Journey from Oct 98 to Jan 02 through excerpts from ‘THE NATION’ Publisher IKRAM SEHGAL follows Gen Pervez Musharraf through his articles over the past 28 months.

A professional soldier becomes a statesman

On Oct 7, 1998, the then PM Mian Nawaz Sharif, sought the early retirement of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and COAS Pakistan Army. Gen Jahangir Karamat and obtained it. Gen Jahangir Karamat had dared to suggest Army’s institutional role in governance in an address to the Naval War College at Lahore on Oct 5, 1998. This was a civilian coup and the PM Mian Nawaz Sharif revelled in it. Lt Gen Pervez Musharraf, then Comd 1 Corps superseded two of his course-mates to become COAS Pakistan Army. In an article entitled “RAIWIND, WE HAVE A PROBLEM” in THE NATION on Oct 10, 1998, I had written, 

“Without taking anything away from the new COAS, General Pervez Musharraf, who is an above par professional soldier, rising to the rank of Lt Gen on sheer merit, he has superseded comrades equal if not better than him, both excellent professional soldiers of pedigreed military lineage.

General Pervez Musharraf has his work cut out for him as COAS, the most powerful post in Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s “victory” notwithstanding. The seat of the COAS endows awesome responsibility on a person, loyalty first to the country and then to the Army, before that to any one individual. Can the new COAS isolate the Army from the deteriorating internal and external situation that his predecessor spoke of; that led to his “resignation”? Will he be able to control the young Turks who will tend to believe “The Observer” stories about corruption and thus demand accountability? Will he be able to stop the erosion of his own authority in Cardinal’s Club of Corps Commanders as they start being approached directly to ensure their loyalty? Will he be able to set the same standards of uprightness, competence and integrity of that of his immediate predecessor, a set of principles that led General Karamat to resign rather than accept the situation? And what are his own personal views about the sorry impasse that the present government has brought us into, internally and externally? Will he be able to separate, like Gen Karamat, conscience from responsibility in the final analysis?

And what about the “Giant-Killer” himself? Twice he has rid himself of recalcitrant COASs. Will it go to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s head that he is omnipotent? The best advice one can give to his handlers is to remember that whenever a Roman General entered Rome in triumph after his conquests, riding in a chariot and being acclaimed by the Roman world, an old man would stand next to the General, whispering in his ears, “Remember Caesar, thou art mortal!” unquote.

Within 48 hrs of taking over as COAS Pervez Musharraf had ensured that Nawaz Sharif would not be able to do a “Jahangir Karamat” on him. He quickly promoted/posted Principal Staff Officers (PSOs)/Corps Comd of his choice, recorded in “POWER PLAY” in THE NATION on Oct 17, 1998. Not only was this a decisive move, it was a portent of things to come, confident decision-making at critical times,

“As everyone knows, it is the traditional right in the Army of every Commanding Officer at every level to choose his own crop of close aides and slot in subordinates according to his own perception of what suits his command.  With a good crop of Lt Gens to play around with, the selections have been routine, though the media has played it up as would befit a “Kabbadi” match.  When one General and two senior Lt Generals retire together, a whole set of permutations and combinations come into play that would normally be routine but the circumstances here are abnormal. This has caused speculation in the general public.   Mian Nawaz Sharif has moved his real preference for COAS i.e. Lt Gen Ziauddin, formerly Engineer Corps, using his  prerogative as PM to the sensitive post of  DG ISI, very much in the manner  late Lt Gen SR Kallue was brought in by Ms Benazir even though he was already retired.  It should be interesting to see how the new COAS swallows this.  In this critical stage, someone like Lt Gen Afzal Janjua, presently Comd 5 Corps at Karachi, with long experience in ISI could perhaps have fared far better.  Zia may be a fine officer but could be out of his depth (or worse, isolated) in this vital post.  The rest of the Army belongs to the COAS and it is his (and only his) prerogative to shuffle his commanders in the best interest of the Service rather than at any bidding from outside.  Professional soldiers do not take kindly to any outside interference, political or otherwise. The present COAS has a reputation as a thinking professional, extremely sensitive to the fundamental perquisites of the uniform which is duty to the nation and the Army, in that order, to the exclusion of everything else. The nation is faced with grave external and internal dangers, for the first time after 1971 the Armed Forces have their work cut out on two fronts, they have to be left alone to perform their professional duties. So instead of speculation in the media or the rumour machine, we should LEAVE THE ARMY ALONE.   A power play did take place on Oct 7, 1998 and even though Mian Nawaz Sharif seems to have come out ahead,  he should thank his lucky stars he had Gen Jehangir Karamat to contend with, a mild man with a gentlemanly demeanour known not only for his superior intellect but a firm commitment to democracy.  If the inclination of the politicians to indulge in power play in the uniformed ranks persists, the PM may well have sufficient cause to remember JK with a lot of nostalgia, sooner rather than later.

