|Musharraf’s three awesome assignments
DAWN – 24 December 2001
President George W. Bush wants President General Pervez Musharraf to stop the fleeing Taliban and Al-Qaeda leadership from entering into Pakistan. Prime Minister Vajpayee wants him to stop the Jihadis belonging to Lashkar-i-Tayyaba and Jaishe Mohammad from crossing over the Line of Control (LoC) into the Indian held Kashmir. And he has assigned to himself the task of stopping former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from coming back to power in Pakistan. Since Pakistan is a member of the US-led coalition against international terrorism, Gen Musharraf can hardly refuse to oblige President Bush. So he has, according to a newspaper report, moved over 50,000 soldiers and 150,000 para-military troops to the border with Afghanistan in order to stop infiltration of anti-Afghan warriors into the tribal areas. He would, however, very much like not to oblige Mr Vajpayee but by plugging the Durand Line, he is in effect doing exactly what the Indian prime minister desires.
While preparing the roadmap to democracy which he announced on August 14 this year the President naturally could not have made any allowances for the September 11 tragedy and its after-effects on global, regional and domestic politics. Pumped up by so much world attention with so many high profile visitors coming all the way from the four corners of the world to meet him and the number of telephone calls he received from the world leaders during this period, the President, perhaps, believes that he needs not worry about his democracy roadmap. He, perhaps, believes that the map would remain untouched in the aftermath of the global war against terrorism.
That is why of and on he keeps on talking about his determination to keep Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from coming back to power. And perhaps that is again the reason why the redoubtable Tanveer Naqvi, the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) chief sounded so smug while being interviewed on BBC’s Hard Talk. The two want to restore ‘genuine’ democracy in the country by making irreversible transfer of power to civilians through the undemocratic method of pre-poll rigging.
According to information gathered from various informed and inspired sources, the roadmap to democracy envisages the General to remain president for two terms after the 2002 elections which he would not contest. He will also head the National Security Council as its chairman with the majority of the NSC members coming from the armed forces.
For the job of prime minister he has a number of names on his list including Omar Asghar Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Aftab Shaban Mirani and Makhdoom Amin Fahim. And he believes that the newly-elected parliament will okay any constitutional amendment that he will introduce before and after the elections. He does not consider the PML(N) to be of any threat to his plans as under the infamous deal he struck with Nawaz Sharif in December last year, the former PM is not expected to return home in a hurry. He has assigned the job of taking care of the PML(N) remnants to Mian Azhar and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in the Punjab, to the Shiekh brothers in Sindh, to about-to-return Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao in the NWFP and to, perhaps, Zafarullah Jamali (not yet final) in Balochistan.
The PPP, however, continues to remain intractable so far. Attempts to cut a deal with Benazir Bhutto have not yet borne any fruit. And Ms Benazir has also made it very clear that she would accept no intermediary whatever his rank shuttling between her and the President to fine tune the deal. She wants a direct one- on-one negotiations with the President. She has also made it clear that she was not prepared to accept any deal in return for the release of Asif Ali Zardari. She wants him to go through the entire process of law and get his name cleared from the courts. That is why with Asif having been given bail in the cases pending against him, he is still not being released and the NAB is leaking stories to the press creating the impression that he would be arrested soon on some still-to-be-concocted charges.
What Gen Musharraf wants from Benazir is her party’s complete support for his roadmap to democracy, his constitutional amendments, two terms for his presidency, her consent to remain out of electoral politics for the next two elections and a name for the post of prime minister in case her party wins the elections. Here too Musharraf has confined her to only three choices (Hamid Nasir Chattha, Aftab Shaban Mirani or Makhdoom Amin Fahim).
The regime has sent word to BB that she could meet the President only if she returned to Pakistan. But BB does not want to take the risk. She fears that if she returned she would either be arrested and put behind the bars and forgotten or her meeting with the President would be so arranged that after it is over it would be given a distorted interpretation by the government’s spin doctors to malign her costing her politically. Musharraf does not want to meet her in Dubai. That is where, informed circles say, the talks are stuck. One more thing, before any such meeting could be arranged the regime wants the PPP to start recognizing him as the President of the country. It is, however, not known if Musharraf actually met BB, would she be willing to give into all the demands of the military regime or to what extent she would like to go and in return for what? The question of his tenure as the COAS is also to be sorted out in the negotiations.
But as they say man proposes and God disposes, and God seems to have disposed of Musharraf’s roadmap to democracy by arranging the September 11 tragedy. It would be too naive on his part and on the part of his NRB chief to still press on with their roadmap to democracy. This map was prepared when the religious right was on the side of the military regime and it was enjoying a high political pre-eminence in the country by successfully managing two low intensity wars, one on its northern borders and the other on its eastern borders. Today the religious right is in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the regime and one of the two wars has vanished in thin air threatening to extinguish the other war too. This is not the right environment to try to do what Aslam Beg and Hamid Gul tried to do in 1988 and succeeded. -Onlooker