Asif Haroon Raja
The Army, paramilitary forces and the police are fighting the US dictated war on terror since 2003 but have yet not been able to completely root out terrorism. I will be frank in stating that the Army was not mentally prepared, trained, equipped, acclimatized and motivated when it was suddenly launched to conduct irregular warfare in South Waziristan (SW). As a result, its performance for the first five years was not up to the mark and it suffered reverses. The Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took advantage of it and managed to gain influence over 18 administrative units in the northwest and became a powerful force to reckon with. A state within state was created in Swat while SW became the main base of operation with its tentacles in other six tribal agencies. Another important factor behind not so good performance of security forces was the double game played by the so-called friends of Pakistan that were on the quiet supporting and creating space for the very terrorists Pakistan was asked to fight.
Gen Pervez Musharraf was appointed Army chief on October 6, 1998 and soon after he ventured into Dras-Kargil inside Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), which is quite intriguing and raises many questions. It strained civil-military relations and led to the downfall of Nawaz Sharif. As DGMO under Gen Jahangir Karamat, in his operational briefing to the then PM Benazir Bhutto in 1996, he had presented Kargil plan and was keen to execute it. (1). She trashed it realizing its consequences.
Commenting on Kargil conflict in 1999 which had brought the two nuclear rivals close to war with nuclear overtones, Musharraf proudly proclaims, “Our maneuver was conducted flawlessly, a tactical marvel of military professionalism; a plan for plugging gaps between our positions was formally presented and approved towards the middle of January 1999. (2).
According to Lt-Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz who was heading ‘Analysis Wing’ of ISI during the conflict: “The Kargil war was an unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparation and in total disregard of the regional and international environment”. (3). Late ex-DG ISI Gen Hamid Gul was also of the view that a military operation without a clear political purpose was like shot in the dark and Musharraf should have faced court martial for his harebrained adventure.
Kargil operation was undoubtedly a brilliant tactical maneuver which caused paralytic effects on the Indian military, but it failed in achieving the objective of de-freezing and internationalizing the Kashmir issue as had been contemplated. It should have been planned in entirety and not as a piecemeal operation. Helped by the US and G-8, India converted its tactical defeat into victory on the media plane.
Musharraf took over the reins of the country on October 12, 1999 after dethroning the elected government of Nawaz Sharif through a military coup. He wore the hats of President, Army chief and CJCSC and remained in full power till October 2007 after which he shed off his military hats and finally abdicated his President seat in August 2008 and went into exile under an agreement in April 2009. He made a political party All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and returned home to take part in May 2013 general elections. Not only he was put under house arrest and on Exit Control List, he was debarred from contesting elections. He was charged with several cases which included Benazir Bhutto murder case, Nawab Akbar Bugti murder case, Lal Masjid case and subversion of constitution on November 3, 2007. The last case has been termed as an act of treason and comes under Article 6 of the Constitution. He underwent the embarrassment of media trial and also suffered the stings of hate from his opponents.
After about three years of ordeal, he proceeded to Dubai for medical treatment of his backache and the Supreme Court and the federal government facilitated his exit. The media has been highlighting his wealth in foreign banks/offshore companies and people are asking questions as to how he could amass so much of wealth. Courts are pressing his lawyers to produce him and have issued non-bail-able arrest warrants. He is often seen on the TV channels and known for his power of arguments, he keeps telling his side of the story in reply to number of accusations made against him.
Mistakes made by Musharraf. Taking stock of his nine years tenure, Musharraf had committed mistakes but he also had done good things. It will be in fitness of things to first dispassionately have a look at those accusations that exist in public memory. Just to recapitulate, I am tabulating these here. First the accusations made against him:
- He and his team had no plausible reason to oust a democratically elected government and takeover power.
- He should not have accepted all the seven demands of the US after 9/11 and that too without consulting others. He gave in to the US demands too quickly, and cheaply, which set into motion a slippery path for Pakistan, its social fabric, politics and institutions and because of which we are still suffering.
- His reason to succumb to US pressure and accept all the demands was that he had been threatened that in case he decided not to side with the US, Pakistan will be bombed to ‘Stone Age’ has triggered a controversy. In his autobiography, “In the Line of Fire” on page 201 he writes: “When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our DG ISI, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the DG not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age. This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the US had decided to hit back hard”. (4).
