By K.N. Pandita
Political punditry has a host of questions on Musharraf’s leap in the dark. He was over-confident and took the risk. Yet he was dismally mistaken.
Some say he wanted to carry forward Pakistani army’s agenda of creating a civil face for itself? It met with public ire after its incompetence was exposed in Osama operation. Whether the army was an accomplice in Osama operation or not is a moot point. However, its denial brought it a mix of shame and unpopularity.
Pakistan army authority thereafter has been effectively challenged. Apart from loosing public support, its double-speak on war on terror lost her the semblance American goodwill. Recall General Petrause’s tantrum. To make things worse, Pakistan was pushed to economic crunch. These factors cumulatively took the wind out of Army’s sails. Frustrated Kayani is taken nothing more than a paper tiger.
Therefore in reality Musharraf’s debacle is Kayani’s debacle. After the Peshawar court declare Musharraf ineligible to fight any election, and then close on its heels the arrest order by another court, Pakistani army has second thoughts. Evidently, in the big humdrum of general election, army will turn away from Musharraf because its priority is the result of the elections.
In his election campaigns, Mian Nawaz Sharif has said that if his party is returned to power, it will cut the army to its size. There can be no better an opportunity to do that.
Why had Musharraf chosen to file his nomination papers from Chitral and not from Punjab or Sind or Baluchistan or even Pukhtunkhwa? He has had to face formidable opposition in Punjab the bastion of Mian Nawaz Sharif whom he had ousted from power after military coup. Sind is dead set against him for not providing full security to Benazir. Baluch will not spare him for being the killer of their very popular leader Nawwab Bugti. The reaction of the NWFP is evident from the court order debarring him from taking part in elections now or in future.
The two courts have based their respective verdicts on the plea that he has played a traitor by violating the constitution and vandalizing the judiciary.
He had a reason to file nomination papers from Chitral. As Corps Commander of Northern Light Infantry, Pervez Musharraf largely interfered in the civilian administration of Northern Areas. It was during his tenure as Corps Commander that thousands of Chitrali Sunnis were shifted to Gilgit-Baltistan and got settled there. Pervez Musharraf had contrived to change the demographic complexion of Northern Areas and suppressed the Shias so much so that their presence in the administrative structure in their own land was reduced to non-entity.
Pervez Musharraf believed that his sectarianism would stand him in good stead forgetting that he is hated equally by the Sunnis as well as the Shia, of course for different reasons.
Analysed in the background of the history of his regime the crippling court decisions has come partly in response to the PIL filed by interested parties and partly by way of reaction of Pak judiciary to his arbitrary and dictatorial measure of removing judges as well as the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
At stake now is not the election stunt of Pervez Musharraf but the future of the man who used all instruments of dictatorship to smash democratic institutions in the country during his regime. Now among other bombasts, he is posing as one who believes in democratic dispensation and wants to bring comfort to his nation through democratic system, the same which he threw to winds when he usurped power.
He is facing some criminal cases in Pakistani courts. He can have the best legal advice to defend him when the prosecution begins. But it has also to be known that there could be startling evidence of his involvement, covertly or overtly, in some of the cases. It is absolutely difficult and premature to say what direction the prosecution can take.
His close associates in and outside the army are of opinion that he has been recklessly over-confident of his ambitions. But politics of the sub-continent being a very complicated affair, he may not have the full grasp of its angularities. For the time being, he is out of electoral fray and can sit down and ruminate over his future.
The army offered him top security. Fifty commandos were deployed to provide him security. The mission to accomplish which the army provided him top security and logistical support has not been fulfilled nor is there any hope that it will be carried forward. Will not army top brass re-evaluate its role in this particular case?
The biggest challenge with which Pak army seems to be standing with eyeball to eyeball stance now is whether it will be able to maintain its traditional grip on Kashmir issue? In an exclusive interview to Karan Thapar, Mian Nawaz Sharif the former Prime Minister of Pakistan minced no words and bluntly said that he and his then Indian counterpart, Bajpai were locked in close Track II diplomacy. Pak Army was aware of it. Before the two Prime Ministers would converge on a common approach, General Musharraf, then Army Chief, decided on Kargil war. He killed two birds with one stone; scuttled Kashmir solution and forced out Mian Nawaz Sharif from the office of Prime Minister.
In his interview, Mian Nawaz Sharif said that if returned to power he would order a commission of enquiry into Kargil episode. Knowledgeable circles say that in Kargil war regular Pakistan army had deployed regular soldiers in mufti and the claim that militants, jihadis and religious volunteers had initiated the fighting is totally false.
In the past also, Pakistan army has scuttled constructive dialogue between the two countries on Kashmir. When late Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir had narrowed down their differences on Kashmir and a broad basis of an acceptable formula was about to be finalized, Pakistan army removed Benazir.
But the general elections, now in process in Pakistan, will be decisive in respect of many items of relations between the two countries but more especially Kashmir issue. In a pragmatic and statesmanlike display of his party’s post-election thinking, Mian Nawaz Sharif said that the two countries have a common past and it cannot be shattered recklessly. We hope that saner, nationalistic and visionary leadership will be at the helm of affairs in Pakistan after the public mandate is declared and the two countries will open a new chapter in the history of their relationship.