On May 28, 1998 Pakistan had carried out nuclear explosions to match the Indian explosions at Pokhran in the desert. In an article entitled “A YEAR LATER” in THE NATION on May 29, 1999, this was recorded,

“The Armed Forces had a hiccup in their leadership when the Acting Chairman and COAS Gen Jehangir Karamat chose to retire early and GOP appointed as COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf without naming a Chairman for the JCSC.  This was obviously to keep Lt Gens Ali Kuli Khattak and Khalid Nawaz out of the pecking line while providing a stop-gap for the PM’s real choice Lt Gen Ziauddin, an Engineer Officer, who was moved to the ISI as DG, Musharraf  surprised everybody by ensuring a very smooth transition and moving quickly to assert his authority within the Army and several months later despite their newly found manhood the Nawaz Sharif regime had no choice but to bow down to the logic of GHQ’s pressure and make Gen Musharraf Acting Chairman JCSC, albeit only for one year.  In the meantime  the Army has well and truly got involved in governance except that what is in vogue is called a “creeping mode”.

Things had started to sour between the PM and the COAS. In “JOINT CHIEFS”  the PM was advised not to delay appointing a Chairman JCSC any longer, in fact to appoint the COAS immediately, for professional reasons,

“Gen Pervez Musharraf who succeeded him, is totally a different kettle of fish.  By moving Corps Commanders within hours and days of his assumption of COAS  to reflect the team he wanted,  he showed himself to be a keen student of Richard Nixon’s theory of not debating a point to death, instead he is known to be very decisive as a leader of men.  It is very fitting that this thoroughly sound professional soldier, a field person as well as  an above par staff officer, has assumed charge of JCSC, albeit as Acting Chairman.  At least we now have a person as COAS who will take a decision when it is necessary, that is the only imperative of a superior command. The reform of JCSC with the added responsibility of the Nuclear Command should not take any length of time, it is an open and shut issue, the land forces commander must also be the man responsible to coordinate operational and administrative issues in the three Services, both during peace and war.   With Gen Musharraf, one can be sure of one thing, reform will take weeks, not years.  One feels that the PM must correct this anomaly now on his advice and put all speculation  as well as uncertainty to rest.  The Armed Forces must have one Commander, the PM must make this a settled issue immediately without delay.

Mian Nawaz Sharif had wanted Pervez Musharraf only as a stopgap COAS. Inadvertently he had taken a professional decision, even though he did not mean it as such. The PM wanted to bring in his original choice the DIG ISI, Lt Gen Ziauddin, an Engineer Corps Officer. To create “proper” conditions one of the Corps Comds became a dissident of sorts in the Army, meeting the PM and other politicians. In “ARMY AND DISCIPLINE” on Oct 10, 1998 advice was given to the PM to cool it, not to meddle with the Army’s internal affairs, nobody was listening,

“Gen Musharraf  happens to be the Chief of Army Staff. For better or for worse he thus is the symbol of the institution.  In the end the institution is always more important than individuals and their grievances, legitimate or not.  As such we have to support Musharraf in maintaining the strong discipline that keeps the Pakistan Army the ultimate guardian of the country’s integrity and sovereignty. This country is passing through bad times and we cannot afford a difference of opinion amongst the senior military hierarchy.

Other than discipline, what separates a soldier from a civilian is that a soldier will invariably accept moral responsibility if he is found to be wrong.  That is the honourable thing to do.  In keeping with a strong tradition that puts a mantle of responsibility over the leadership in the Armed Forces, a person must either keep his counsel or seek to leave the service in an honourable fashion.  TP opted for the honourable way, when he finally doffs his uniform in his parent unit 6 Punjab on 12 Oct in Karachi, he will have reason to be satisfied.  Others who fall into the same category would be well advised to go the TP route rather than risk harming the edifice of the Army for personal aggrandizement.

Having the courage of convictions may make a person speak his mind, for the sake of the uniform he has to be judicious about the company he chooses to register his dissent.”

It finally happened on Oct 12, 1999. The PM made his move while the COAS was returning from abroad. In “INEVITABLE POWER PLAY” on Oct 16, 1999 in THE NATION,

“To quote a saying emblazoned in the Ingall Hall in the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA),  “it is not what happens to you that matters but how you behave while it is happening” (paraphrasing of it would be “it is not the exit that matters but the manner of it”). That Mian Nawaz Sharif was on a sinking ship was quite apparent for some time, he simply hastened the process by trying something that had been anticipated by the military hierarchy,  an attempt to sack the incumbent Chief and put his original favourite in place.  Having, got away with it on Sept 29, 1998 with JK, fostering Ziauddin as the new Chief of the Army on the afternoon of Oct 12, 1999 was not only amateurish, it was simply mind-boggling, particularly in the face of clear warnings in the print media from friend and foe alike that GHQ was braced for it as far back as Oct 98. Gen Musharraf, then the new COAS, had completed the deterrence by his round of postings of  hand-picked officers into critical three-star slots, particularly Chief of General Staff (CGS), and Commanders 10 Corps (Pindi), 4 Corps (Lahore) and 5 Corps (Karachi) (my article “Power Play” in THE NATION, Oct 17, 1998).  Mian Nawaz Sharif is a very nice man personally but politically his personality seems to change from Dr. Jekyll to that of Mr. Hyde.  The last 3 years have shown he learnt no lessons from the previous 3 years out in the cold beginning 1993. Ms Abida Hussain MNA, and former Minister in his cabinet, in a recent interview on BBC has used the words “potentate” and “imperial”,  even though she is speaking as a woman politically scorned her description of him is uncomfortably close on both counts, adjectives one can hardly use for a “democrat”.

