Bottomline | Unhindered friendship

Despite 7/7, Musharraf remains close to the United States

Pravin SawhneyPravin Sawhney

Despite the 7/7 London bombings, President Pervez Musharraf continues to be the US ally in its war against terror. It is another matter that since 9/11, the global war on terror has slowly but surely divided itself into regional and national wars on terror. The British, however, after the unfortunate bombing of their capital city were not too sure about this. Consequently, blame was heaped on Pakistan’s doorsteps as the perpetrators, all British Muslims, had recently visited Lahore and had met with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba activists. To silence the British outrage, which appeared to have the backing of a few sections of Americans, Musharraf decided to publicly clear the air. He said that instead of putting the blame elsewhere, the British need to look inwards within its own society to understand why 7/7 happened. This is precisely what Musharraf has repeatedly told India. The big difference, however, is that Musharraf has a strategic reason to continue terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, while he had none to do so in Britain. The latter was done by Al Qaeda sympathisers (Jehadis) who wish to see Musharraf fail in its support to the US war on terror. This, however, will not be easy.

There are three reasons why the US has granted Musharraf’s regime with the Major Non-Nato Ally status. One, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons appear safe and secure with Musharraf. Let alone Pakistani Mullahs, nukes should not even fall in the hands of the Islamists within the Pakistan army. Moreover, the US is grateful to Musharraf for helping unravel the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. Two, Musharraf is helping the US to bring stability in Afghanistan at a time when it is hard pressed with situations in Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East. And three, every time that Al Qaeda and its sympathisers strike somewhere, Musharraf’s army gets going and nabs a few hundred of terrorists from its backyard to assuage the US. For example, after 7/7, Musharraf has reportedly ordered over 1,400 foreign students in Pakistani madrasas to leave the country. Explaining this recently to the media, Musharraf said that his recent crackdown on Jehadis is different from the one he did in 2002, when he was not in a strong position domestically, internationally, and there was a war situation with India.

To be fair to Musharraf, he genuinely wants to curb fundamentalism within Pakistan, and especially his own army. This, however, will be a long drawn affair for many reasons: it is not easy to reverse Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s appeasement policy towards fundamentalists which in turn created the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. And importantly, Musharraf cannot abandon Pakistan army’s policies towards Afghanistan and J&K, the later being of utmost importance. His challenge, therefore, is to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. He must make the distinction between two types of terrorism: one that comprises of Jehadis that he is fighting alongside the US, and the other, are the so-called freedom fighters in J&K whom he wholeheartedly supports. Unfortunately, the terrorists do not make this clear-cut distinction resulting in many terrorists groups flourishing within Pakistan and not listening to his diktat. These create mayhem in Pakistan itself, and encourage and motivate terrorism outside the country. Their fight is against the US policies in Muslim countries, and the targets are US’ forces, its allies, and the local rulers. Within Pakistan, these terrorists get support from the Mullahs who run their fiefdoms through thousands of madrasas, and have people’s sympathy as well.

J&K, however, is a different case. It is simply not possible for terrorists to cross the Line of Control without help from the Pakistan army. Ironically, Musharraf does not hide this fact. Despite the peace process with India, he has refused to dismantle terrorist infrastructure that supports infiltration into J&K. Contrary to the perception in the Indian media, Musharraf has never committed himself to say that infiltrations inside J&K are by terrorists; Jehadis who have a world vision of furtherance of Islam. For instance, the much talked about 6 January 2004 joint statement between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee merely says that, ‘he (Musharraf) will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.’ Similarly, the 18 April 2005 joint statement between General Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says that, ‘The two leaders pledged that they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.’ No one in India has asked Musharraf to define terrorism specifically in relation to J&K. The US understands Musharraf’s duplicitous position, as so does India especially after the failed Operation Parakram. The latter comprised of Indian army’s mobilisation for war with the specific purpose of getting Musharraf to permanently stop the proxy war inside J&K. After the unsuccessful show of force, it will be impossible to persuade Musharraf to stop infiltrations inside India. As long as the US believes that Pakistan under Musharraf is fighting their war on terror, he will remain above board. India’s only option is to fight its own insurgency in J&K. There is little case to ask the international community to label Pakistan as the hub of terrorism after 7/7 events.


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