THEWORLDTODAY.ORG DECEMBER 2007
PAKISTAN Farzana Shaikh LuckRunnıng Out?
No world leader faced a starker choice when United States President George Bush declared they were either ‘with us or against us’ in the wake of the 2001 attacks on America, than General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. Now, with his declaration of emergency rule, his score card is being remarked.
lIKE MANY WORLD LEADERS, GENERAL PERVEZ Musharrafof Pakistan has his favourite role models. Among them is Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Musharraf cites on his personal website as a source of an inspiration. ‘I call myself “Lucky”’, he declares. ‘Napoleon had said beside all qualities a leader has to be lucky to succeed. Therefore I must succeed’. Wishful thinking or steely determination? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, many in the west fear that Musharraf’s hasty decision to impose emergency rule on November 3 could soon spell the end of his luck and with it, they believe, Pakistan’s too. Such an assessment may not be entirely misjudged, for compared to his most immediate military predecessor, the bigoted – and luckless – General Zia ul Haq, Musharraf is a shining example of his own vision of ‘enlightened moderation’. It presupposes an easy co-existence between Islam and the west and has helped forge Musharraf’s reputation as a Muslim leader most western governments regard as their most dependable ally. Musharraf’s image at home could not be more different. Long reviled by Islamic militants as ‘America’s stooge’ for his whole-hearted endorsement of its ‘war’ on terror, he now faces the wrath of an even wider array of forces. His declaration of emergency, which many equate with martial law, has outraged the legal fraternity and human rights activists, angered opposition parties, infuriated the media and, if recent opinion polls are anything to go by, disillusioned a majority of Pakistanis. But it is the violent hostility of pro-Taliban Islamic militants with their uncompromisingly anti-western agenda that has caused greatest concern in democratic capitals. Here Musharraf is widely lauded for his courage in the face of repeated attempts to assassinate him and his steadfast opposition to the Islamic extremism that now threatens to engulf parts of Pakistan. The militants’ violent campaign of armed attacks and suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Kashmir, it is believed, not only risks the regional stability but also endangers the security of Europe and America through the recruitment of young Muslim radicals trained in the lawless border regions of Pakistan. It is these concerns that account, above all, for the reluctance of most western governments openly to condemn Musharraf for his blatant disregard for democratic rule or to sanction him for his arbitrary suspension of civil liberties. To do so, it is claimed, would be seriously to jeopardise hard-won, if precarious, gains. At stake is the west’s Afghanistan stabilisation programme; on-going peace talks between India and Pakistan and the benefits from Pakistan’s assured cooperation over terrorist intelligence-sharing. Together, they represent in the minds of many western leaders the most compelling reasons for defending Musharraf – even at the risk of alienating the fast-dwindling pro-western and pro-democratic
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