Originally Published 2003-10-14 09:27:58 Published on Oct 14, 2003
I have no problem with military officers running a nation as long as they are out of uniform and have won the mandate to do so. But when a military officer ousts a legitimate civilian government, refuses to shed his uniform and abuses the basic democratic right of franchise, there is a reason for the civilized world to be alarmed and ashamed. Such men are a blot on the democratic, civilized world.
Four Years of a Military Despot
I have no problem with military officers running a nation as long as they are out of uniform and have won the mandate to do so. But when a military officer ousts a legitimate civilian government, refuses to shed his uniform and abuses the basic democratic right of franchise, there is a reason for the civilized world to be alarmed and ashamed. Such men are a blot on the democratic, civilized world. The least we could do is to condemn such military rulers and do everything possible to see that such despots are made to give way to democratic norms of governance. It is therefore disquieting that General Pervez Musharraf, a despot to the boot, has not only completed four years of military rule in Pakistan but has also managed to remain a trusted ally of the world's sole keeper of Democratic Values. It is no less ironic that instead of outright condemnation, the United Nations, the league of nations, has time and again offered the General a platform to support the cause of terrorist groups.

No one has expressed indignation at the General's despotic rule over Pakistan people's destiny more pithily than Mr Brad Adams, Executive Director, Asia Division of the Human Rights Watch in an open letter to General P.Musharraf. "Since the coup, the Pakistani government has systematically violated the fundamental rights of members of the political opposition and former government officials. It has harassed, threatened, and arbitrarily arrested them….The government has removed independent judges from the higher courts, banned anti-government public rallies and demonstrations…. in addition, the last four years have also witnessed the rise of extremist political activity and an increase in sectarian killings."

What Mr Adams did not mention is the envious support the General has been drawing from Washington since the coup on October 12, 1999. From a General whose name President George W Bush could not remember General P Musharraf has today become a close and trusted ally. Bush now hosts him at Camp David. Secretary of State Colin Powell hugs him and calls him his personal friend. His subordinate, Richard Armitage makes it a point every time he lands in Islamabad to sound exuberant about the General's progress in learning the basic alphabets of democracy.

Sift the mushy talk about the despot, it would become clear that Washington was nursing a Osama bin Laden in uniform, a facilitator of terror groups that could strike at the heart of the western world in the near future. A simple exercise called Connecting the Dots could prove the point. Look at the increasing evidence of the re-birth of the Taliban and al Qaida in Pakistan.

The first evidence of al Qaida and the Taliban re-grouping under different nomenclature and shape surfaced in December 2001, barely three months after the WTC attack and within weeks of the American retribution. Two persons of different nationalities who were arrested in the months following the WTC attack would expose the links. The first one was a Kenyan trucking firm operator, Sheikh Ahmed Salim, an al Qaida activist involved in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam. Arrested in July 2002 from Karachi, he revealed, for the first time, the regrouping of al Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistan with the help of religious extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba (whose leader Azam Tariq was shot dead on October 6 this year). Salim said he had collected several million dollars with the help of Lashkar and Sipah (extortion is one of the primary sources of revenue for extremist elements in Pakistan) to help in the regrouping of al Qaida and the Taliban groups fleeing Afghanistan. One of Salim's conduits in Karachi was a Lashkar Jhangvi activist named Fazl Karim. He was picked up for questioning in March 2002 for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Karim was one of the three who held Pearl and slit his throat. Karim told his interrogators about the regrouping and merger of various sectarian and extremist groups within Pakistan. The twoYemenis who slit Pearl's throat were associates of Ramzi Yousef, a key al Qaida operative who was caught in Karachi early this year. Karim had aligned with two others, Naeem Bokhari and Zubair Chishti, in plotting Pearl's killing. Bokhari was an al Qaida sympathizer and member of Sipah. Chishti, another Sipah activist, had fought against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. In fact, Pearl's murder case was the first clear indicator of the different alignments various terrorist and extremist groups were undertaking in Pakistan.

Two years after the WTC attack, the evidence of terrorist-religious extremist nexus, especially al-Qaida and the Taliban with Sipah and Lashkar Jhangvi, has only grown. The latest incident which revealed the nexus was the gunning down of six Shiite SUPARCO employees in Karachi last month and the subsequent revenge killing of Sipah chief Azam Tariq in Islamabad early this month. One of the investigating officials, Inspector Akbar Arain, was quoted in the influential weekly newspaper, the Friday Times (Oct.10), as saying that "we have enough evidence by now to say confidently that the attack was carried out by some outlawed jihadi organisation."The newspaper report said "scores of investigations into various incidents, from Daniel Pearl's gruesome murder to various bomb blasts and sectarian related killings in Karachi, Quetta, Islamabad, Taxila and Murree, over the last year-and-a-half have constantly proved the link between sectarian and jihadi outfits. "These groups, mostly banned and defunct, include SSP, LJ, Jaish, Harkat and various others and are all linked with the Taliban and al Qaida, "the report said quoting an anonymous intelligence official.

In fact, Pak intelligence officials have uncovered another link in the chain that binds these groups. They have found that every time there was a crackdown on terror groups in areas bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, Shia Muslims were targeted quite promptly. Such incidents have happened in Quetta twice in July. The Karachi killings followed crackdowns on terror groups in south Waziristan. More than Karachi (since most the al Qaida cells were taken out in the past two years under Washington's pressure), it is Quetta which reveals the return of al Qaida-Taliban combine with the active assistance of Jamait-e-Ullema Islam (JuI) which is a coalition partner in the provincial government in Balochistan. The new terror group, which operate under various names (one new addition was: Muslim United Army), draws sustenance, both moral and material, from madrasas run by JuI in Balochistan. Shaldara madrasa run by Maulana Nur Mohammed is one of the prominent training and shelter houses for the new Taliban-al Qaida combine.

At the end of his four years, General P Musharraf has succeeded in turning a nation struggling to imbibe the spirit of democracy into a rogue nation supporting and sheltering terrorist and extremist groups. People of Pakistan certainly deserve a better leader, a leader with a vision to unshackle their national identity from the clutches of religious bigots and terrorists, a leader who can dump the historical baggage and create a space in the comity of nations as a responsible, progressive nation. General P Musharraf is certainly not that man whatever Washington might have the world to believe.
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