« There is widespread and deep-rooted popular anger at Musharraf’s support for US imperialism’s attempt to secure a stranglehold over the oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia through military conquest. » [Kranti Kumara and Keith Jones, 27 Sept 2006].
Regarded as a muhajir (refugee or immigrant) in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf was born under British occupation in Delhi, India, in 1943. After partition, the Musharraf family moved to Karachi. He joined the Pakistan Military Academy in 1961. His various training included attending the Royal College of Defense Studies in Great Britain. He became near to the centre of power in Pakistan when he was promoted to general in 1998. He replaced General Jehangir Karmat who, to the displeasure of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, advocated joint political power-sharing with the military. Shortly after his appointment as general, Pervez Musharraf pledged that the army would remain « apolitical ».
In October 1999, under the excuses of fighting corruption and maintaining stability, in a bloodless coup, General Pervez Musharraf toppled the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif after the latter had dismissed him when he was on a visit to Sri Lanka, seized political power, suspended Parliament and imposed martial law. Musharraf alleged that on his return from Colombo, Sri Lanka, his plane, with 198 other passengers on board, was denied permission to land in Pakistan on the orders of Nawaz Sharif and that the plane eventually landed in Karachi with only a few minutes of fuel to spare. Nawaz Sharif was charged with « hijacking, kidnapping, attempted murder and treason ». Musharraf consolidated his power by replacing six Supreme Court Judges, including Chief Justice Saeed Zaman Siddiqi, because they refused to swear allegiance to his military dictatorship. Nawaz Sharif, two of whose defence lawyers were murdered, was eventually convicted in April 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment. [See Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Deal’ below]. Critics argue that it was dictator Musharraf who should have been tried and sentenced for hijacking the government.
President Bill Clinton visited Musharraf in March 2000 to give him the full support of the United States under the official excuse of urging him to « return to democracy ». Mind you, Clinton did not refuse to meet with the dictator nor did he ask him to step down. The US has a well-known policy of supporting friendly dictators around the world. In 2001, with US blessing, Musharraf banned political parties, detained political leaders and, in June 2001, extended his 3-year term as Army Chief of Staff beyond October 2001 by appointing himself Pakistan’s President and Head of State. After the 11th September 2001 inside-job attacks against the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the US, Musharraf gave the US full logistic and intelligence support in her ‘war on terror’, starting with the invasion of Afghanistan. A rigged referendum held on 30th April 2002, with a voter turnout of 30%, extended his rule for five years under the notable silence of US-controlled United Nations even though Musharraf himself went on TV and apologised for the « irregularities » in the referendum.
Although the October 2002 general elections were won by the pro-Musharraf PML-Q Party, the opposition paralysed the National Assembly, and in December 2003 Musharraf made a deal with the six-member coalition of Islamic parties (the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal party) to leave the army by 31st December 2004, which promise he did not keep. But in a vote of confidence on 1st January 2004, Musharraf won 658 of the 1170 votes in the Electoral College of Pakistan and, under the constitution, he is « deemed to be elected » to the Office of President until October 2007.
It was the US, under Jimmy Carter, which bribed Pakistani leaders in their role in defeating the Russians in Afghanistan by arming and training the mujahidin (freedom fighters), including Osama Bin Laden. The US recognise that the December 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan prompted the forging of a strategic alliance with General Zia-ul-Haq, the then military dictator of Pakistan who had deposed, in 1977, the democratically elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and banned all political parties. With Washington’s green light, Bhutto was hanged on 4th April 1979 after being convicted, under Zia’s regime, of the murder of a political opponent. The US-backed Zia dictatorship supported the very Islamic organisations which they now brand as ‘islamists’ because those organisations denounce the unholy post-9/11 deal made by dictator Musharraf with Bush. Kranti Kumara and Keith Jones said : « There is widespread and deep-rooted popular anger at Musharraf’s support for US imperialism’s attempt to secure a stranglehold over the oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia through military conquest. » [27 Sept 2006].
Bombed back to the Stone Age
But in an interview with CBS News on 24th September 2006, Musharraf claimed that, following 9/11, the then US Deputy Secretary of State, pro-Israel Zionist Jew Richard Armitage, said to his intelligence director to « Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age » if Pakistan did not support George Bush. In another interview with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show on 26 September 2006, Musharraf also stated that the then Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to him in similar terms. The denials of Armitage and Bush are considered preposterous, given the well-known terror tactics of the US against those who are not amenable to their economic and geo-political interests. This tactic clearly served the purpose of Musharraf and he never complained before.
