The general is back!
Having spent almost three years in exile (though not exactly in the wilderness), he plans to make a come back to Pakistan and its political arena, by launching a new political party. General Pervez Musharaff is one of his kinds. Wily as a fox, though ostensibly a man who does not flinch from calling a spade a spade; he changes colour and stand quicker than the proverbial chameleon. And just like the said reptile, he possesses the ability to modify his views to suit the occasion and even get him out of a sticky situation. A glib talker, all said and done, he makes for wonderful copy.
It all started with an interview to a German magazine where he admitted to the Pakistan administration providing training and logistic support to terrorist groups operating in Kashmir. As soon as the international press picked up the story, he backtracked from his statement, claiming he had been misunderstood and mis-reported and had, in fact, nothing to do with training of terrorist groups in Kashmir. At the same time he maintained that the Kashmir problem was an international issue. Just a few days hence in the course of an in-depth interview granted to an Indian news channel, one saw the genius of Pervez Musharaff in action. Apart from questions on international terror and U.S policy towards the region, he dealt with questions regarding the state of internal affairs in Pakistan as well as the Kashmir issue. All through, what was most obvious was the dexterity with which the General dealt with all the difficult questions
and the ease with which he adopted double standards on issues such as freedom of choice and democracy.
When asked about the blatant interference of the Army in the affairs of the state in Pakistan, he minced no words while stating that every civilian government in Pakistan in the past had mis-performed and if the Army chief did interfere it was, many a time, at the behest of the general public. He had no qualms while stating that the environment dictates the system of governance and the environment of Pakistan apparently was not suited to a democratic civilian regime. He claimed that the State was more important than democracy and by implication one may conclude that should the integrity and existence of the State be at risk, the adoption of extreme measures such as the imposition of martial law was justified. The Army, according to him, operated as a good check and balance on administration. When it came to exercising control over terrorist organisations that were operating from Pakistani soil and abetting, aiding and orchestrating terror in Kashmir, he expressed his inability to rein them in because apparently they enjoyed a lot of public sympathy and popular support.
How and why in the one instance the General feels that democratic principles (read public opinion) should play second fiddle to State survival and in the second instance he chooses to unquestioningly bow down to public opinion, is the question of ultimate relevance and import in this situation. In the matter of terrorism, whereas on the one hand, the General agrees that extremism and terrorism are the two biggest challenges facing Pakistan, on the other hand he professes and justifies a huge support for creating terror across the border giving it the name of a freedom struggle.
Given this context, two questions emerge as most critical. First, if the imposition of martial law in all of Pakistan may be justified as an exigency dictated by the preservation of the State’s integrity, then how can the presence of troops in Jammu and Kashmir to aid a democratically elected government be painted as a denial of civil liberties? And on what ground can one find fault with the Indian State if it wishes to protect its territory from infiltration? Secondly, if extremism and terrorism are such terrible scourges as far as Pakistan is concerned how can one justify the use of violence in the case of Kashmir?
The General’s double speak and double standards on such issues apart, there are some lessons to be drawn from the larger situation. The first from the point of view of Kashmiri’s is this that in a place where there is no premium on democracy and people’s desires are easily subjugated to the primacy of the State, what freedom do they hope for when they talk of becoming a part of Pakistan? Any ideas, Mr Geelani? Second, in a situation where Pakistan is beset with massive problems, its economy is in doldrums, its one vibrant Province of Punjab is reeling under the impact of floods and the country is in danger of internally disintegrating, it is quite incredible that Kashmir still remains the primary concern for all political gainsayers.
This being the situation one may easily conclude that with this amount of primacy being awarded to the Kashmir problem in Pakistan at the cost of their internal issues, there is very little possibility of a let up in covert and overt support to terror in Kashmir from across the border. The Indian administration would do well to consider this fact and accordingly take a decision on the withdrawal of forces from the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Diplomatic parleys notwithstanding one must first achieve a position of strength and negotiate from that position. The withdrawal of troops from Kashmir will only serve to weaken our bargaining power.