Thursday, November 25, 2004

Musharraf, the man of peace?

What is the best thing to have happened in South Asia consisting the countries of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri-Lanka, BanglaDesh and Bhutan. International observers will be inclined to pick peace overtures between India & Pakistan , however, the best thing to have happened is the event which is at the genesis of peace initiatives. That event is elevation of General Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan's premier. This surely is going to strike as an odd choice to some especially to well-informed indians. Isnt he a hawk, a war mongerer who started the Kargil confrontation, a staunch opponent of peace? True, he is all that and he is not about to change but the way events have played out after his overthrow of Nawaz Sharif regime, his elevation has been a blessing in disguise for peace in Indian subcontinent and in Kashmir in particular. To illustrate the point, flashback to 9/11 , second day after that, on 9/12, US made it clear to all the world that it is no longer going to turn a blind eye towards Islamic fundamentalism & terrorism anywhere in the world. Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden became target number one for US and rest of the world. US gave Pakistan an ultimatum, be with us or be against us. Musharraf facing the music made the most rational choice, he sideded with US. US invaded Afghanistan, drove out the Taliban which till then were hand in glove with the General and were providing him with man & money power for "Jihad" in Kashmir. Imagine if instead of Musharraf it was Nawaz Sharif who were in charge of Pakistan. In that scenario, Pakistan would have been a sitting duck for an inevitable civil war which would have followed if Nawaz had sided with US(not siding with US was not really an option). The breakout of civil war could have started a full scaled war between India & Pakistan which could have turned nuclear. Musharraf being the president and the army chief at the same time allowed him to control the hawks in his government, clean up ISI and rid Pakistan of some of those Taliban terrorists. However, Musharraf did-not do that for free. He squeezed out billions of dollars in aid from Uncle Sam, some of which must surely have gone to him and his lieutinents . That aid money is one of the main reasons that Pakistan's economy is doing so well now (Karachi Stock index is up 100% in last one year). Subsequent events made it clear that Pakistan could no longer allow its territory to be used as a breeding ground for "jihadis". Musharraf carried out a crackdown on jihadi activities, cleaned up the Madrasas and made peace offer to India. Any democratically elected premier in Pakistan could not have done even a fraction of what Musharraf has done without throwing the country into chaos. Make no mistakes Musharraf is not a saint, far from it, he is a hawk but he is a smart & pragmatic hawk. His survival is dependent upon USA and US needs an ally like him for its war on terror. Musharraf is indispensable for both US and India. India have their best chance of peace with Musharraf at the helm. It is said that a man is a product of his circumstances, this could not be truer for Musharraf. History may still remember him as the man who brought peace in Kashmir. Irony thy name is Musharraf.

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