Musharraf is not the law
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudray, has been a prominent critic of General Musharraf who saw him as an obstacle to his remaining in power when his term ends in October 2007. On 9th March 2007, Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice on charges of misconduct. This sparked protests among lawyers, and on 20th July 2007 the Supreme Court reinstated its Chief Justice. Musharraf’s popularity plummeted further when the Supreme Court released on bail his arch critic Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, MP and prominent leader of the Nawaz Sharif faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). Hashmi was serving a jail term (since 2003) on a charge of inciting the army to revolt, and has served over half of his sentence. Hashmi had distributed copies of an unsigned letter purported to have been written by serving army officers criticising Musharraf for involving the army in adventurous operations leading to the death of hundreds of Pakistani troops and demanded a judicial inquiry into the 1999 Kargil operation.
Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Deal’
Following his life imprisonment in April 2000, Nawaz Sharif made a ‘deal’ in December 2000 with dictator Musharraf in order to secure his freedom. According to Musharraf’s government, Sharif had agreed to ‘self-exile’ in a country of his choice (Saudi Arabia) along with his family for 10 years and had pledged not to indulge in any ‘anti-Pakistan’ activities. A more recent Supreme Court decision on 23rd August 2007 ruled that under article 3 of the Constitution, « no citizen of the country can be stopped from his or her return to home », which clears the way for Sharif to return to Pakistan. However, Musharraf’s regime is threatening that the cases of alleged corruption against Sharif might be reopened. [Hindustan Times, 24 Aug 07].
Dictator Musharraf has not left any stone unturned. In a meeting (Abu Dhabi, 27th July 2007) with exiled Ms Benazir Bhutto, twice Prime Minister of Pakistan, Musharraf proposed her a power-sharing deal. [The Times, 28th July 2007]. Under this deal, the dictator would enjoy another 5-year term as President and Ms Bhutto would be allowed to return to Pakistan, exonerated of corruption charges against her and the ban, passed by constitutional amendment, on a PM serving a third term lifted. (Note : Nawaz Sharif was also PM twice).
With reluctance, Musharraf has now agreed to resign as army chief [Herald Sun, Australia, 29 Aug 07] to finalise this power-sharing deal with Ms Bhutto. This epitomises corruption at the highest level for a dictator who seized power under the excuse of fighting corruption. The US had been campaigning for this deal for a while because they see Musharraf and ‘liberal-minded’ Bhutto as « natural allies ». Two separate Pakistani Presidents, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari, had deposed twice elected PM Ms Bhutto in 1990 and 1996 respectively on allegations of corruption and kleptocracy. By a 6-1 majority ruling, the Supreme Court also upheld President Laghari’s dismissal of PM Benazir Bhutto. The Pakistan Supreme Court would therefore need to have the final say on whether Ms Bhutto can put herself forward as a political candidate, let alone as PM. Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Ali Bhutto, knows fully well that the US was behind her Father’s execution under dictator Zia-ul-Haq. [Ref. «The General [Musharraf] in his Labyrinth» by Tariq Ali]. Her acceptance of this US-backed deal with another dictator clearly demonstrates Benazir’s blind hunger for power.
The Musharraf’s ‘lesson’ in freedom, democracy and human rights is fully backed by the United States whose indelible fingerprints are all over Pakistani politics. The European Americans who, in a recent history, took over a whole country through the genocide of the natives and terror have no lessons to give to the world on freedom, human rights, democracy or the ‘war on terror’. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the US and also known as one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the Republic, was the wrong person to tell us about the values of freedom and human rights. He should have been talking about the terrorist and corrupt values upon which Europeans destroyed so many lives, invaded so many countries, stole their countries and resources, interfered in their politics, which are being perpetrated to this day. Pakistan is just one of them at the receiving end. In spite of Musharraf’s threats for his arrest, Nawaz Sharif is planning to return to Pakistan within a fortnight to head an eve-of-Ramadan campaign (Ramadan starts on 13 Sept 07) aimed at unseating the US-backed dictator [Financial Times, 29 August 2007]. A International Republican Institute survey showed that 64% of the population did not want Musharraf as the president of Pakistan for another term.
M Rafic Soormally
London, 29 August 2007