ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 40
Columns - Issue of the week

Musharraf faces regime change

By Ameen Izzadeen

It looks like a regime change in Pakistan is on the cards. US foreign policy does not recognize the hallowed principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries. It promotes a regime change either when the services of the government in the target country are no longer necessary or when the government does not dance to the tune of America.

It has happened before and sometimes under mysterious circumstances. Gen. Zia ul-Haq was a military dictator who captured power in a 1977 coup, ousting and executing democratically-elected tyrant Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Instead of punishing Pakistan with aid cut or similar sanctions, Western nations mollycoddled Zia's military regime, because they wanted a powerful leader in Pakistan to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But by 1988, Zia became a problem and had outlived his usefulness, as the Soviets were scaling down their operations in Afghanistan in preparation for a pullout. Zia died in a mysterious plane crash just like the former anti-British and anti-West Iraqi king Ghazi I in 1939.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, left, shakes hands with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf prior to their meeting in Islamabad on Monday.

Some analysts — let's call them conspiracy theorists to placate the Americans — say that the CIA engineered the plane crash by placing a bomb in a crate of mangoes. Others, including John Gunther Dean, former US ambassador to India, say Israeli secret service Mossad was behind the plane crash. Ghazi, a staunch pan-Arab nationalist who opposed the British military presence in Iraq died in a car crash. Even today Iraqis believe the king was killed on the orders of strongman cum traitor Nuri as-Said, the British puppet whom Iraqis love to hate. History is replete with examples where regimes and rulers were used by powerful countries and then discarded or eliminated depending on their political exigency.

Will Pakistan's military President, Pervez Musharraf face a similar fate? Musharraf appears to be a hard nut. He is not unaware of the fate that befell Zia ul-Haq. So he knows to play the game according to western rules and also knows to change the rules to protect his regime and what he perceives to be Pakistan's interest. And the West too knows about the way Musharraf plays the game.

In his autobiography "In the Line of Fire" Musharraf explains why he joined George W. Bush's war on terror and agree to hunt down the Taliban, the very militia Pakistan formed, nurtured and backed to the hilt. Musharraf said that after the Sept. 11 attacks the United States threatened to bomb Pakistan if it did not cooperate with America's war on terror.

"One has to think and take actions in the interest of the nation, and that's what I did," Musharraf told a CBS interview ahead of the book launch.

Little wonder the Americans have been, since the beginning of the so-called war on terror, dissatisfied with Musharraf's cooperation. Although Pakistan has joined Bush's war on terror, Musharraf is not a willing partner. He is not a member of the Afghan version of the so-called coalition of the willing — a term Bush uses to describe the gang of lackeys who joined him to invade Iraq in order to get economic benefits or collect the crumbs falling from the US table.

More than five years after the Afghan invasion, all that Musharraf hears from the United States and its principal poodle Britain is that Pakistan is not doing enough. This week, US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Pakistan should do more to curb the threat posed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda to the Afghan government.

Whenever Americans complained about the lack of cooperation from Pakistan — a charge parroted by the puppet Afghan regime of Hamid Karzai, much to the chagrin of Musharraf — Islamabad would arrest a couple of high profile terror suspects or carry out a bombing campaign in Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan.

As expected, in the wake of Cheney-Rice reprimand, Pakistan on Thursday arrested the former Taliban defence minister Mullah Obaidullah in Quetta. The pattern is obvious.

A New York Times article commenting on the arrest of Obaidullah, the most senior Taliban official to be nabbed since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, said: "Pakistan has come under rising criticism from American and NATO officials for acting against the Taliban and al Qaeda only under pressure, conducting operations or making arrests timed for high-level official visits, then backing off."

The latest arrest coincided with the visit of Cheney to Pakistan and the New York Times opined that it was not clear whether he was picked up before, during or after Cheney's visit. "But the timing may be significant because Mr. Cheney's mission was intended to press Pakistan to do more to crack down on members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda who use Pakistan as a sanctuary."
But it appears that behind the criticism of Pakistan, there is an attempt to conceal US and NATO failures in Afghanistan. Don't blame Pakistan, which has lost more than 600 troops in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda. No other country which is fighting the war on the Afghan front has lost so many troops. The US and the NATO make Pakistan a scapegoat to hide the ground reality in Afghanistan. They even slam Musharraf for signing an agreement with Pakistan’s pro-Taliban tribal chiefs, saying the deal only strengthened the Taliban.

The Taliban are in control of a large part of rural Afghanistan and successfully holding on to two district capitals after capturing them from NATO troops.

Tuesday's suicide attack at the gates of the high-security US air base at Bagram, prompting the visiting US vice president to scramble to a bomb shelter, shows the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. Reports say the resurgent Taliban are preparing for a spring offensive in a couple of months. The Taliban success is partly due to the support they enjoy among the masses and partly the unpopularity of the corrupt regime of Karzai.

Musharraf's relationship with the Taliban is symbiotic. As long as the Taliban are a threat to the US, Pakistan stands to gain. The US is also aware of this and some policy advisors are suggesting that Washington should threaten Pakistan with aid cut if it does not deliver. Others advise that NATO troops should take the war on terror to Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province and Baluchistan with or without Islamabad's consent.

The neocons who give this disastrous advice probably have something else in mind — Quetta. Surrounded by mountains, Quetta not only commands the entrance through the strategic Bolan Pass into Afghanistan but also houses Pakistan's main nuclear reactor that produced the country's first nuclear bomb. Perhaps, the denuclearization of Pakistan is the ulterior motive or the ultimate goal of the US and the NATO.

Top to the page

Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.