Musharraf’s plans cause confusion as Kashmiri leaders visit Pakistan

Developing Just Leadership

Zia Sarhadi

Jumada' al-Ula' 24, 1426 2005-07-01


by Zia Sarhadi (World, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 5, Jumada' al-Ula', 1426)

General Pervez Musharraf's insistence on calling his surrender to India a "peace process" has left not only the people of Kashmir but also some of his closest advisors completely bewildered. His U-turn on Afghanistan, and his abandonment of Pakistan's principled stand on Kashmir, as well as the nuclear programme to appease the US, have left Pakistandangerously exposed. That every Pakistani would like to live in peace with India is not the question; what they want to know is how that peace is to be achieved and at what price. Used to military-style decision-making that involves no consultations, Musharraf frequently issues statements and directives, abruptly reversing major policies as if these are of little consequence. The price is paid by the Pakistani masses.

The Kashmiris' unease with Musharraf's policy on Kashmir was evident during the June 2 to 16 visit of Kashmiri leaders to Pakistan—the first in 57 years. The journey, however, was organized not so much to solicit their opinion but to get the Kashmiris to endorse Musharraf's version of peace. Nine Kashmiri leaders, led by Mir Waiz Umar Farooq, traveled by bus fromSrinagar and were given a rousing welcome in Muzaffarabad. The absence of Syed Ali Shah Gailani, the most prominent Kashmiri leader, was immediately felt. Gailani had refused to board the bus (started recently between the two parts of Kashmir as part of the peace process), calling it a betrayal of the Kashmiris' rights; he is also critical of Musharraf's abandonment of UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.

Undeterred, Musharraf claims that he is indispensable to the peace process; he has repeatedly stated that the Kashmir dispute must be settled during his term as president, a post he occupied after a fraudulent referendum though his term ends in 2007 (his sycophants have already started talking about his running again in two years' time). This time round, it will not be so easy and Pakistan's invisible government—the intelligence agencies—has to perform a political miracle to get their boss back in power. But pulling rabbits out of a hat becomes problematic if done too often. The very people called upon to perform the trick repeatedly begin to see that the emperor has no clothes; thus, they get ideas of their own.

India, on the other hand, is in no hurry to settle the dispute; while making soothing noises, it insists on a growing list of confidence-building measures (CBMs) such as cultural exchanges, tourism, trade and other peripheral issues, before tackling the core issue of Kashmir that has soured relations between the two countries since independence. Musharraf has been forced to submit to the Indian plan, presenting each retreat as an act of statesmanship. Essentially, he is forced to give in because this is what Washington demands, and he is unable to say "no" to his American bosses.

On May 20, while addressing a conference of South Asian parliamentarians in Islamabad, Musharraf called upon India to seize the "fleeting moment" available to them to solve their disputes; he said resolution of the Kashmir dispute could make borders between the two countries "irrelevant". He insisted India-Pakistan disputes should be settled during his and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's tenures because of a "complete understanding" between them. The general was full of praise for the Indian prime minister and said he felt "extremely optimistic" about the future of the peace process after his talks with the Indian leadership during his visit to Delhi in April. He was feted personally, but he confuses this with India's desire to resolve all disputes peacefully and with equanimity. Even while talking about peace, there has been no let up in India's killing of civilians in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The only peaceIndia is willing to offer to the hapless Kashmiris is that of the graveyard. Why should the Kashmiris opt for such a peace?

Musharraf's lack of grasp of details has often left his senior civilian advisors exasperated. For instance, India says that it will not agree to any boundary changes, and he insists that the Line of Control in Kashmir cannot be accepted as an international border. The two are irreconcilable, but far from demanding that India suggest how it intends to resolve the thorny issue of Kashmir, Musharraf keeps floating new proposals almost on a daily basis. His suggestion that borders between India and Pakistan would become "irrelevant" plays straight into the hands of the Indians. They have never accepted Pakistan's existence, despite periodic statements to the contrary; their policy since 1947 has been to undo the partition of the subcontinent. They have on numerous occasions talked about a confederation between the two countries as well as a common currency as steps to absorb Pakistan back into the deathly embrace of Mother India. The Pakistani dictator, far from understanding the Indian ploy, now parrots their line. He has not bothered to ask whether the people of Pakistan agree with any of his fantastic proposals. Besides, there is an indecent scramble to erase the ideological frontiers of Pakistan by turning it into a secular State. The very raison d'etre of Pakistan is being abandoned.

Musharraf brooks no criticism of the military's meddling in politics or its insatiable appetite for money and vast tracts of land, but has become a dove on making deals with India. This is essentially the US agenda, although the latter has its own plans for both India and Pakistan. Washington is grooming India not only as a regional power but has also dangled the carrot of its becoming a global player. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said as much last March while visiting Delhi but this came with a caveat: India must shed its regional obsessions, especially its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Islamabad, on the other hand, was told in no uncertain terms that it must accept its position as a junior partner vis-à-vis India. As a military dictator who is in power not with the support of his people but because the US has assigned him a role to pursue certain policies, Musharraf has had to accept this subservient role to stay in power.

Pakistan under Musharraf has been co-opted into the US's "war on terror"—a euphemism for war on Islam and Muslims—with the Pakistan army pressed into service to kill its own people, creating grave problems for the very existence of Pakistan. India, however, has not gone along with the US-prescribed plan. While the US wants to use India to contain and undermine the growing power of China, and Delhi is happy to get whatever it can out of Washington politically, economically and militarily, it has shown no inclination to become a US puppet. For instance, on June 2, Indian foreign minister Natwar Singh joined his Russian and Chinese counterparts in Vladivostok to chalk out a regional energy strategy. Both India and China need large quantities of oil for their rapidly growing economies; they convinced Moscow to speed up extraction and delivery of oil to meet their growing demands. This agreement flies in the face of the US plan to use India against China.

How is it possible for India to protect its interests while Pakistan is unable to achieve even its minimalist objectives? True, the comparative size of each country has a bearing on it, but much more important is the fact that India's policies are formulated through a political process and consensus, while Pakistan's are hostage to the whims of a single individual. No matter how strong the individual, he is susceptible to external pressure, especially if applied by Washington. Coupled with the individual's personal ambitions to stay in power and to protect institutional (military) interests, the pressure can become quite intense unless resisted by mobilizing the masses. This explains the accolades heaped on Musharraf personally byWashington officialdom while denigrating Pakistan and its people.

There is even talk in some US circles that were Musharraf to strike a deal on Kashmir on India's terms, naturally to the detriment of both the Kashmiris and of Pakistan, the Americans would confer on him the Nobel Peace Prize. Should this come to pass, he would join other Muslim traitors—Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Yasir Arafat of Palestine—on the roster of infamy.

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