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l January 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 3, No 8 l

C O M M E N T

Last Emperor: After Musharraf, what?

B Raman


President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan very, very narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on his life at Rawalpindi on the afternoon of December 25, when two  pick-up vans carrying explosives and reportedly driven by suicide bombers rammed into his convoy from two different directions. Two policemen and 12 passers-by were killed. Musharraf's car was damaged, but he is stated to have escaped unhurt. Had one of the suicide vans directly dashed against his vehicle, he might not have escaped.

What should be deeply worrying is that the perpetrators of this attack would seem to have had precise knowledge of his movement plans and timings. In my earlier analysis of the unsuccessful attempt on him on December 14, I had stated that internal complicity and external negligence were responsible for the near-disaster. In the present case, there is so far no evidence of external negligence, but the earlier conclusion of internal complicity stands corroborated.

The two incidents in quick concession have highlighted the poor state of the intelligence and security apparatus and the presence of elements inside it which have been colluding with the jihadi terrorist elements. The intelligence agencies and the police have so far failed in their attempts to determine the responsibility for the earlier attempt and to arrest those responsible. They had rounded up over 40 suspects, but none of them has so far been found to have been responsible. The Pakistani authorities have been giving the appearance as if there was no internal complicity and have not ordered any in-house enquiry to identify those helping the terrorists. Admission of internal complicity would mean that Musharraf no longer has the unqualified support of his colleagues and subordinates in the military and security machinery. He does not want to make that admission---at least openly.

In the light of the clear evidence of internal complicity, would Pakistan's security apparastus be able to provide effective security to the heads of State/Government attending the SAARC summit from January 4 to 6? Would it not be advisable for the Pakistani authorities to postpone the summit till the two cases have been successfully investigated and the perpetrators arrested? If they anyhow decide to go ahead with the summit, what additional security measures would be required for our Prime Minister? Would the Pakistani authorities be capable of providing them? These are important questions which need to be urgently examined.

Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani components of his International Islamic Front (IIF) advocate suicide bombings and have a repeatedly demonstrated capability for suicide missions. Though many Al Qaeda leaders and cadres have taken shelter in Pakistan, it has not so far carried out any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which now co-ordinates the work of the IIF, has been responsible for the maximum number of suicide attacks in Indian territory, but it has not carried out any in Pakistani territory so far. Nor has the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI).

The HUJI and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) were initially suspected in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in January-February,2002, but the suspicion was not proved. All the post 9/11 terrorist incidents in Pakistani territory were found to have been carried out either by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Alami, meaning HUM--International, which is a wing of the HUM, or by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Sunni terrorist organisation. Like the LET, the HUJI and the JEM, they too are members of the IIF.

In the jihadi circles, there is strong anger against Musharraf for two reasons. Firstly, his support to the US in its military action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and his action, even if ineffective, against some of the Pakistani components of the IIF. Secondly, his perceived co-operation with the US in its investigation of the role of some Pakistani nuclear scientists in assisting North Korea, Iran and Libya in their attempts to acquire a military nuclear capability.

There is considerable resentment over what they look upon as the indignity caused to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan by subjecting him to interrogation or debriefing and allegedly putting restrictions on his travels. A.Q.Khan himself is not a fundamentalist or a jihadi, but he is a hero to the fundamentalist and jihadi elements. They look upon him as the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb to counter India's and also as the father of the Islamic bomb to protect the Ummah from Israel's.

They are furious over the treatment meted out to someone who, in their eyes, has served the cause of Islam so well. A.Q.Khan has many admirers and close friends in the military-intelligence establishment. He is a mediocre metalurgist, but his success lay in his ability to build a vast clandestine network for the procurement of nuclear and missile-related equipment and technologies abroad. He worked very closely with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in building his network. His friends and admirers among the serving and retired officers of the military-intelligence establishment have also been shocked by the debriefing of A.Q.Khan and his colleagues in the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant.

As a result of these developments, Musharraf's honeymoon with the jihadi elements and with his own senior colleagues and the rank and file in the military-intelligence establishment seems to be coming to an end. It is likely that unless his police and investigative agencies help him by quickly identifying and neutralising those responsible for the two attempts, including their accomplices inside the establishment, the jihadi terrorist elements will not keep quiet till they have eliminated him.

When Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash in August 1988, Pakistan was in the beginning of an election campaign after the dismissal of the Mohammad Khan Junejo Government by Zia. Gen. Aslam Beg, who was the Army chief, had the good sense to let the elections proceed as scheduled, but kept a tight control over the elected government headed by Mrs. Benazir Bhutto.

If Musharraf is eliminated before October next, the Chairman of the Senate would take over as the acting President till a Presidential election could be held and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali would find it difficult to overlook the claims of Gen.Mohamad Aziz Khan, the present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to take over as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). Of the 30 Lts-General/Generals in the Pakistan Army at present, he is the only one who is clearly identified as a fundmentalist close to the religious fundamentalist as well as the jihadi terrorist organisations. He was the head of the clandestine Army of Islam which was created by Zia and has a long record of close contacts with Al Qaeda and the IIF.

Even  if Musharraf manages to survive and continue in power, he would find it difficult to resist the pressure to revert to a confrontationist position towards India in order to pacify the jihadis. If he is assassinated and Mohd. Aziz Khan succeeds him, there could be an escalation of acts of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India.

Either way, the coming months could have unpredictable consequences not only for Pakistan, but also for Indo-Pakistan relations.

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.

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