Pervez Musharraf then set about selecting his team, THE NATION Oct 29, 1999 “SELECTING A DREAM TEAM ON MERIT”

“Overall the selection of individuals has been very much on the plus side, an “A” for effort and perspicacity. It also spells out the fact that the motives are sincere and in line with the pledges made by the Chief Executive. What we need is simply the best, we need A-plus all the time.

We cannot afford “B” standards. Having reached rock bottom, in the CE’s words, we have nowhere but to go up. In that we need all the help we can get from the outstanding talent that is available and that is in the form of a “dream team” that can perform. There will be many people who push themselves, forward, to paraphrase John Kennedy, asking not what they can do for Pakistan but what Pakistan can do for them, the CO has to watch out for such job-seekers full time. The selection mechanism has to be smart enough to sift paper tigers and self-servers from the “right stuff”. The CE has shown that he could do it in the Army, let him now replicate it in choosing the right people to help him govern Pakistan as Pakistan should be governed, with sincerity aiming for the amelioration of the economic miseries of the people and towards the ultimate purpose of making the country great.

On 14 Nov 1999 at the beginning all of us were filled with doubt, we really did not know him and we had Army rulers before. His staff would tell us, give him a chance, ‘A DAY OF RECKONING” for THE NATION,

“There is certainly sincere intent in the team selection, no doubt about that, it is the uneven quality that makes one apprehensive. We are in for a slow, long haul to lift this country. In the selection of “horses for courses”, public support is vital to the mission which depends primarily on public perception. Public perception as one knows is nine-tenths of the law.

One may agree or disagree with the Chief Executive but one thing is certain, the free Press has been of overwhelming support to him in this crucial first month of the “honeymoon” period because he was very forthright in supporting a free Press. Not only was this probably a “First” for any military rule but also a very smart move.

This openness and frankness has got him an extended mutual admiration period. That will be of vital importance once he touches the virtual “untouchables”, the elite of Pakistan who will be mostly in the dock come November 17.

In “HORSES FOR COURSES” in THE NATION on Jan 15, 2000, an account was given of his knack of choosing the right persons for the right job,

“The CE  is on the crest of a wave of prayers and good feelings for him to succeed for the sake of the country, this honeymoon allows him to make bolder choices from a  large canvas of talent. The common man presently feels far relieved in the absence of the stress and strain of divisive politics and opportunistic economics that he has been suffering for over the whole of Pakistan’s independence, never more so than in the last 12 years of so-called democratic rule.  However, he continues to be burdened by an economic equation that drives him deeper in debt everyday, despite the distant trumpet of an economic revival.

The CE must press into service Ministers who will rule the bureaucrats of their fiefdoms instead of being ruled by them, otherwise the whole process will stall despite the best of intentions.  It would not be the first time the sincere motives of military rule would have been thus frustrated, “WHY DO MARTIAL LAWS FAIL”, The NATION  June 29, 1995.

One may differ with  Gen Pervez Musharraf on a number of counts,  we are all agreed on one crucial issue, he has to succeed for the sake of Pakistan, one cannot pray otherwise.  We must continue to  will him to succeed in the face of impossible odds in  the same nail-biting way we all did for Saqlain and Waqar Yunus on two consecutive days, their determination to win very clearly etched on their faces. They may well repeat their dogged performance  in the next match but how many times will we be so lucky?   If our top batsmen do not start getting to the pitch of the ball, the opposing teams will keep on enjoying the slip fielding practice we are giving them.  Unless we break the shackles of routine, of remaining content with life as usual, we might as well be dead.

Describing US President CLINTON’s “THE VISIT” in article by that name on March 17, 2000 in THE NATION, it was noted that,

“Unlike the period of the Cold War, when military regimes were the darlings of the western world, men in uniform at the helm of national affairs are not in fashion anymore. Nevertheless, the western democracies are not blind and they decided not to carry out an audit of the fire brigade (in this case the Army) while the fire brigade station (the nation) was itself burning. Having realised that proponents of democracy had brought the nation to ruin and its social fabric to virtual disintegration by institutionalising corruption, the western governments decided to give the CE’s new type of military rule (free press, civilian cabinet, no martial law administrator) a chance, provided a road map for restoration of democracy was spelt out. In this manner, the international community has tacitly “legitimised” military rule in Pakistan, this acceptance born out of the doctrine of necessity.

In THE RULE OF LAW on April 15, 2000, in THE NATION, it was opined that,

“Apprehensions that Pakistan’s image would suffer internationally because of the trial were unfounded. In the final analysis justice won out and protest remained either muted or motivated. In putting innocents at risk, the former PM fell decidedly afoul of the laws of the land, these cannot be violated even by the Head of a Government. Having established its credibility in ensuring the process strictly adhering to the norms of justice, the present regime will go a long way in restoring the credibility of the judiciary by letting the law take its course for the future.  The institutions of State have been badly eroded by years of politicization and abuse of power, confidence of the masses in their legitimacy can only be restored by applying the law equitably and dispassionately. The rule of law must prevail from the top of the hierarchy down to the junior-most individual, being transparent in application and the same for friend and foe alike.

