by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 8, Sha'ban, 1426)
That Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, shook hands with a war criminal like Ariel Sharon of Israel—better known as the Butcher of Beirut—was bad enough; it was even worse that he chose to do so on the twenty-third anniversary of the Sabra and Shatilla massacres (September 14-16). It was Sharon, as Israel's defence minister, who supervised the mass-slaughter of Palestinians by his Phalangist allies after the Palestinian fighters were withdrawn from Lebanon under a US/UN-brokered deal in 1982. For three days the Phalangists conducted a macabre ritual of gruesome killings, while the Israelis provided cover. An Israeli commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Kahan in 1983, found Sharon culpable of the massacre. As a military man Musharraf's hands are no cleaner, yet he claims to be the head of an "Islamic" State that is supposed to represent the aspirations of 140 million Muslims.
Broad hints were dropped, especially by Jahangir Karamat, Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Musharraf's predecessor as army chief, weeks before the New York encounter, that there was a possibility of a "chance meeting" between Musharraf and Sharon at the UN. He insisted that nothing was "planned", despite their foreign ministers' public meeting and handshake inIstanbul, Turkey, on September 1. The manner in which Musharraf sought Sharon out on September 14, when heads of state were assembled at the UN, gives the lie to the claim that it was a "chance" meeting. Musharraf walked over to Sharon, shook hands with him and even introduced his wife to the man whose hands are drenched in the blood of Palestinians.
The Musharraf-Sharon handshake followed a well-publicized meeting in Istanbul between Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart, Silvan Shalom. A political storm erupted in Pakistan immediately after the meeting on September 1, with opposition parties denouncing the move as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause as well as a reversal of long-established policy. While Turkey's ‘Islamist' prime minister, Recep Tayyep Erdogan, was said to have facilitated the meeting, behind the scenes it was the Kemalist generals, much admired by Musharraf, with close connections to the zionists, who made the arrangements. Behind all of them stood the dark shadow of Uncle Sam, the real master of both the Turkish and Pakistani generals. It was Uncle Sam and his gang of neo-cons, a large number of whom are zionists, who told Musharraf to make public contact with Israel to prepare the ground for full diplomatic relations between their countries. Musharraf himself has admitted that low-level contacts have been occurring for years.
When the political heat intensified in Pakistan, Musharraf sought refuge behind the excuse that both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had blessed the meetings. Interestingly, he did not bother to take his own rubber-stamp parliament into his confidence. Musharraf advanced other untenable excuses: it was to help the Middle East peace process, and to show that Pakistan is a "moderate" state with no enmity toward Israel, which has shown its peaceful intentions by withdrawing from the Ghazzah Strip. Pakistan's "national interest", the last refuge of every Pakistani scoundrel, was also trotted out, for the umpteenth time, to justify the policy U-turn.
Three days after the Musharraf-Sharon "chance encounter", Musharraf addressed the American Jewish Congress (AJC) annual dinner in New York, which event he later described as the highlight of his visit to the US. That there was nothing chance about the encounter, and that it had been in preparation for two years, was also confirmed by Jack Rosen, chairman of the AJC, who heaped praise on Musharraf during his welcoming remarks. The dictator of Pakistan can now look forward to his name being added to the list of nominees for the Nobel peace prize, although he will probably have to recognise Israel before he can actually get it. The Nobel Prize is little more than a useful tool to lure Muslims to betray their own people.
Each one of the justifications advanced by Musharraf is false. It is zionist Israel that is the greatest impediment to peace, not only in Palestine but in the entire Middle East. Israel's withdrawal from Ghazzah is not the result of goodwill, nor reflective of its peaceful intentions; Israel was forced to withdraw because of the costs inflicted on it by the Islamic resistance in Ghazzah. And anyway, why should Israel be rewarded for withdrawing from territory it occupied illegally for 38 years? Moreover, Israel has not really withdrawn; it has merely redeployed its troops to safer areas and expanded the prison-like space for the Palestinians a little. It still controls all the land, sea and air routes into and out of Ghazzah. On September 19 it announced the creation of a security belt on its border with Ghazzah, and threatened to intervene militarily if Hamas and Islamic Jihad were allowed to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections without first disarming.
The "national interest" excuse is the most preposterous; it is used when every other excuse fails. Pakistani commentators—official spokespersons as well as the army of secular journalists on the lookout for crumbs from the US embassy or the general's office in Islamabad—have wasted no time in discovering the merits of relations with Israel. Not only have these secularists suddenly discovered their "Jewish cousins", they also claim that the zionist lobby will now act on Pakistan's behalf, especially on the question of equal treatment by the US vis-à-vis Indiaover the nuclear issue. This claim was made even by ambassador Karamat in a newspaper interview published on September 9 in the US. Within hours, two senior officials of the US government—under secretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns and under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs Robert Joseph—had disabused the Pakistanis of these delusions: they used an open congressional hearing to inform Pakistan that it cannot get the same nuclear cooperation as is granted to India. "In the context of providing full assistance or full trade on the civilian side (to Pakistan), that is something that we don't think we are prepared to do," Joseph said. He also cited Pakistan's "non-proliferation record" to reject its request for equal treatment. Even the Israeli foreign minister Shalom dismissed the possibility of parity between India and Pakistan in an interview published in theKarachi daily Dawn on September 20.
Israel, however, has a long list of demands on Pakistan for Pakistan to demonstrate its ‘sincerity'. In addition to full diplomatic relations, it wants Islamabad's support for Israel's move to join the International Committee of the Red Cross as a full member. "The Swiss government is convening a meeting of the ICRC in December to consider Israel's request and we would hope that Pakistan would not oppose Israel," said Barry Jacobs, director of strategic studies at the American Jewish Committee and a retired US diplomat. The ICRC does not recognize the Magen David Adom Society, the Israeli version of the Red Cross, because it is unwilling to adopt the Red Cross as its emblem and instead uses the Red Shield of David.
While contacts with the zionists were in full swing and occupied the media's attention, Musharraf's outrageous remark, made in an interview with the Washington Post (September 13), about the mistreatment of women in Pakistan, went largely unnoticed, at least in the US. When asked specifically about the case of Mukhtaran Mai, who was gangraped in June 2002 on the orders of a village council, Musharraf said: "You must understand the environment in Pakistan." He went on: "This has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."
He later denied saying this, claiming that someone else in his entourage had said it, but the Post stood by its story. Earlier this year, Mukhtaran Mai was scheduled to travel to the US to address public gatherings about the plight of women in the feudal society of Pakistan and the lack of action by the establishment to punish rapists, but she was prevented from doing so by the order of Musharraf himself. He said this would tarnish Pakistan's "image". What image – that of beggars and rapists? He should go after the rapists if he is serious about improvingPakistan's image. It would also help if he were to stop bowing and scraping before the zionist and American warlords. The first step along the road to earning respect is to learn to have self-respect: a concept virtually unknown in Pakistan.