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Crossfire

Senator Tariq Azeem has the credentials and the integrity to do a much better function for the Government of Pakistan (GOP) than the likes of Muhammad Ali Durrani.  His present job description as Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting seems limited to requesting the Minister of Information and Broadcasting to request the President to speak.  At the Iftar/Dinner hosted for the media at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad on Wednesday Oct 11, 2006, Durrani’s courtier-like introduction of the President was positively embarrassing.  He went overboard with his unadulterated flattery.  A hard-bitten Pakistani media does not take kindly to such public displays of fawning and servility.  This clouds the Pervez Musharraf-image of a blunt, no-nonsense soldier who speaks his mind and is not given to such public displays of adulation.

Pervez Musharraf is in his element when he speaks his heart without affectation.  His main theme was the deep concern about polarization in Islam between moderates and extremists, with international perception recognising extremists (who are a minority) as the true representatives of Islam rather than the overwhelming silent majority of moderates. He made an impassioned appeal for all sections of society to support his efforts to shun extremism.  After Al-Qaeda was bombed out of Afghanistan , some terrorists came across (literally) into greener pastures in Pakistan , the international public perception is that Pakistan became the epicenter for terrorism. The country’s front-line role in the “war against terrorism” is discounted despite the grievous sacrifices Pakistan has given during the last 5 years. Then again Pakistan is accused of nuclear proliferation, money- laundering, violation of women’s rights, etc.  Pervez Musharraf has   a   harrowing  job  defending  Pakistan’s  position  in public, repeating it on day after day basis to visiting dignitaries can be quite frustrating.

The agreement with the tribals in FATA is certainly a matter of satisfaction, it will bring interim peace to the region. The long-term solution is to go heavily down the economic route, that seems to be half-heartedly on the agenda.  The “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (ROZs) proposal is good but not enough, the whole of FATA should be designated as a Free Trade Zone (FTZ), maybe even giving them off-shore status like Mauritius, Jersey Islands , Bahamas , etc.  About Balochistan and economic initiatives thereof the President enumerated the efforts being taken to remove the development disparity with the other Provinces.  More has been done by the present regime for emancipation of the Baloch masses than those before them. The President was firm in stating that he would not allow anyone to take the law unto their hands, the recalcitrant Tribal Sardars who are a law into themselves were put on notice.  The fundamental responsibility of the government is to enforce the laws of the land, this includes bringing to heel those who think it is their inherent right to go around killing people, blowing up pipelines, transmission tower, bridges and planting landmines, etc.  A matter of concern, Baloch qualms can be overcome if pragmatic economic initiatives to go hand-in-hand with genuine provincial autonomy.

Given that Pervez Musharraf has an undeniable right to present his own point of view, nevertheless one had profound reservations about his launching “In the Line of Fire” at this time, it put the State, the institutions of the State and himself at risk of collateral damage.  The logic he states is however convincing.  It is true the world takes him to be upright and credible, in contrast Pakistan is perceived as being “ground zero” for a myriad number of  the  world’s  major  problems.   The  presentation of Pakistan’s viewpoint through his personal autobiography would give credibility to much of the facts that the world had misperceptions and doubts about, in effect he has taken a calculated risk in gambling his person and place in history. While his version of the AQ Khan episode may be the subject of criticism locally, in international circles it vindicates Pakistan ’s position that nuclear proliferation was the act of one man rather than having State sanction.  It absolves Pakistan as an out of control “rogue nation”, a necessary statement of fact. We have to live in a real world where Heads of State and/or Heads of Government have are locked into pragmatic political and administrative compromises, not exactly “kosher” or for that matter popular, but necessary in the exigencies of the country’s interest.

I must respectfully disagree with Gen Pervez Musharraf concerning his disparaging and unnecessary comments about Lt Gen (Retd) Ali Kuli Khan Khattak. In the ultimate success on being appointed COAS over Ali Kuli and Khalid Nawaz, Pervez Musharraf should have been magnimous.   In the 48 years that I have known Gen Ali Kuli, I have never seen him doing or saying anything wrong either professionally or in his personal capacity, Ali Kuli was an excellent professional soldier, he remains in civilian life upright, honest and correct as an exemplary human being.  29th Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Long Course was perhaps the finest intake from the 25th to 36th PMA (the last of the Long Courses pre – 1965), truly amazing.  Ali, Khalid Nawaz and Pervez Musharraf were among the top six cadets  from the 29th nominated for Sandhurst . As “Top Guns” of the Course (including outrageously brave Shabbir Sharif Shaheed, Nishan-e-Haider). Ali Kuli, Khalid Nawaz and Pervez Musharraf rose together to the rank of Lt Gen and can rightly claim to be the best of the best, the crème de la crème.  Ali Kuli went off to Sandhurst and Shabbir Sharif got the coveted Sword of Honour, Khalid Nawaz graduated as Company Senior Under Officer (SUO) and Musharraf as Battalion JUO. Musharraf would have graduated at least 6 rungs higher except for an unfortunate incident.

I have personally heard Ali Kuli speak up in Pervez Musharraf’s defence, as recently as Nov 2005 in New Delhi at the World Economic Forum’s “India Economic Summit” when he was asked a leading (and deliberately mischievous) question about Musharraf’s being appointed as COAS over his head. As examples for younger officers to emulate it does not behove the two, who remained good friends till Oct 12, 1999,  to be taking potshots at each other.  Ali Kuli and Khalid Nawaz (a “Gallian” to add his credentials) opted for retirement in the best traditions of the service when Musharraf, nominally their junior, became COAS.  Loving and respecting Ali Kuli as my older brother, I also admire what Musharraf has been doing for Pakistan as President. Like both of them a Sandhurst candidate (Standby from 34th PMA), I humbly request them to cool it in the best interests of the Army and the country.

Pervez Musharraf has been a good leader during a period of great crisis for Pakistan. One accepts his logic that he deliberately put his credibility and place in history in the line of fire in explaining to a world audience Pakistan’s side to contain our increasingly eroding credibility as a sovereign nation, it could still go horribly wrong. One admires his courage in doing so, only time will till whether his calculated risk will come off!

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