In UNIT DURBAR, CIRCA 2000, for THE NATION on June 3, 2000, one noted that,

“Since Oct 16, we have seen a number of Pervez Musharrafs on prime time TV as dictated by his media handlers.   The real Pervez Musharraf finally stood up on May 25, 2000, symbolically with his gloves off.   The aesthetic sense may have been missing but it was effective, as befits a unit commander explaining hard facts to his Jawans. There has been an increasing apprehension among the masses about seeming inaction under military rule, not delivering the goods, such vacuum is fertile ground for rumours. The CE explained the time lag in the language the masses understand, to develop a  “strategy” in each area of concern time was needed, a comprehensive analysis of the problems had to be made before coming through with effective solutions.

In ADJUSTING OUR PRINCIPLED STAND, in THE NATION in July 25, 2000, an evaluation of our foreign policy revealed that,

“For years we have been locked into an anti-Israel, China at all costs, Kashmir or bust policy. We have to adapt these to the present circumstances in supersession of “our principled stand”. We have an identity crisis, are we South Asian, are we Central Asian or are we non-Arab Near Eastern? By origin and circumstances as well as geo-political location we are all of these, let’s exploit the advantage of this tri-polar identity. Above all we need to be pragmatic in our relationships, accepting compromise as a part of ground reality, especially on non-critical issues. Let’s get out of the stuffed-shirt syndrome and with rolled-up sleeves get on with establishing Pakistan’s pre-eminent position as an important geo-political crossroads player with a confirmed nuclear potential.

And we need not be apologetic about it!

In “D PLUS 300” in THE NATION, the first 300 days of the Musharraf regime were examined

“Devolution of power to the grassroots level is an important and sincere cornerstone of this regime. Barring one or two individuals lower down the hierarchy having business ambitions no one has any personal agenda. The important concept of a “run-off” election instead of “first past the post” is a vital ingredient for real majority rule in a democracy. Theory has not taken account of ground realities, a tribal society requires an Assembly to include more than two/ three tribes, castes, etc for homogeneity or we are in serious trouble on the Yugoslavia pattern. Moreover, the Province has to retain some control, alternatives are other (1) more Provinces and District Assemblies or (2) the same number of Provinces and Divisional Assemblies.  Moreover, a linkage between administration at lower levels and representation in the Assemblies must be established by having the elected administrators be also the representatives in the Assemblies. We must not hasten into devolution on the pattern of District Assemblies suggested by NRB presently that is a sure recipe for disaster.

The last point on the CE’s agenda, “national morale”, is very much dependant upon the six points already discussed. Even partial success in progress on the agenda points will lead to good governance, that is the touchstone to the raising of the people’s morale. At the moment reality is way apart from expectation, only when they come together this nation will rise to the heights we aspire for.

In “INTENT AND CREDIBILITY” the COAS commitment to the process in THE NATION on Sept 23, 2000 was evaluated,

“The intent of our military ruler is sincere, to change the lives of our citizens for the better, they have not acquired powers to make their own futures bright but the civilian “status quo” team chosen to effect the transition has been hard put  barely stemming the rot that had eaten into the economic and political fabric of Pakistan. As a noted instructor in the National Defence College, the CE must have taught, “never reinforce failure”.  Good managers we do need but also innovators who will improvise and dynamise,  the CE along cannot carry the ball all the time. The CE could (1) shuffle his cabinet around so that each person’s “genius” is profitably utilized in the right slot  (2) put out to pasture those who are there God alone knows for what reason and (3) induct entrepreneurs and politicians of outstanding quality to energise his team. Almost one year of the three-year period is over, the consolidation period needs to give way to the “breakout phase”, full exploitation of our human and material resources by persons of proven ability.

If the credibility of the military regime is impaired, however sincere their intent, disaster will ensue. The world community recognizes that there was something very horribly wrong with our democracy, that there is an ongoing need to conduct accountability and  to put a system in place that will be self-accountable and fair, where merit will prevail over a process  presently weighted in favour of the elite and the privileged at the cost of the downtrodden and poor.  In today’s dynamic information age the negation of merit is a self-defeating process. That is the true “Jehad” the Army, where merit is supreme more often than not,  has set out to wage, a war we cannot afford to lose, notwithstanding bomb blasts designed to derail the regime’s credibility. Unfortunately the public likes to see tangible progress,  subtle changes across the board have yet to translate into visible relief for the man-in-the-street. That is where media-handling comes in to shore up credibility. And that has to be done holding the national interest supreme,  without dividing responsibility which makes individuals engage more on  “personal agendas” rather than the national mission statement. The CE should do well to give one man full control of media affairs and move others to positions consonant with their potential.

