IN THE LINE OF HIRE
By Sherry Rehman
When a head of state speaks, people listen. Even if the head of state has illegally wrested power to hold it for seven years, the words carry weight, both at home and abroad. Pervez Musharrafâ€™s new venture to make friends and influence people may earn him a million dollars plus, but what it will cost both him and the ill-served state he seeks to represent will be incalculable. The General may run the gamut of television stations in theUSpromoting his book, at state expense, with a massive entourage in tow, but the fires his book will ignite for himself and forPakistanwill not be easy to put out.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The biggest, and most embarrassing, problem with this whole enterprise is that â€œIn the Line of Fireâ€ is not selling because it is Pervez Musharrafâ€™s autobiography. It is outselling everything but Noam Chomsky on Amazon because it is written by a serving Army Chief and Head of State of one of the two countries in the world that could boast the dubious honour of providing sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. The sales were of course helped by the General promising in public to withholding vital security information, albeit challenged by the US State department later, where he preferred to defer to his own and his publisherâ€™s interests instead of Pakistanâ€™s. Again,Pakistanwill certainly not be helped by its head of state beginning to make hasty retractions on how much bounty the country has been paid for hunting high-value Al Qaeda targets by the CIA.Pakistanwould have been better served if it hunted down terrorists itself, which curiously for Pervez Musharraf, only started when he was ostensibly threatened by Richard Armitage to comply or face bombardment into the Stone Age. If he was so sold on the policy of shutting down madrassahs that peddled hatred, and decommissioning Islamist militancy on the ground on both our borders, then how come he did not do it until he got the phone call from DC? Before theTwinTowersmassacre, why was he so keen on mollycoddling the Taliban government inKabulwhich the PPP had refused to recognize throughout 1993-6 despite constant pressure from players in the great game for oil pipelines throughAfghanistan? None of these critical questions have been addressed in this book, nor has the main criticism leveled at him of hunting with the hound and running with the hare, with reference to still pampering extremists, been adequately answered.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â But quite apart from the fact that Simon and Schuster must be laughing all the way to the bank, the whole episode of a book tour at this level, cheapened by an authorâ€™s appearance on a comedy show, has not only left everyone in Pakistan embarrassed at such blatant self-promotion, but also angered at the manner in which this publicity blitz left us profiled internationally as a nation of saleable commodities.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The concept of publishing memoirs is not foreign to retired leaders and celebrities. International statesmen from Winston Churchill to Mahatir have been known to record their version of history in collected works or autobiographies, but these are done usually at the sunset of their careers, and very often their lives. Nobody departs from a dignified re-telling of their personal and political histories by trying to spice the brew with tasteless references to their private lives quite like the General has done.
Â Â In his attempt to project himself as candid, impetuous and often undisciplined, Musharraf has obviously succumbed to the publisherâ€™s or editorâ€™s advice to carefully construct his image of the boy-next-door, in sharp contrast to the reality of a coup-maker isolated in his bullet-proof armour plate. This deliberate valourisation of mediocrity is disingenuous but quite transparent in its intentions. The idea is to endear himself to a nation which celebrates the self-made man, but that nation is notPakistan. It is theUnited States of America, where he not only launched his book with unseemly relish at the profits, instead of at unveiling it at home. The entire narrative is targeted specifically to the bayingUSmedia and think tank community who have, unlike the Bush administration, remained impervious to his charm. It is certainly not for Pakistanis that he carefully points out in parenthesis the differences between a state and a province, nor for most Asian and European political cultures who due to similar colonial legacies are familiar with our intrinsic parliamentary model.