Assassination attempts reflect growing anger with Musharraf in Pakistan

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zia Sarhadi

Dhu al-Qa'dah 08, 1424 2004-01-01

World

by Zia Sarhadi (World, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 16, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1424)

As this issue of Crescent International goes to press, general Pervez Musharraf remains president of Pakistan, despite two attempts on his life within a few days. The first took place on December 15, when a bomb explosion missed his motorcade by mere seconds as he drove to his home in Rawalpindi. The second took place on December 25; on this occasion, his motorcade was attacked by two car-bombs, also in Rawalpindi. Musharraf and his American allies immediately blamed the attacks on militants linked to al-Qa’ida; other observers of Pakistani affairs pointed out that Musharraf’s policies over the last few years have been so unpopular that many in Pakistan would have reason for attacking him.

Three days after the first attempt on his life, he added to his misdeeds by doing a complete about-turn on the 55-year-old Kashmir question and acceding to US demands that Pakistan end its demands for a referendum of Kashmir’s people to determine the future of the Indian-occupied territory. The decision was greeted with incredulity and dismay by Pakistanis, not least in the armed forces, an institution traditionally considered to be tightly-knit and capable of discussing its differences without allowing them to spill into the public domain.

Musharraf’s Kashmir turn-around was just the latest of a series of decisions clearly indicating Musharraf’s subservience to the US. On December 10, members of Pakistan’s opposition in the Senate (upper house) walked out in protest against the arrest of two senior Pakistani nuclear scientists working at the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL). Dr Farooq Muhammad, director of KRL, and Dr Yunus Chohan were arrested by Pakistani intelligence agents accompanied by agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Dr Muhammad was arrested on November 29 and Dr Chohan about 10 days later, both from their homes.

According to Pakistani media reports, as many as seven FBI agents had joined in the arrest of the two scientists. Pakistani intelligence sources say the scientists were taken for "questioning". Must senior scientists be humiliated in this manner, especially those who are considered to be the most precious assets of the country? Officials at various ministries, including the interior ministry that deals with such matters, have said that they knew nothing about the arrests. Pakistani intelligence agencies operate outside civilian control; now they seem to be operating to appease the US, and taking orders directly from the FBI. There have been persistent media reports, not denied by government officials (civilian or military), that American agents from the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are now present in most sensitive posts in Pakistan. Under Musharraf subservience has attained new heights.

In September 2001, when he made a sudden about-turn over the country’s Afghanistan policy after a phone call from US secretary of state Colin Powell, Musharraf boasted that he had "saved" Pakistan’s nuclear programme and protected Pakistan’s Kashmir stance. He plunged the country into headlong support of the US’s war in Afghanistan, providing military bases and chasing al-Qa’ida and Taliban sympathisers (both real and imagined) to curry favour with the Americans. While the US immediately proclaimed Musharraf a "statesman," there was much resentment among Pakistanis at such shameless surrender of Pakistan’s sovereignty, as well as at the government’s joining an unjust war against fellow Muslims. It was also pointed out by many informed observers that, regardless of what Islamabad did for the US, the latter would show little gratitude, and that ultimately America’s target was Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. This is a policy pushed by the zionists, who do not wish any Muslim country to have any nuclear capability. That also explains the cosy relationship between Israel and Hindu-dominated India, both sworn enemies of Islam and Muslims.

Even while Musharraf has bent backwards to help the US’s so-called war on terrorism, the Americans have been exerting pressure first to stop and then reverse Pakistan’s nuclear programme. A year ago Dr Abdul Qadir Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, was unceremoniously dismissed from his position as director of KRL after decades of meritorious service. This was clearly not enough for the US. Dr Bashiruddin Mahmoud, a retired Pakistani nuclear scientist, who had joined Taameer-i Nau (‘new rebuilding’), a Pakistani non-governmental organization working to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure before the US assault, was arrested on the ridiculous charge that he had passed nuclear expertise and experience to al-Qa’ida to make a nuclear bomb. How could mere knowledge enable someone to make the bomb without technical components? Taameer-i Nau has done nothing more than help install some electricity generators and assist with building roads and improving crop-production in Afghanistan. But for the Americans, anyone linked with the Taliban or al-Qa’ida in any capacity is a terrorist. Dr Mahmoud, a heart patient, is still under house arrest.

The arrest of active-duty Pakistani nuclear scientists comes amid allegations that they had passed nuclear information to Islamic Iran, a charge vigorously denied both by Iran and Pakistan. What, then, is the explanation for FBI agents arresting and interrogating Pakistani scientists? Opposition politicians have said that Musharraf is prepared to go to any lengths to appease the US to perpetuate his own rule. There appears to be some truth in this. The Americans have also accused Dr Khan of passing nuclear secrets to North Korea. Last March the US banned all dealings with the KRL because of such allegations. There is speculation that the Americans might even call for the arrest of Dr Khan if there is little or no resistance to the arrest of other scientists. Will Musharraf be able to resist such pressure?

Apparently not, because he has even allowed his generals, some of them very senior, to be humiliated by the Americans. The story of Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai, one such general, who commands the 11th Corps that patrols the volatile border with Afghanistan, surfaced in November when he was humiliated during a visit to the US at the invitation of general John Abizaid, the new chief of US Central Command. General Orakzai’s travails started in London, when he went through a security check after arriving from Pakistan. He was made to take off his shoes, jacket and belt and asked pointed questions. With the London experience behind him, general Orakzai told the US immigration officer upon his arrival in New York that he was a guest of the US army and himself a general. Despite this he was ordered to take off his shoes and made to walk some distance before being asked to place them on the screening belt. For the paranoid Americans, any Pakistani, especially one based in Peshawar, who is tall and fair, with blue eyes and a physique that comes naturally to army officers, is suspect and must be paid extra attention even if he says he is a general in the Pakistan army.

This story first appeared in the Lahore Daily Times on November 16 after general Orakzai personally narrated it to a number of visitors, including some journalists, and told them that he was speaking for the record, although other Pakistani newspapers did not pick it up. Clearly he was angered by the shabby treatment he had received, especially when he was invited, and also that apparently neither Musharraf nor Centcom did anything to address his grievances. General Orakzai also said, again for the record, that he will never visit the US again. In October, when a letter from the GHQ criticizing Musharraf’s policies vis-a-vis the US appeared in the Pakistani press, it was serious enough (see Crescent International, December 2003); the situation in the armed forces seems to be much more critical, with even senior generals complaining in public.

General Orakzai’s troops have been in the forefront of the fight against al-Qa’ida and Taliban sympathizers in Pakistan’s tribal region. Last August and September massive operations were launched in South Waziristan against tribes alleged to be harbouring Afghans or their sympathizers. A number of tribesmen were killed. After Musharraf Orakzai is considered to be the most important Pakistani general, from the US point of view, because of the task his troops are performing. If the Americans treat a senior Pakistani general so shabbily, what hope is there for ordinary people? Will he continue to use his troops to chase and hunt Pakistani tribesmen to appease the Americans? His injured pride would be better assuaged if he were to tell the Americans to lose themselves the next time they come calling for favours.

General Orakzai’s is not an isolated case. In October 2001, when Musharraf visited New York to see US president George Bush, major general Rashid Qureshi, Musharraf’s spokesman, was made to undergo similar humiliation. While Musharraf was allowed to go through, general Qureshi was given the work over. If Americans wonder why they are hated worldwide, perhaps they should take a good look at their own behaviour.

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