In PERFORMANCE EVALUATION on Oct 14, 2000 one year in THE NATION, it was revealed that,

“Wrongdoing in Defence Purchases may not have been on the scale being bandied about but why is the CE putting his credibility on the line for a few scum of this earth? The tanks may be excellent, the sniper rifles outstanding, the procedures foolproof, does that make kickbacks legal? That in effect sums up our dilemma, given that we recognize that his intent is sincere is the Chief Executive being correctly informed? Ms Benazir and Mian Nawaz Sharif were also given “Sub Accha” (everything alright) Reports regularly, a wide gap remains between what the public perception is and what the government is claiming, given that public perception is rather more harsh than it should be. To reduce the gap between fact and perception, the presence of politicians will move up the credibility of the regime to a higher notch both within and outside the country, a national government is, therefore, imperative. The military gets “A”s for intent and sincerity of purpose as well as for effort. In coalition with its chosen civilians the regime manages only “C”s and “D”s. That Pervez Musharraf may be putting a brave face to the ugly reality on the ground is understandable but if he is completely out of sync with what is the true picture, that is extremely dangerous. If the CE really believes everything is hunky-dory, then he is living on Planet Nirvana.

In “A DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD”, THE NATION Jan 6 2001, it was noted that,

“The Chief Executive (CE) has got his heart in the right place, he has now to apply himself in exclusion of everything else to accountability and reform. He does not have to venture on journeys anywhere, attend any receptions, cut any ribbons, kiss any babies and/or give out any degrees and diplomas, etc. The CE has repeatedly stated he is not running for office, his primary raison d’etre is to make the system efficient and public-friendly in the short time available to him. He should move lock, stock and barrel into the CE’s Secretariat, journeying maybe only two days a week outside Islamabad and that too only to the Provincial capitals. Same should apply to his Provincial set ups, go only one down unless absolutely necessary. Decisions of importance are necessary on an emergency basis, virtually around the clock. The CE has to put body, mind and soul to the many problems be-devilling the country, and stay focussed on the primary aim by giving necessary decisions in supercession of everything else. People expect the military regime to perform miracles, that may be expecting too much but some miracles are achievable with absolute commitment to the mission statement in word as well as in deed. The new millennium really started on Jan 1, 2001, can the Army maintain the national aim in exclusion to the extraneous distractions of public office?

In “GIVE THE ARMY A BREAK” on Jan 13, 2001 study was made of the impact of the publication of the “HAMOODUR REHMAN COMMISSION REPORT”

India set a precedent by annunciating the concept of freedom of the people according to their will, should the concept of 1971 be emulated in Kashmir and Punjab, in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, in Gorkhaland, Bodoland and Assam, etc to name only a few States, where bloody insurrections are taking place? Will the Indian media pressurize the Indian Government for a number of HRC-type Commissions to make independent, verifiable reports with respect to atrocities committed by the Indian Army and paramilitary forces in many States, some out of bounds to foreigners for over 50 years? Will the Indian Army be honest about the many murders, arson, rape, abduction, pillage and loot committed by its personnel in bloodily suppressing the various insurrections, the majority going unpunished and even unreported? And forget the targeting of Muslims only, Nagas, Manipuris, Mizos are Christians, Gorkhas and Bodos are mainly Buddhist, many other minorities have been victimized — and what about low caste Hindus and Sikhs? The Indian media cocoons the Indian Army by a conspiracy of silence while being self-righteous about the Pakistan Army, a selective accountability with a case of severe memory lapse, coupled with blind-siding by those whose only aim is to malign the Pakistan Army.

The Pakistan Army should expect no quarter, it is not likely to get any as the sole remaining obstacle to Indian hegemony in the region. The intelligentsia in Pakistan must wake up to this reality and stop exorcising ghosts that damage the national fabric, especially at a time of deep political and economic crises. Maturity and responsibility must dictate the national conscience in being not only fair but protective about the one institution which is always ready for the supreme sacrifice for the nation. The HRC Report is nothing to be proud of, rather a matter of living shame, but the Army of 2001 is not the same as the Army of 1971 and why indulge in self-flagellation just for the sake of self-denouement? Self-portraits are always ugly to behold but this has to be put behind us, time now to get on with our lives for the future of our children. The future is there, only possible if we stand together in protecting the fair name of this Army. Give the Army a break!

By Jan 01, 2001 “LEADERSHIP ON MERIT NOT PATRONAGE” in THE NATION noted that things were changing,

“One major step for changing the leadership quality for the better would be to hand down maximum punishment for false accusation. In line with the COAS cracking down on those falsifying computer data meant to get the individual undeserved promotion, those indulging in false character assassination of any kind must be punished. If the accusation made would result in the death penalty for the person accused, then in the Muslim tradition of an eye for an eye, the person making a false accusation must also face the same punishment. For lesser accusations the person must be given life imprisonment, at the very least including confiscation of his entire property. While the individual loss for the victim is deplorable, the loss to the country in denying the leadership its due position is beyond evaluation. The rumour mill is supreme in Pakistan, some incorrigible rascals are past masters at exploiting this for their own benefit. A stop must be put to it sooner rather than later, our governance mode will otherwise go from bad to worse, bad leaders being succeeded in turn by more atrocious ones simply because the natural emerging leadership is knocked out of contention.

