1 November 2015

Why India needs to thank General Pervez Musharraf Pakistan needs to act on India's refrain to shut down the terror infrastructure and act in the spirit of the Ufa declaratio


Pakistan's military dictators are mostly always larger-than-life individuals, divinely sanctioned to steer their country away from the anarchy of civilian rule. Or so they seem to believe. Untrammelled by civilian oversight, every military ruler from Field Marshals Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan and Generals Zia to Pervez Musharraf, have launched military expeditions that have ultimately proved ruinous. Ayub had a series of grandly titled military plans to seize Kashmir in 1965, Yahya Khan presided over a genocide in East Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, Zia, an Afghan War that forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan but injected the poison of Islamic fundamentalism into his country's body politic. And finally, General Pervez Musharraf, who launched the most recent attempt to redraw the boundaries of Kashmir, at Kargil in 1999, and finally oversaw a phase of terrorism that saw dreaded "fidayeen" or kamikaze terrorists spill out of the vale of Kashmir into the heartland of India. But none of these dictators have spoken about their exploits with the kind of clarity that General Musharraf did to an interview to Dunya News TV on October 25, 2015. The General's fortunes are admittedly at its lowest since a 2013 return from self-imposed exile backfired, and is technically on bail in a spiral of court cases. Every TV appearance is an opportunity to remind his countrymen he is available to fulfill his divine calling.

Responding to the anchor's queries on the cliché, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", in the context of the Lashkar-e-Taiba's Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, the General at first resorted to false equivalences. India too was playing this game, he said, suggesting somehow that the Shiv Sena's ink antics and ban theatrics could even remotely be compared with the LeT's slaughter of hotel guests in the Taj or a recent attempt to blow up a passenger train in Gurdaspur.

Prodded further by the anchor, the General couldn't resist. He sucked in a deep breath to narrate a Shakespearean tragedy in five minutes: The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to "a religious militancy we introduced in Pakistan's interest to eject the Soviets, we brought the mujahideen from all over the world, we trained the Taliban, we gave them weapons, we sent him inside… They were our heroes… This (Jalaluddin) Haqqani, "He's our hero!… Osama bin Laden, he's our hero!" he said in sarcastic allusions to the Mujahideen being feted as freedom fighters by the US in the 1980s.

Musharraf then turned his gaze to Kashmir, where Pakistan attempted to replicate the Afghanistan model. He traced the origin of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and a dozen other groups to the Kashmiri "freedom fighters" armed and trained by Pakistan against the Indian Army in the 1990s.

Now, the General noted regretfully, "the hero has become the villain" because this "fight for freedom" had now been "converted into terrorism". "This mujahideen activity, which had a positive impact on the world, now it has changed in the world and here as well… Now they are staging blasts, humeen logon ko maar rahe hain… (they are killing us)," he sighed like the dueler bloodied with his double-edged sword.

This story is not new.

The Pakistani ISI's umbilical links with the "strategic assets" like the Afghan Taliban and the LeT are well known and, as a 2010 Harvard University research paper quoted a Taliban leader, "as clear as the sun in the sky". For the man who oversaw the ISI in a crucial decade from 1998 onwards, to acknowledge these ties so openly, amounts to a public confession. Musharraf's candour now undermines Pakistan's attempts to create another false equivalence: "both India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism" because Pakistan, Musharraf now admits, created the monsters which are devouring it and attacking its neighbour. Pakistan now clearly needs to act on India's refrain to shut down the terror infrastructure and act in the spirit of the Ufa declaration that calls for eliminating the menace of terrorism from South Asia. The General's conclusion holds out some hope even as one wonders whether Pakistan's deep state shares their former boss' assessment.

"At this moment, they (terrorists) must be controlled and locked up, because we are affected, we are the victims of this."

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