But apparently, both of these statements are not correct. There is now enough evidence to prove that there was no direct military threat made to Pakistan. George Bush, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage have all denied in their separate memoirs that they ever threatened Pakistan with military action, let alone the threat of bombing it back to the Stone Age. (5). In his book “Bush at War” at page 59, Bob Woodward writes: “at I: 30 P.M. on 13th September 2001, Powell called Musharraf” and “Musharraf to Powell’s surprise said that Pakistan would support the US with each of the seven actions”.
In 2006, when Bush was asked about the threat made against Pakistan, he claimed that the first time he had ever heard of it was when he had read a report of Musharraf’s remarks in that day’s newspaper. “I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words,” said Bush. “All I can tell you is that shortly after 9/11, Colin Powell came in and said, President Musharraf understands the stakes and he wants to join and help root out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our citizens. I don’t know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. I just don’t know about it”. (6).
- Musharraf’s sudden U-turn on Afghanistan and betrayal of Muslim brothers of Afghanistan was flawed and Pakistan is still paying a heavy price for it through blood and flesh. Even now, a resurgent Taliban don’t trust us.
- Sending regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) in 2003 at the behest of USA to flush out Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers was in violation of the 1948 Agreement with the tribesmen, and it triggered insurgency in FATA.
- He shouldn’t have given a free hand to the CIA and FBI from 2006 onward to track Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. It gave a free hand to the foreign and regional agencies to establish their inter-connected network in Pakistan amongst the aggrieved tribal elements and religious groups. CIA got office space in the ISI headquarters, Pakistani civilians were bombed with drones, and Blackwater agents roamed freely all over Pakistan until Musharraf was replaced by Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. It was this ‘network of agencies’ that subsequently played havoc with Pakistani lives and targeted key institutions.
- Allowing CIA to use Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan for drone strikes helped CIA to bolster BLA, BRA and BLF in Baluchistan and to create space for the launch of TTP in FATA.
- Rather than working on his 7 point agenda which had germs of success, his option to create a King’s party comprising of turn coats from other political parties and who were tagged with National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases was selfish and politically motivated – and eroded whatever good work NAB had been doing. His much trumpeted across the board accountability, both horizontal and vertical went for a six.
- Change of policy on Kashmir was a blunder which gave a severe blow to liberation movement in occupied Kashmir. APHC was divided into two factions and Pakistan’s age-old stance based on UN Resolutions was compromised. It antagonized the Kashmir focused Jihadi groups and they chose to join hands with TTP.
- Pak military gave a befitting response to Indian aggressive posturing after carrying out a false flag operation on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 and carrying out biggest troop deployment along the border after 1971 followed by a military standoff for next ten months.
- Indian military withdrew without achieving any objective, but Musharraf caved in on political/diplomatic front under the US pressure. He banned six Kashmiri Jihadi groups and froze their accounts, ceased firing in Kashmir, and gave a written unilateral commitment that Pakistan will not allow its space for use for cross border terrorism. He agreed to allow India to fence the entire length of Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.
- In response, Vajpayee signed peace treaty with Pakistan in January 2004 and assured that all outstanding issues including Kashmir will be resolved through composite dialogue. This was in fact a big trap and Musharraf fell into it.
- India quietened the eastern front but on the quiet opened western front and used Afghan soil for carrying out massive covert operations to destabilize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan. Additionally, it used eastern front for people-to-people contact but in reality was meant to launch Indian cultural invasion and rob the youth of its fighting spirit and sink it in the pool of fun and frolic.
- Rather than making a change in strategy on Kashmir, Musharraf unilaterally changed the Kashmir policy by announcing out of box solution and depriving Pakistan of its principled stance based on UN resolutions. He thus gave a severe blow to freedom movement in Kashmir which in that timeframe had peaked.
- While he kept doing more and more, he never realized that USA, India and Afghanistan were not friends but playing a double game; and that Pakistan was not an ally but a target. His yielding to ‘do more’ policy to please the US – often acting in cahoots with India – was detrimental to Pakistan’s interests.