Expectations are raised with every transition in governance in Pakistan. Whenever there is military transition in Pakistan, these expectations tend to go through the roof. The reason is simple, the people have more confidence in the military leadership to deliver on the promises made. This is an acknowledgement that in the military merit is recognized, at least for the most part. Moreover, character assassination is not generally as successful as in the general public. Good leaders would bring good governance to Pakistan, God alone knows good governance is a dire necessity. A system check and balance must be put in place allowing good leadership to evolve naturally, the natural corollary of good governance will never be available to this country. Poor countries are only poor because they have poor leaders. It is also said that countries get leadership what they deserve, in the case of Pakistan this is not a correct premise. We have a great country and great people inhabit this country, we deserve at the very least good leaders, if not great ones. There is nothing more vital for this country than ensuring that good leadership has a chance to emerge.”

In “MAYDAY, MAYDAY” in THE NATION, on May 05, 2001, due cognizance was taken of COAS decisive nature,

“Within a week of his appointment as COAS on Oct 7, 1998 Gen Pervez Musharraf made wholesale changes in the senior military hierarchy. The swiftness of the postings of relatively junior Lt Gens into critical slots left no doubt they were being made with an eye to safeguard his future, and why not, given the unceremonious exit of his predecessor? In “POWER PLAY”, (THE NATION Oct 17, 1998), PM Mian Nawaz Sharif was warned not to mess with the Army again, “he would have reason to remember JK (Jahangir Karamat) with a lot of nostalgia, sooner rather than later”, unquote.

Which leads us to the Government’s ham-handed handling of ARD’s decision to hold a rally on May Day. For a military regime that has the self-confidence to tolerate a free press, this was sheer lunacy. The ARD would have got a few thousand supporters, the administration’s efforts to prevent the event made it newsworthy, giving fresh life to the ARD campaign, rejuvenating the “deader than the duck” has-been politicians. Someone gave the CE very wrong advice, the military government need not have cracked down, there was no need to “send a message” bureaucracy-style. The politicians must be given a chance to let off steam, as the media-men in Karachi recently told the Federal Interior Minister, “give them a Hyde Park”. Having exercised patience, this uncalled-for crackdown has created doubt about the regime’s long-term abilities to cope with governance into a democratic period. One hopes that the May Day fiasco will not be repeated, otherwise we may well be yelling “Mayday, Mayday” to “save our souls” (SOS) from the mistakes of those in power.

On April 4, 2001 in “INTERPRETING GREEK” for THE NATION, the COAS was advised to have some financial and commercial Advisors among his inner circle,

“For the Chief Executive, expert immediate advice is even more important. To most military men, Finance is as good as understanding Greek, so why not get some “Greek” interpreters, maybe couple of commercial bankers, an economist or two and at least two entrepreneurs in a CE’s economic “think tank”. He should perhaps raid the “Economy Advisory Board” larder for advisors. Such people could explain street economics to the soldiers in the language they understand to make them fully aware of a subject that would normally be Greek to them. A few days ago I watched the CE intently as he spoke for over 3 hours to a select audience in HQ 5 Corps auditorium in Karachi. One thing was very clear, the CE sincerely believed in what he was saying about the economy, this man was convinced about the statistics being dished out and the scenario being painted for him.  Unfortunately, what he was saying was not really the situation as understood by the entrepreneurs and others present in that room. The CE happens to be a sharp person and certainly not gullible, there can only be one assumption, he is fed information doctored specifically to make it sound rosy, and more importantly, believable.”

President TARAR was a charade visited on Pakistan by the Sharifs, specifically Abbaji. On March 31 2001 in “END THE CHARADE AND GET ON WITH IT”, the COAS was advised as such in the NATION,

“Musharraf inherited an impossible economic situation in a world extremely hostile to military takeovers. Placed No 2 in the Corruption index, an imperfect democratic system ensured that less than 16% of the total votes that could be cast was translated as a “massive mandate” alternately for either of the two major political parties to make hay while their sun shone. Except for a coup how were we to get out of the Catch-22 corruption trap while the leaders of both major political parties alternated in looting the public till in the name of democracy. The irony is that to avoid accountability the same politicians are brazenly recommending a “safe exit” for the military regime. Thrust into a situation not of his own making, Pervez Musharraf faced a cabal of countries hell-bent on clamping sanctions on us till we whispered “uncle” and made the right noises on CTBT, nuclear non-proliferation being more on their minds of powers-that-be than any democratic mores. Our politicians went off to their uncles in the Commonwealth to bail them out, hypocrisy personified in their crocodile tears. The military regime capitalized on two brilliant moves, not declaring martial law and giving the press full freedom. No small help also in that internationally Musharraf presents the liberal image of an Army painted by virulent Indian propaganda as having “fundamentalist” leanings.

A military regime by any name can never be a good enough replacement for democracy but with the major percentage of the civil administration and politicians thoroughly corrupt, the country’s very existence was threatened, military rule is an always acceptable alternative. Till very recently Musharraf’s heart (and the minds of his closest aides) seemed to be pushing the Ayub model a la Turkey i.e. with garnishings of constitutional role for the military, but recent events have been more of the Zia-kind 80’s era. The military has involved itself in day-to-day governance more than is necessary and chosen an indifferent lot of civilian technocrats to help run the country.

