Sari mein sari Parag Sari.
Coup mein coup Pakistan.
In a bizarre turn-of-events bordering on the farcical, “democratically elected” President Musharraf has been overthrown by “martial law enforcing army man” President Musharraf. Frustrated by what he calls “obstacles created in the face of the democratic process” our President Pinocchio, has done what any other upholder of “the rule of the people” would do when faced with a challenge to the democratic process—–he has abolished it. Totally. This is what political scientists call the “Na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri” gambit.
Wait. Wait. Wait. What was that again? Abolished democracy? Was’nt Pakistan already a tinpot dictatorship for quite a few years now? Well not “dictatorship enough” as the noble President , who claims to have “initiated a democratic transition eight years back” now realizes. For 8 long years he still had to contend with a pesky Constitution which, like an old shoe whose sole was worn out, had been blistering his toes from time to time what with people like Justice Chaudhury (not to be confused with the Justice Chaudhury that went Mamma Mia Ponk Ponk) giving him grief and him having to continuously justify the legality of his dictatorship through it. Enough however is enough as the worn-out shoe has been cast aside with a swift flick of his foot, all pretenses have finally been dropped, the constitution has been suspended, loyalist judges appointed, private channels and communication blacked out and his reign deemed indisputably legal simply because there is now no law. Except what the President says.
If there was someone for whom 9/11 came as a blessing from heaven it was President Musharraf. All his past sins of subverting democracy and supporting the Taliban were immediately forgiven once he declared his intention to join the US in the war against terror. This not only made him a darling of the West but also led to billions of dollars in aid and military assistance, cash that not only aggrandized the military establishment of which he was a part but which also served as a piggy-bank to finance the General’s own private war—the plan to take Kashmir from India—a plan that had stalled with an ass-whoopping at Kargil and the consequent democratic isolation of Pakistan in 1999.
The plan was simple as most genius plans are. Feed the West with low value targets from time to time to keep up the impression of an intense struggle with Jihadi elements while in actuality do nothing. Keep on banking in the cheques. Provide safe haven inside Pakistan for Taliban fleeing the US-led bombing in Afghanistan and send them eastward into Kashmir, a move that would meet with universal approval from Pakistanis.
Everything worked well for a while but then you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. The US went into the quagmire of Iraq and took its eyes off Afghanistan. As the US got drawn into the war in Iraq and kept at bay taking heavy casualties, the resurgent radical Islamic Jihadi movement consolidated itself in the northwestern tribal regions of Pakistan, a safe haven for them because the US were not allowed to bomb targets or do hot pursuits into Pakistan—a condition that President Musharaff had imposed because he really didnt want any of the “real” terrorists to be actually hurt.
Meanwhile pro-democracy agitators and radical Islamic factions made common cause against Musharaff with the President’s ostensible support of the US (after all officially the Pakistani army was fighting the Taliban and Musharraf was giving hot-air-laden soundbytes against Jihadis for the consumption of the Western media) being taken as a rallying cry to concentrate popular bile against the President rule. In other words, the sham war had now become real. There was an assassination attempt or two but that too played into the hands of the General as he could now turn to the US administration and say “See how anti-Jihadi I am—they are trying to kill me ! Next cheque please.”
But this game could only go so far. As months went by, the US insistence on actual Pakistani action became more stringent as an increasing number of Western decision-makers on the ground began to see through the double-game the General was playing. But that was the least of the General’s problems.Facing rebellion inside the Pakistani Army ranks who now were refusing to take any kind of real “action” against Muslim brothers while at the same time encountering a steadily strengthening Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, the General sought to make a quiet truce with the tribal leaders. It really did not work—except that the news of the General’s dealings was on the 7 oclock news in the US which made his handlers in the State department pretty upset.
Increasingly coming to a realization about the General’s double-dealing (but unwilling to take any concrete action against the President as he is still looked upon as someone who does not wish the US any harm), the Americans took matters into their own hands sending unmanned predator drones to take out targets inside Pakistan. An attack on Al Zawahiri inside Pakistan that killed several Jihadists and similar attacks inside Pakistani airspace, done without notifying the Pakistani army (explained away as caused by a “miscommunication“) were signs that the Pakistani Army were no longer being trusted. Closer to the seat of power, Justice Chaudhury’s campaign against Musharraf coupled with the emergency situation in the Lal Masjid had by now totally beleaguered the General as his game was being torn apart under the weight of circumstances.
With the widely-read Newsweek reporting on the alarming situation in Pakistan in which they told scary stories of top Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives walking with impunity in Quetta and Karachi and large portions of the country under the thumb of extreme Jihadi elements, the US mainstream television media was gradually waking up to the emergence of Pakistan as the most dangerous country in the world. In last week’s Democratic President debate, Senator Joe Biden, in clear words, said that Iran’s nuclear material is not the US’s biggest threat—-it is Pakistan’s stockpile. Senator Clinton said she agreed (though of course Senator Clinton says “yes” to all sides of a debate). When presidential candidates mention Pakistan as threat No 1 on primetime television, you can be sure that the “greatest trick the General ever pulled” has worn dangerously thin.
And now with US administration taking unilateral action bypassing the Pakistani army, large areas of the country out of control and in the hands of the Taliban, sections of his own army surrendering to the Jihadi forces , the judiciary ceaselessly hammering him and most importantly the possibility of losing his stranglehold on power, General Musharaff has played his final move, invoking Abraham Lincoln and using the Shakti Kapoor “main chota sa, nanha sa, pyara sa baccha hoon” line to gain some sympathy (Musharraf also told the US, European Union and Commonwealth countries not to expect the same level of democracy and civil liberties and human rights in those countries and give him time as “we are learning democracy”. “Please give us time. Please do not expect your level of civil liberties and civil rights. We are also learning. Please give us time,” he said. [From Dawn]) and save his own ass for the time being.
Will he succeed? Will he, Houdini like, somehow manage to extricate himself from the deathlock of Pakistani politics and reassert his authority? Or will this mark the beginning of the end of Pakistan as a state —the deadly trigger that leads to a nuclear device/material falling into the hands of the mad Jihadis—–the free world’s worst nightmare?
Keep watching. And don’t forget to say your prayers.