anti-US demonstrations by the religious parties and the subsequent arrests and detention of the religious leaders as orchestrated by Musharraf  to project himself to the US as supporting the US-led war against terrorism at tremendous risk to himself in order to win more lollipops.

Musharraf's expected telecast to the Pakistani people on January 12 or 13, 2002, is likely to see a similar change of posture and not mindset regarding Pakistan-sponsored terrorism directed against India.

The forthcoming statement of Government intentions would be a much more difficult tactical manoeuvre for Musharraf to make than was the one he had made in September vis-a-vis the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.

He has to carry conviction to India and the rest of the international community that his recently declared opposition to terrorism "in all its manifestations" and the arrests of the leaders of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) underlined a definitive change of policy and mindset and not just a change of posture as believed by India.

At the same time, he has to reassure not only the Pakistani population, particularly  the Punjabis, but also the officers and other ranks in the military that his declaration was only a change of posture and not of their policy of keeping India bleeding through jehadis and avenging the humiliation of the Pakistani Army in   1971 by forcing India to agree to a change of the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

Musharraf is a rattled man in a quandary.  He is rattled because Mr. A.B.Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister, has called his nuclear bluff by mobilising the Indian Army in a manner unprecedented since 1971 and thereby signalling  his readiness to consider the use of the military option  as a last resort if left with no other alternative for ending Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism.

Till December 13, 2001, the Pakistani military leadership had convinced itself that its nuclear arsenal had insured it against a possible Indian retaliation in its territory.  This conviction has been shaken by the Indian reaction and by the acceptance by the US in public of India's right of self-defence against cross-border terrorism.

He is also rattled because the international community has come to accept India's view that what has been happening in J & K is largely the use of cross-border terrorism by the State of Pakistan to achieve its strategic objective against India and not purely the  manifestation of a freedom-struggle by the Kashmiris as projected by  Musharraf.

He is in a quandary because after the USA's failure to capture or kill large sections of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda leadership and in the face of increasing indications of their having taken shelter in Pakistani territory, which they could not have done without the complicity of at least some sections of the Pakistani military-intelligence coterie, the US and the UK seem to be coming round to sharing India's perception that the root of the terrorism cancer is to be found in the mindset of this coterie and in the territory of Pakistan.

They are not yet openly saying so  and continue to shower praise on Musharraf for his co-operation in the "war" against terrorism and for the action already taken by him against the jehadi organisations in his territory.  The USA's conviction that the alternative to Musharraf is too dangerous to contemplate and that only the military leadership could  prevent Pakistan's nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of the terrorists is still very strong.

In the USA's perception, it needs a co-operative Musharraf to smoke out the still dangerous dregs of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda from their hide-outs in Pakistan. He would also be needed for making the region safe for US oil and gas interests after making the world safe for US nationals, shown so vulnerable by 11/9.

At the same time, Washington is coming round to the view that its continued high-profile support to Musharraf should not be misinterpreted by the coterie as continued tolerance of his use of terrorism against India so long as it did not threaten US nationals and interests as was the US policy hitherto.

Washington has, therefore, been adopting a two-pronged policy--- first, pressure to act against the jehadi terrorists in order to respond to India's concerns and, second, public  projection of the jehadi terrorists as threatening India as well as Pakistan in order to exonerate him of any responsibility for harbouring them in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373.

In the face of this pressure, how to publicly break with the jehadi terrorists, while continuing to ensure the functioning of the weapon of terrorism against India? How to reassure the public of Pakistan and the officers and other ranks of the military that his public break with the jehadi terrorists would not mean a dilution of the coterie's commitment  to wrest J&K from India, by hook or by crook? While changing the wielders of the weapon of terrorism on Islamabad's behalf, how to ensure that the new wielders would be as effective as those being replaced and would be viewed more benignly by the rest of the world? How to ensure that his change of the wielders is not misinterpreted by his own public and particularly the religious elements as yet another  diplomatic defeat after the earlier one in Afghanistan?

These are the questions now being debated by the coterie and the Cabinet of Musharraf. An indication of the likely new posture can be already seen in the resurrection of  Abdul Qayyum Khan, former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), who was forced by Musharraf in the middle of last year to renounce his claim to the leadership of the State apparatus after the success of his Muslim Conference in the elections.

Qayyum, a blue-blooded Kashmiri who entered Kashmiri politics more or less at the same time as the late Sheikh Abdullah,  was a consistent critic of the post-1993 Afghanisation of J&K by the military-intelligence establishment by inducting Pakistanis, Arabs, Afghans and other mercenaries of Afghan war vintage into the State.  He was also a critic of the use of the Al Qaeda by the coterie for training the jehadi terrorists.

Qayyum, who has wide non-Governmental contacts in the West, attributes India's success in changing Western perceptions to  what he regards as the marginalisation by the coterie  of the role of the Kashmiris in J&K and of the Mirpuri diaspora abroad in the militant and diplomatic campaign against India.

According to Qayyum, the post-1993 unwise policies of the military-intelligence establishment have created before the eyes of the world the spectre of J&K turning into another Afghanistan due to the depredations of the Pakistani jehadis inspired by the Al Qaeda.

He felt that large sections of Western non-governmental opinion favour the Kashmiri cause and they have to be effectively mobilised in order to bring about a change in Western governmental perceptions.  He was also of the view that this non-governmental opinion favoured the third option of independence for J&K and that, at least as a tactical manoeuvre, Islamabad should show itself as having an open mind on the third option  in order to keep these sections on its side.

The reported appointment of Qayyum as the head of a National Kashmir Committee, despite his past proximity to Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf's bete noir, is an indicator that his views have a greater acceptance in the coterie post-December 13.  Moreover, Qayyum has always been close to the Punjabi Generals and his come-back speaks of the assertive role of these Generals in deciding on the coming new posture.

Change the wielders, but not the weapon.  Continue to use the weapon, but more invisibly than before.  Stop the Afghanisation and promote the indigenisation of the jehad.  Change the style, but not the substance and objective of the political and diplomatic campaign against India.  Those are likely to be the themes of the new posture. 


(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)

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