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Objections to the book should also be taken seriously at two levels: one is the entire concept of transgressing an oath of office, as well as the violation of an Official Secrets Act, if indeed that matters to those who rule by the power of a gun. Nobody for instance has the right to disclose to the world at large what statePakistanâ€™s nuclear arsenal was in at any stage, whichPakistanâ€™s Chief of Army Staff has disclosed in his personal potboiler, with the full weight of his dual office, particularly whenPakistan, likeIsrael, for years had successfully maintained a posture of plausible deniability. Two, the controversial and often inappropriate contents of the autobiography at a time whenPakistanis poised unhappily at a security crossroads has clearly added to the discontent emanating from both its eastern and western borders.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â For the Indians, for instance, whom the General seeks to mollify in fits and self-defeating starts, the entire Kargil episode as narrated by the architect of the war itself must be both galling and needlessly provocative. Even if Jaswant Singhâ€™s vantage of the war is to be taken with a pinch of vinegar, as recently disclosed in his far more erudite book, those of us who watched the Kargil debacle unfold with horror, with no end-plan in sight still stand both bemused and insulted at our intelligence being taken for such sub-zero levels by the General. If anyone remembers, the botched efforts to re-take the last peaks by the Northern Light Infantry, which acted heroically even by independant Indian accounts, were never acknowledged as officially sanctioned by the Pakistan Army throughout the whole episode. Even when the Indian Army produced a body of a Pakistani soldier killed while defending Tiger Hill, the official line as dictated by the GHQ remained consistent in denying any involvement in what was sold to a disbelieving world as an indigenous Kashmiri effort. Today in his book, the General has lost no sleep in spinning out an entirely self-serving account where forgetting all his denials earlier, not only is the Pakistan Army involved from day one, no mention is made of the Bofors guns that tipped the scale when the Indians woke up to how much ground the Pakistan army had occupied on the Kargil Drass sector, nor of the fact that the war was lost not because the Prime Minister lost his nerve, but because Pervez Musharraf had played out all his military cards and was in need of face-saving by the civilian politicians whom he minces no words in routinely rubbishing. This habit, incidentally, of shifting blame to one person while he would be in institutional control, as with AQ Khan, is made use of several times.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â On the western border, Musharraf has been even more creative with the facts, completely ignoring the contention that he has created a situation forPakistantoday, where after 30 years of a forwardAfghanistanpolicy, which the country is paying a bloody price for,Islamabadstands isolated and friendless inKabul. President Karzai may well be holed up in Kabul while the rest of his country defies his writ, and he may be facing a regrouping of the Taliban all over the south and east, but his overt anger at Islamabadâ€™s double-speak on allowing the same forces free rein in Waziristan speaks volumes of how traditional Afghan mistrust of Islamabad has now shifted to a dangerous truculence from which only New Delhi profits. Although Musharraf brushes over this most crucial fact, militant Taliban forces finding sanctuary in Pakistanâ€™s tribal areas since 9/11 is not news to anyone watching this border seriously since Bin Ladenâ€™s famous escape from Tora Bora.In fact, it is now common knowledge that the Taliban run a virtual state within a state in Miranshah, and many other parts of the Tribal Areas, shutting down music and video shops, dispensing justice and raising grim vigilante groups ostensibly to police crime. It is then not a small matter to ask why after committing 80,000 troops and fancy US hardware to a manhunt in those areas for over a year, Governor Orakzaiâ€™s truce is widely seen as the capitulation that it is, where after the withdrawal of checkposts for an area flush with narco-crime, Taliban commanders are in control and business again. But none of this finds serious address in the book, where all criticism is cavalierly brushed aside as â€œsome peopleâ€™s viewsâ€.
