Diplomacy and Musharraf [March,2005]

Written by vik

Topics: International, People, Socio-Political

This was my paper for the course of Diplomacy [M.A.] in March 2005. I have not edited/updated it. It was written without any special study/research. It has humour more than anything else.

General Pervez Musharraf has scripted one of the greatest diplomatic successes of the recent times. He is the man who has made the most of his opportunities. Whenever opportunities have knocked on his door he has not complained of noise. And what is more, quite like the saying ‘weak men wait for opportunities and strong men make them’ he has created some of them to suit his and Pakistan’s national interest.

The general himself opines that ” he was cut out for the Army job (sic) and did not knew there was so much in store for him”. It was an ill-fated decision by the then PM of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif that saw the general catapulted to power. And the irony – Sharif had installed him the army-chief thinking that his ethnicity (non-punjabi) will not allow him a power-base in the army. But as Murphy’s law says when a thing can go wrong it will!

Needless to say Pakistan’s political history is written with military ink (how could the general deny the calling!). The general flew back from Sri Lanka and landed like the proverbial cat among the political pigeons. And thus came yet another red-letter day in the history of Pakistan when the chief of the Armed forces … The rest as they say is history (history repeats itself like anything in Pakistan!). That was October 12, 1999. What followed was a global denouncement against the dictator. Everyone – within or without – sang ‘democracy’ in chorus and the general was able to ignore it and label it as cacophony.

Come 2001. He goes to Agra to argue his love for Kashmir. He formally crowned himself the president (to update on the eligibility front of course!). India extends the red carpet to him and thus he issues Pakistan a red herring (talks on Kashmir mollify peoples’ democratic aspirations and he, with nothing to lose, emerges as the winner). The talks are a failure but Musharraf scores as an unrelenting crusader for Kashmir or say Pak’s national interest (Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jehangir says, though in a different context, “A military ruler need some excuse to stay in power. If Kashmir is not there what excuse will he have”).

Come September 11, 2001. A Godsend for Musharraf! (He couldn’t have asked for a better bargain from the Allah! Fortune never rains but pours!) An unprecedented attack on the US! Among other things, the twin towers reduced to dust and some 5000 people are massacred thanks to Taliban, thanks to Al-Qaida! America for once incurs pains for its unabashed past gains. Everybody condemns it and Bush Jr. begins the unprecedented “with-us-or-with-them”, once-for-all, “smoke-them-out” (and what not) war to wipe away terrorism from the planet earth (better late than never, the USA understood that terrorism anywhere is danger everywhere. How? Why? Because there are Frankenstein monsters, you see!) The US begins performing after the attacks. Afghanistan, to begin with. Action and nail-biting suspense in the neighbourhood of Pakistan!

Until that fateful day Pakistan vis-à-vis Taliban was ‘ love your neighbour as you love yourself’. But with the pragmatic Musharraf calling the shots, he chose to make the hay when the sun shone; and left Taliban in the lurch.

Bush chooses to do a tango with Mush (thanks to situational imperatives) and the latter obliges dancing to the former’s tunes. A huge outcry on the home turf but rendered a cry in the wilderness! Islamic sentiments notwithstanding Musharraf is one of the most important ally (or accomplice?) of Bush in the war against terror. Thanks to the general’s designs, he and Pakistan were to scale new heights. He played his cards brilliantly and outshined all and sundry including those in India.

In a manner of speaking Pakistan was hand-in-glove with Taliban but kudos to the general’s diplomatic manoeuvres he was able to project Pakistan as a nation at daggers drawn with terrorism. He provided support to USA in the war and gained maximum mileage from it. A real blessing in disguise! And when you assist the world’s richest country you of course get  billions of dollars and arms and ammunitions. Musharraf had built a castle almost in the air and 9/11 provided the base to it; he worked as the perfect mason to align both of them. The castle is established and the general and Pakistan today are reckoned as key players in the international arena. If that is not successful diplomacy, what else is?

Pakistan is not as yet a “failed state” and Musharraf ensures that it continues to be so. One of his achievements also lie in the fact that he has been almost successful in selling this notion to his audience –both in India and Pakistan and also the rest of the world – that his presence is indispensable given the dilapidated nature of Pakistan’s democracy.

On the home front he has been trying to achieve a “modern, tolerant, democratic, Islamic” Pakistan. In his childhood, he spent some years in Turkey at the Pakistani  embassy. He says he is “strongly attracted to Kemal Ataturk’s model of leadership” ( one can argue diplomacy runs in his blood, thanks to his father). To counter Hadood ordinance and blasphemy law he announced the formation of the National Human Rights Commission. He is trying to rein in extremism albeit with mixed successes. He staged a referendum and will call it a day in 2007 (that is if you believe him; he has not however fulfilled his promise of abdicating as the army-chief). He ousted Zamali and brought in a docile Aziz. He has granted amnesty to the nuclear terrorist Abdul Qadir Khan to pacify Pakistanis and also cleared the establishment of any blame on that. He has introduced militarisation of civil institutions on a big scale. Put simply, he is leaving no stone unturned to establish himself.

He has escaped death on many occasions ( assassination attempts)  and war with India. He wants himself considered for a “record for Guinness book”. The cat has nine lives! But as they say the game is never lost till won the terrorists are still after him and he cannot let his hair down. He also pulls achievements of a different nature from the attempts on his life. He declared five lakh rupees compensation to each of the families of the fourteen dead on the December 25, 2003 attack on him (No prizes for guessing how much they get who get killed in the routine Karachi bombings!).

Now a word on the general vis-à-vis India: he has been able to sell to India that he is the most competent man to deliver goods in Pakistan. And the irony! He is the same man who stayed away from the Lahore ceremony and hailed the Kargil misadventure a “great success”. Today India engages in cricket-diplomacy, medical-diplomacy, bus, train and plane diplomacy and he pays in the same coin. The world does not miss any opportunities to congratulate both the countries. At one time the rumour was that Vajpayee and him are being considered for the Nobel. Odds are so much in his favour that he will cry for the moon and he will have it and no one will be surprised!

The general is endowed with diplomatic skills and has displayed them in abundance in India, at SAARC and other world-forums. He has good dressing sense and exhibits ethnic suits to military wardrobe to draw home the point suitably. Once he gave an Indian journalist ( Karan Thapar?)his tie on being complemented upon it and remarked that even his shoes could be had by the journalist if he developed a liking for them!

Very soon he will be in India to egg on the Pakistani cricket team. Indications are that he does not believe (unlike the people of both countries) that success is not in the trophy won but in the race run. He will not allow Indians a success (war or cricket) to go to their head or a Pakistani failure to go to his heart.

To sum up, the general is not so general. His attitude (more than his aptitude) is determining his altitude. He is a diplomatic success in more ways than one. The world will see more of him in the coming years.


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