- Musharraf’s “Concept of Enlightened Moderation” (apparently drafted by Henry Kissinger Associates) was in contravention to Objectives Resolution and Quaid-e-Azam’s dream of making Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. In his apparent bid to show soft face of Pakistan to the world, he strove to make Pakistan a secular state. This open declaration of secularism hurt the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and ended up igniting storm of religious extremism
- Sacking of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 was a wrong move which triggered lawyers’ movement and led to his fall.
- The other mistake he made was going out of the way to politically strengthen MQM about which I am sure the ISI and MI Directorate would have given sufficient information about its linkage with RAW since 1989. It was a miscalculation which he thought was in his own self-interest, but it was his worst sin, which caused grievous harm to Karachi, Pakistan’s economy and jolted Pakistan.
- National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was his biggest blunder which cleansed the entire leadership of PPP involved in mega corruption and 8000 leaders and activists of MQM involved in heinous crimes. Condeela Rice was the moving force behind NRO which envisaged Musharraf-Benazir sharing power for next five years. It enabled the US and the UK to empower their dream team of PPP-MQM-ANP from which it was to execute the final phase of their gory plan of making Pakistan a compliant state.
- Musharraf paid no heed to the emerging energy crisis and despite holding all the levers of power and repeatedly pledging that he will construct the Kalabagh dam, he didn’t do so. Answering a question of Dr. Moeed Pirzada on 11th September 2016, Dunya News, he stated about Kalabagh dam: “We couldn’t construct Kalabagh dam due to political situation”. Factually, he aborted the decision to construct Kalabagh Dam after receiving a call from MQM chief Altaf Hussain. The latter is of course remote controlled by foreign agencies and India not wanting Kalabagh dam at any cost must have twisted his arm. But Musharraf oblivious of all that continuously nurtured Altaf Hussain’s MQM during 9 years of his regime.
- Although he claims that the Americans never interfered in high rank military postings during his regime, George Bush disclosed in his autobiography that Musharraf resigned from the post of chief of army staff, lifted the emergency and held free elections upon his “strong suggestion”in the fall of 2007.( 7 ).
- He took official jets to set out on tours of Europe and America on promotional campaigns for boosting the sale of his book “In the Line of Fire”.
- Musharraf’s disclosure in the book that the US had paid millions of dollars to Pakistan for capturing Al Qaeda operatives was a humiliation for the country. Under the US law, they cannot give prize money to any government or institution, and the Govt of Pakistan has denied receiving any such payments.
- He couldn’t be more wrong when he tried to drag ethnicity as one the key factor for his selection as Army chief. On page 136 of his book he writes “It could be that such affronts on my part made the prime minister realize his folly in selecting me for my position. He had probably thought that being the son of immigrant parents, I would acquiesce in his demands ___ that I would feel insecure and vulnerable and do his bidding.”
He broke the isolation of Pakistan and made it relevant. He strengthened state corporations. After a long time the Railway and PIA became profitable organizations and the Steel Mills for the first time in its history earned largest profit. Inflation and prices remained within limits and value of dollar didn’t cross Rs 60. GDP was above 7% and foreign exchange reserves were increased from $ 3 million to $ 14 billion. Pakistan for the first time in its history came out of the noose of IMF and foreign debts decreased from $ 38 billion to $ 34 billion. Foundation of Diamer Bhasha dam was laid in his time, which was not pursued by the successor political regime. Ghazi Barotha project was completed during his time. There was no shortage of gas and load shedding was minimal. There was boom in property and stocks were bullish.
Al-Khalid tank was developed into a main battle tank and joint manufacture of JF-17 Thunders was undertaken which was quite an accomplishment. He established Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and placed all nuclear/missile related setups under it, which formulated comprehensive nuclear doctrine and gave the concept of minimum nuclear deterrence. Surface to surface, air to air and air to surface missiles were radically improved and work on cruise missiles and drones was initiated. Three Agosta submarines were upgraded and given capability to fire nuclear warheads while remaining 400 feet submerged in sea, giving Pakistan second strike capability. All nuclear facilities were made safe and secure under foolproof multi-layered security system compatible with international standards. Despite the fact that Dr. AQ Khan had passed on designs of old centrifuge to Iran, Libya and North Korea, Musharraf handled the crisis well and disallowed the IAEA to inspect our nuclear arsenal or to interview AQ Khan.