Only as President can Mosharraf ensure not only free and fair general elections a la Yahya before Oct 2002 but more importantly, continuity. Any political party or grouping thereof that is elected should uninhibited in governing under a strong Presidency. Musharraf believes in what he says but on issues that no one in uniform has ever had real command of e.g. the economy, he continues to be badly misinformed about possible courses of action. Musharraf is a lucky man, he must use his own good fortune for the good of this country sensibly before both his luck and time run out. Let people without ambition or inhibition tell him the truth as it is, not as he wants to hear it. Armed with the correct facts and believing in his destiny, he can only do good for this nation. Instead of wasting time in a game of musical legal chairs, Musharraf should end this charade, put Tarar out to pasture and get on with it!

In “HANUZ DILLI DUR AST?” on June 2, 2001 in THE NATION, before the trip to India, there was quite a lot of doubt in the air

“Such things normally would not matter in the Armed Forces, in extraordinary times as these we could have done with a different combination. A majority of the Pakistanis will be praying that the CE is not just making a trip down memory lane, a few fairly rabid “sons of the soil” will be hoping he returns with tea and sympathy only, without anything tangible to show. The Delhi Yatra may well end up only as a photo-ops, with Hemchand Gola presenting to Gen Musharraf the Persian language sale deed of the property in New Delhi sold by his grandfather Muhtashammudin in 1946 to Premchand Gola, Hemchand’s father. By the way, that may be symbolic too, take the paper but we keep the property!

Musharraf’s visit to his birthplace haveli notwithstanding, the Kashmir independence movement will not go away. If they are proven right in refusing a dialogue with India, the hardliners in Pakistan militancy will pursue militancy with die-hard vengeance and an urgency born out of the belief that only a “bleeding” India will be forced to give Kashmiris their freedom. Faced with fighting an endless low-intensity war, India may well gamble a grand slam to terminate the Kashmir problem at its Pakistan roots once and for all. India does not have a corner on the “Guderian” market, we have our share of Guderians too, the “blood and guts” types who have never heard a shot being fired in anger in their entire careers and have reached a seniority level where it is now safe to send others to die for their monumental blunders. Given even a millionth chance that India succeeds, what then? Will militancy be eradicated or become more widespread?

Talking about leadership on June 9, 2001 in “LEADERS OF THE UNFORTUNATE”, THE NATION had noted,

“Nobody rules with the conscious thought of looting the nation, yet once settled in power the same person seems not conscious of his (or her) conscience. Will Musharraf leave the portals of power known for having put the nation above his self? Only time will tell and that also after his successor carries out accountability in his (or her) turn. In the meantime the unfortunate of this nation live in hope. Dun Spero Spiro, Latin for “While I breathe, I hope!”. To put it bluntly we do not need hypocrites, we need brilliant leaders who are ready to take calculated risks, putting their future and even their lives at stake, for the sake of the nation. We need leaders who will not posture to be what they are not, but have the courage to be what they are. We need leaders who will put the nation before their pockets. Above all we need leaders with integrity, with sincerity of interest and purpose, leaders who will take this country blessed with human and material resources to the greatness it really deserves. Is that too much for the unfortunate to ask for from their leaders?

The Chief Executive remains a soldier in heart, body and soul. In “THE UNIT DURBAR” THE NATION, noted on June 16, 2001,

“Through the regular monthly Durbars the army inadvertently trains its leaders on how to address captive audiences. Pervez Musharraf’s delivery normally ranges from good to excellent but when an audience reminds him of his days as a Commanding Officer of a Regiment of Artillery, the Chief Executive excels, he is outstanding. The assembled holy men who came to the National Seerat Conference were unlucky to be caught on one of Musharraf’s “Unit Durbar” days, and to be read, what amounts to, the “riot act”. Independent observers confirm that Musharraf comes across as a credible leader who will not be blackmailed by any vested group, religious or otherwise. He is not a hypocrite, neither would he be mistaken for a graduate of Harvard’s “Fletcher School of Diplomacy”.

Mostly “friendlies”, the Maulanas were expecting to hear sweet nothings, then depart full of tea and samosas (and maybe a few government perks), the blistering speech stunned them into silence. The message was unambiguous, Musharraf was not going to be a holier-than-thou “Mr Nice Guy” any longer, “join the mainstream of civilization or “bug” out”. One revelled in the dressing down Musharraf meted out but felt sorry for the recipients since they had braved the anger of the extremists to attend the event in the first place. Shell-shocked, they have been left in limbo between a rock and a hard place even though the CE’s message was mostly meant for the rather militant extremists who were not present. Such militants, who are in a minority, are out of sync with real Islam, a moderate religion preaching peace and harmony.

The CE was very right in lambasting the narrow sectarian agenda of some unscrupulous religious zealots, bringing strife to the land by exploiting the ignorance of the masses. Even then his speech should not be taken by the liberals among us as a denouement against Islam. Neither should anybody be skeptical about his seriousness of purpose. The CE needs to take initiative to rid the public of the perception that nothing will come out of his threats to deal with such militants. Musharraf did not say anything to offend the broad mass of Muslims, targeting only those bigots who misuse Islam for their own selfish motivations. Nothing signified a deviation from any Islamic principles, what he did do was to encourage religious scholars to emphasize Islam as a simple, rather Spartan religion, tolerant of other’s views. Extremism has not been ordained by God, the narrow interpretation is that of man. Islam preaches moderation throughout, it never preaches hatred.

