By Tirthankar Mitra
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf died far away from the land of his birth-India and the country he journeyed to there from-Pakistan. Not mincing words, one has to accept that he will not be mourned in either of the two countries.
Musharraf along with Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq firmed an infamous trio representing a symbol of Pakistan’s existing dysfunction. And of course, they remain among the principal mischief makers whose actions lie St the root of their country’s troubled relation with India.
To cut a long story short, it is the civil-military imbalance together with the army’s stranglehold over the polity. For the three men unlike men in uniform never came clean. They were glib. Uncomfortable in the presence of the Fourth Estate, when their warts were under the scanner they turned to flippancy.
Perhaps it was a mindset which did not want to be cornered. They never could imagine themselves to be sitting ducks as when Ayub Khan’s son’s financial shenanigans came out in cold print outside the country where his word was law, he said that he never knew that his son had such a head for business.
Even as he never shared his intent to bury disputes over talks, Haq never failed to turn out a smart salute to Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi whenever they met. As for Musharraf, the architect of Kargil conflict, the details of his Agra visit and his asking Indian ace cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni not to have a hair cut are yet to go away from the public memory in a hurry.
The career graphs of these three men are not dissimilar too. For they had left the barracks and marched onto a public platform to rid Pakistan of chaos and corruption. But it was a promise belied by their thoughts and actions after assuming the seals of office. It is ironical that they gave up these seals though reluctantly.
Just as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto thought Haq to be a safe bet after Yahya Khan moved away to make space from the leader from Larkana, Musharraf too was ushered in at the high table of power by the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif who thought that he had scored a victory over by forcing Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Jehangir Keramat to step down and appointed Musharraf in his post.
Gratitude is a rare currency in Pakistan politics. Both Haq and Musharraf were living examples of it. Musharraf removed Sharif in a coup in 1999 and while installing himself as a Chief Executive held on to the post of COAS. Invoking the infamous “doctrine of necessity”. The former commando held on to power and elevated himself to the presidency in June 2001 and in April next year secured 98 per cent of votes in a referendum.
More facets of Musharraf’s personality reminiscent of Mr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came to light down the years. Styling himself after Kemal Ataturk he propagated “enlightened moderation”, yet by continuing the use of extremists to reach foreign policy targets marked his failure to achieve curbing of religious extremism.
What can arguably be stated to be the flagging of his policy of using terrorism internationally is post 9/11 US warning of bombing Pakistan “back to the stone age” in case it did not co-operate in Afghanistan. Liberal US assistance saw Pakistan achieve 6 per cent growth rate between 2003-06.
But the structural shortcomings of Pakistani economy remained. Trying to divert the ire of the populace, Musharraf gave vent to Pakistani army’s animosity towards India which really goes deep given an ignominious defeat in 1971 Indo-Pak War and the birth of Bangladesh.
Incursion in Kargil, Indian Airlines aircraft hijacking, terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and attack on Indian Parliament were the upshot of this policy. The subsequent period marked his retreat on the diplomatic front which was triggered by international pressure arising out of the need of international nod to prolong his rule.
The biggest con Musharraf pulled off was to keep US guessing about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden who was in Pakistan. Yet he could not keep it secret. Musharraf played a double game on terror. It led to Pakistan being singed while he was scorched by the blowback. Between 2004 to 2007 saw pragmatic understanding leading towards a peaceful solution. It could not be taken to its logical conclusion owing Musharraf’s ouster in 2008. The general who had doffed his army uniform to put on civvies left for London returning in 2013 to pursue a political career. It did not take off.
Medicating amylodisis, a rare ailment when he passed away in Dubai, Musharraf was at the end of his last journey. He had started as an adventurist army man and ended it as an unlamented and forgotten politician leaving a troubled legacy for Pakistan on his passing. (IPA Service)