With regard to the oft repeated charge that Musharraf buckled under pressure and cheaply gave in to Colin Powel’s demands, in hindsight I may dare to say that it was not altogether a sellout as generally perceived. Had he refused, the US that had made up its mind to attack Afghanistan and the whole world including the UN was supportive of the military venture, would have taken on Afghanistan and Pakistan in one swipe with its air power as was suggested by India and Israel. Pakistan air force with 700 to 800 aircraft was in no position to counter the aerial cum cruise missile threat of US-NATO having 30,000 warplanes and sophisticated technology. The US-NATO airpower was in good position to destroy our communication, economic, defence infrastructures and nuclear plants.
Our missile technology was not potent enough to do any damage particularly when the US had satellite jamming and imagery capability. Indian military for certain would have activated the eastern front to engage our ground forces once the PAF, tanks and strategic assets had been taken care of by the US B-52s, Daisy cutters, stealth helicopters and cruise missiles.
As regard the accusation that Musharraf ditched the Taliban at the behest of Washington, the Taliban had no choice but to withdraw and abandon Afghanistan in the face of systematic carpet bombing. They had no means to fight against air power. Had Pakistan been bombed and pushed to Stone Age, the Taliban could not have taken shelter in FATA/Baluchistan, regrouped and then waged a resistance war. It was simply impossible for the Taliban who had been forsaken by the world to carryout sustained struggle for 14 years without receiving training, weapons, equipment, funds and guidance and safe havens for the leaders. Haqqani network in North Waziristan and Quetta Shura could not have functioned at their own. Had it been otherwise, how come Pakistan handed over more than 3 dozens Taliban leaders to Afghan government in 2013 and 2014? It was not possible for Mulla Omar to remain off the radar all these years. He died in April 2013 but these news were learnt in July 2015.
Another accusation against him is that he antagonized the tribesmen by sending regular troops to FATA. Had he not done so, the ISAF troops would have certainly barged into SW to hunt Al-Qaeda as was being threatened. Such a move could have jeopardized the regrouping of Afghan Taliban to wage resistance movement against occupying forces.
Musharraf was also accused of hobnobbing with Israel and holding a meeting with Israeli PM In Turkey, but at the end of the day he neither recognized Israel nor opened up diplomatic relations despite lingering rumors. But this statement of former and late Israeli President Shimon Peres cannot also be disregarded. “As a good Jewish boy, I would have never dreamed that I would pray for the safety of Musharraf, the president of Pakistan. That is a most unexpected experience.”(8).
I guess Musharraf’s best move was to push forward the Gwadar project with the help of China in 2002, which FM Ayub Khan wanted to develop as a port after he had purchased it from Oman in 1959, but Shah of Iran requested him not to do so. One reason of triggering an armed insurgency in Baluchistan by USA was Gwadar seaport.
His next best move was to sign Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project agreement. Commissioning of this project would have provided India its 40% gas need. India walked out of it not only because of the US pressure and the lure of civil nuclear deal with USA, but also because of the fact that it would have effectively neutralized India’s blackmail through water terrorism. In case of India blocking Pakistan’s water in the three rivers, Pakistan could have retaliated by blocking the vitally needed gas.
In hindsight, weighing the mistakes and achievements of Gen Musharraf, I leave it to your judgement as to who played a better double game and who had the last laugh.
(2). In the Line of Fire, Page 90
(3). Daily Mail 2013, Qaswar Abbas
(4). In the Line of Fire, p 201.
(5). Bush at War by Bob Woodward, p 59.
(6). US threatened to bomb Pakistan back to “the Stone Age” By Kranti Kumara and Keith Jones, September 2006
(7). Decision Points, Autobiography by G.W Bush.
(8). Newsweek magazine, 5 November 2001, Washington
The writer is a war veteran, retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. He regularly takes part in TV talk shows and seminars and delivers lectures. [email protected]