Originally Published 2005-09-28 05:09:58 Published on Sep 28, 2005
Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, has never been as much under the threat of elimination through a coup or a bullet as he is today. There is no doubt that he faces extreme danger from some of the vicious terrorist and extremist groups, most of whom he had helped grow powerful in today's Pakistan.
Failure divides Pakistan
Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, has never been as much under the threat of elimination through a coup or a bullet as he is today. There is no doubt that he faces extreme danger from some of the vicious terrorist and extremist groups, most of whom he had helped grow powerful in today's Pakistan. 

Various religious groups, including the ones like Jamaat-e-Ulema who supported him for most of the past six years of his regime, have turned against him. His pro-US policy has created a deep divide within terrorist groups promoted by the ISI and Army, many of whom have dubbed him enemy of Islam. His charisma among the people has eroded dramatically in the past few months mainly due to the increasing incidents of corruption in the ranks, his alliance with the US and compromises on Kashmir.

The most serious threat he faces today, however, comes from within his own Army, which he has led for the past six years. Middle-rung and young officers are increasingly questioning his stature within the Army. His decision to continue as the Chief of Army till 2007 has created dissension within the ranks, its gravity reflected in the quick promotions, transfers and retirements of senior officers in the past three years. The Army operations in south and north Waziristan, which has witnessed heavy casualty among the troops, has raised questions about President Musharraf's military capability and strategic vision. Some of his senior colleagues have come out openly against him, accusing him of keeping self-interest above military honour.

The petition filed by Lt General Gulzar Kiyani, head of the Federal Public Service Commission, against President Musharraf on August 27, 2005, in the Lahore High Court, merits closer analysis. General Kiyani was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi till 2003 before he was appointed to head the commission on his retirement by President Musharraf. Kiyani, once a staunch Musharraf loyalist (he was short-listed for DG ISI in 2004), refused to carry out appointment and transfer orders which smacked of favouritism, and were against laid down procedures.

Kiyani's persistent refusal to comply forced President Musharraf to introduce an amendment in the rules of appointment to cut down the tenure from five to three years. He has challenged this amendment, arguing that he was being penalised for "performing their duties in the true spirit of their oath to uphold the law".

Irrespective of the outcome, this case could turn out to be the first instance of dissension against President Musharraf from within the army. This is the first case filed by a retired senior Army officer, once a confidant of General Musharraf, against the President. This is also the first open challenge, from within the military community, against the General.

The case is certain to damage, if not cripple, the status of President Musharraf and add to the murmur of disbelief and distrust with his functioning. It will bring a bad name to the General, and the Army, among the public, a factor that has often triggered political changes in Pakistan in the past.

The Army's image is being further sullied by arms purchase scandals that continue to dog some of the senior Army officers close to General Musharraf. The most recent controversy surrounds Lt General Tariq Majeed, Chief of General Staff. Majeed is being accused of first favouring a French firm for night vision equipment with a $37 million order and then with a $27 million contract to buy unmanned aerial vehicles from a German manufacturer.

In both the cases, the General bypassed all rules and regulations and ordered his office to place orders without even the mandatory field trials and financial negotiations. Both the orders were fiercely opposed by President Musharraf's subordinates, and some of them leaked the details to the media, forcing him to intervene. This reveals President Musharraf's loss of control over his senior colleagues and a growing sense of frustration and anger among the junior ranks against senior officers like General Majeed, a pointer to growing indiscipline within the ranks.

Although President Musharraf has been able to weed out pro-Taliban elements from the ISI and the Army in the past five years, there are enough supporters of the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups left in the army and the intelligence agencies. This came out in the open with the arrest and subsequent trial of five middle-ranking officers - two colonels, two majors and a captain for their links with Al Qaeda. One of the majors, from the Signals, was accused of sheltering Al Qaeda commander Khalid Mohammad Sheikh in Rawalpindi. Another significant evidence was the involvement of some junior officials in the Pakistan Air Force and intelligence agencies in the twin assassination attempts on President Musharraf.

There is similar disquiet within the senior hierarchy, too, especially over President Musharraf's close alliance with the US in the war on terror. The disastrous operations (unsuccessful and continuing) in Waziristan, at the behest of the US, have only caused casualties and deep divisions within the army, with several officers, both senior and junior, questioning its need and methodology. The recent India-US pacts on defence cooperation and nuclear energy have also caused resentment within the senior ranks against the US and President Musharraf. 

On September 14, 2001, at a meeting of senior commanders convened in a nuclear bunker near Islamabad, when President Musharraf sought approval for supporting the US bombing in Afghanistan, there were quite a few disagreements. The magic card that the General used to get a consensus was that India would benefit from Pakistan's refusal to help the US. Four years later, the senior officers are peeved at the growing warmth between India and the US, which culminated in two substantial agreements on defence and nuclear cooperation. Many in the senior hierarchy believe that the US should have rewarded Pakistan with similar agreements and view it as a failure of President Musharraf to convince his "friends" in Washington.

Kashmir is another test for President Musharraf. It is widely believed in Pakistan that he has compromised with India on Kashmir, letting it slip from the status of the core issue to just one of the several issues that are under negotiation. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus is also being increasingly seen as an Indian strategy to delay any settlement on Kashmir. This is also one of the reasons why Pakistan is moving slow in opening up other transit points, knowing well that more such trade and transportation routes would weaken their call for a "final solution", a critical element of Pakistan's national identity which the Army has been exploiting to its advantage for more than half a century, and is in no way inclined to give it up so soon.

With India refusing to alter its stand from "no redrawing of the boundaries", it is becoming increasingly difficult for President Musharraf to convince his subordinates about the utility of continuing the peace process. A failure to extract a modicum of success in Kashmir could undo the Musharraf charisma in a bloodless coup. The Bush Administration is quite aware of their ally's dilemma and hence National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's private request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at New York early this month "to give him (Musharraf) something".

India must, therefore, carefully analyse the emerging situation in Pakistan and not repeat the mistake of keeping all its eggs in one basket. It must be prepared to continue the peace process with another General, if the need arises.

The author is Senior Fellow and Director, Information Services, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Source: The Pioneer, New Delhi, September 28, 2005.
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