Â Â Â Â Â Â It probably did not enter the Generalâ€™s mind even that millions of the â€˜peopleâ€™ he refers to are still questioning what he has done after seven years in absolute unchallenged power, a privilege no elected government in Pakistan has ever been allowed to have. In fact, his contempt for electoral politics is so near the surface that a leader he once pretended to idolize, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, is not only repeatedly derided, but made to shoulder the full blame for the break-up ofPakistanin 1971. No mention is made of the fact that since 1952, when the language riots erupted,East Pakistanhad been treated like a colony by the civil-military establishment that ruledPakistan. No paragraphs address the disastrous fallout on Pakistan of General Ayub Khan or General Yahya Khanâ€™s military dictatorship and the trauma that the militaryâ€™s â€˜One Unitâ€™ policies imposed on a heterogenous federation. The consensus constitution that SZAB gave toPakistanin 1973 is rubbished as an entity that can be trashed at will, while the repeated attacks on the judiciary by all military dictators including himself, to either resign or indemnify their illegal coups merit no mention in the magnum opus. But then again, no one should really be surprised by a man who thinks dissent in Balochistan should be handled by snuffing out the last of the political federalists by Cobra gunships and F 16 fire power.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Still, one is surprised at the sheer bravado of the author when he boasts openly of intervening in the political party culture ofPakistanto create the PML Q through the expedient offices of the Brothers Chaudhry in thePunjab. What is shocking is not that he felt it convenient to create a surrogate Muslim League , much like Ayub Khanâ€™s Convention League, but that he could not be botheredÂ any more with the fig-leaf of constitutional niceties. This ill-advised bragging may not have rocked his feeble moral compass but it will certainly add sleepless nights to the army of image-builders he employs, not to mention a valium or two for the Chief Election Commissioner.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â For all his emphasis on a value-system honed in his immediate family, the General seems to have absorbed little of the virtues that mark a man who understands the centrality of legitimacy in the exercise of political power. His narrative bears this out as it dispenses with the need or plan for an exit strategy. The survival formula is simple: keep half ofPakistanroiling with predatory neo-fundamentalism, and the international community will keep swallowing his intelligence reports, even if they often run counter to their own. In every chapter, the mission is clearly to cast himself again and again as the moderate, saving face of a failing state, standing firm as the only obstacle between extremism and chaos. The fact of the matter is thatPakistanis neither failing nor fundamentalist, but will run onto this ruinous course if the reality is routinely distorted to reducePakistanwith the actions of one man.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Meanwhile, back at Simon and Schuster, Indian retailers have been picking up the book by the container-load. Where else will they find so much ammunition againstPakistan, even if it is served up in a genre of semi-fiction that can only be described ,unfortunately, as â€œkiss and sellâ€.
Â Â Â Sherry Rehman is a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and Former Editor of the newsmagazine, The Herald.
The various references to Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by
General Pervez Musharraf in his now controversial memoirs are a
deliberate misinterpretation of facts, stating events out of the
historical perspective, factually incorrect and expose a bias.
It is a historical fact that from the inceptions of Pakistan the
civil-military bureaucracy refused to accept the majority of East
Pakistan, which is evident from the removal of Hussain Soharwardi, the
language rights, the deliberate marginalization of the Bengalis in the
civil services and the armed forces. It was the policies of the civil-
military bureaucracy that denied East Pakistan its share in governance
and economic prosperity. This was heightened when the character of the
state as envisaged by the Quaid, was changed by them from a welfare
state to a national security state. These were the factors that lead to
the separation of East Pakistan. The Humood-ur-Rehman Commission Report
clearly states the historic and the circumstances at the time which
resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, a plain reading of the Report
exposes the real perpetrators of the crime.
As for his democratic credentials, it is strange that a person who draws
his legitimacy from a fraudulent Referendum, should question the
greatest practical revolutionary after Chairman Mao. Shaheed Bhutto led
a peoples movement against the dictator Ayub and waged a struggle for
the economic emancipation of Pakistanâ€™s working classes from the hands
of the feudal and capitalists. He in actual fact led a peaceful working
class revolution against the status quo that is why today after nearly
four decades of his assassination he still is the pivot around which
Pakistanâ€™s politics revolves.
He was not a lackey of the international imperialists, he did not barter
the political and economic sovereignty, he did not betray the Muslim
Umma, but he fought imperialism and sought to unite the working classes
of the Third World.
It is a paradox of history that a man whom Pakistanâ€™s establishment
physically eliminated, today is emerging as an undisputed leader of this
country, that is why perhaps this last ditched attack against him.