Ultimately TARAR went, “THE PRESIDENT WHO NEVER WAS” in THE NATION on June 22, 2001. The buck stopped finally at Pervez Musharraf’s desk,

“To paraphrase Nelson at Trafalgar, “Pakistan expects Musharraf to do his duty”. And what is his duty? His primary duty is to provide security to the common man, security of food, shelter, clothing, security of medical cover, education and transportation, security from the fear of those with guns on our borders and those lurking in the shadows outside our houses, the security of a safe haven for our children, the security of their safe return when they leave their homes. We talk of a land of milk and honey, forget the honey, for us heaven would be reached if Musharraf manages some milk in the land for everyone. President Musharraf may have all the good intentions in the world, good intentions do not translate into the basic needs of a citizen unless he develops an effective managerial team that has the courage to effect real change instead of giving in to the status quo. Musharraf is the man of the moment, he is the man and this is his moment. He was involuntarily drawn into a commitment on Oct 12, because of a monumental blunder by the then PM, after his removal the Presidency was only a matter of time. Now Musharraf has no choice but to deliver, that is his Karma, if he does not deliver, he may not have the luxury of being shown the door in the same gentlemanly manner he accorded Tarar.

As a former commando, Pervez Musharraf remained at heart in the Special Services Group (SSG). In “WHO DARES, WINS” in THE NATION on June 30, 2001.

Chosen by Colonel David Stirling as the motto of the British Special Air Services (SAS), “Who dares, wins!” as well as the winged dagger are universally taken as symbolic of “super commandos” everywhere. With humble beginnings in Egypt during the Second World War, the SAS became a feared and respected name. Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG) was trained by US Special Forces (the famous Green Berets) in the middle 50s, the men a cut above paratroopers and regular commandos, not only physically super-fit and daring but capable of thinking on their feet both as individuals and in small groups, their actions almost an instant reflex honed by long hours of sweat and years of training. Their actions are legendary, Major Paddy Mayne (of British SAS) claimed in 1942 that the RAF should give him the “Distinguished Flying Cross” (DFC) for destroying 236 German and Italian aircraft on the ground in raids in the desert in North Africa. On the German side, “Commando Extraordinary” Col Otto Von Skorzeny (among many other exploits) rescued Mussolini from an Alpine Redoubt against impossible odds, kept Hungary “loyal” to Germany till the end of the war and during the “Battle of the Bulge”, infiltrated his men dressed in American Military Police (MP) uniform so that they created an enormous logistics mess with entire allied armies getting hopelessly entangled by their wrong traffic directions. In the early 1970’s Israel’s raid of Entebbe airport, thousands of miles from homebase, was a masterpiece of planning and daring. Former SSG person Col (Retd) Nusrat Ullah is the Chairman of the private services Company where I work, Col (Retd) Salman Ahmed, one of my best friends is a colleague, to mention only two among the dozen or so still together 30-35 years later.

Pervez Musharraf belongs to that particular breed of men and when he took us into Kargil, we were aghast. Condemned by friend and foe alike as a strategic blunder and a very bloody misadventure, Kargil is turning out to be much more, a role model example for Liddell Hart’s “Indirect Strategy and Deep Penetration”. I must confess frankly that I was one of those who felt Kargil was a disaster, in fact I have been made to eat my words. Kargil revived the Kashmir dispute internationally and gave a strong signal to the Mujahideen that their effort within Indian Occupied Kashmir was not in vain. Their aim being more military than political, the military hierarchy took a calculated risk in the substantial damage to our credibility in the comity of nations, very luckily the brinkmanship succeeded. Kargil served to wake the world to the reality of a possible nuclear flashpoint that nobody wanted, triggering off a chain reaction that has eventually led to the Indians inviting “the Kargil man” to New Delhi for talks on Kashmir.

In GREAT EXPECTATIONS in THE NATION tried July 7, 2001, to capture the nation’s aspirations and expectations.

Before embarking for India, Gen Pervez Musharraf has chosen to engage in a series of briefings-cum-consultations with the broad spectrum of the intelligentsia comprising media persons, politicians, religious leaders, Kashmiri representatives, entrepreneurs, etc. He had already broad consensus among the military hierarchy in the search for a mutually acceptable solution. Being invited to one such session, one expected at best a one-way monologue and self-justification on the newly anointed President’s part at taking this historic initiative. It was a revelation to find that a self-confident Pervez Musharraf was interested in genuine dialogue, that his mind was open to ideas and suggestions and that he had no ego problems. The result was, discounting the odd flattery from the traditional flatterers, a comprehensive debate between very interested participants where a virtual plethora of ideas were mooted and analyzed in open discussion, without rancour. What the President got in return was quite a few converts and a tremendous consensus. Making believers out of such disparate groups and individuals is no mean achievement. As a public relations exercise, the consultations series was outstanding, the resultant welding of the mandate behind the President nothing short of brilliant. Musharraf goes to India that much stronger. The bottom line was simple, everyone came “on board” with respect to peace with India but not at the cost of Kashmir, this remains the core issue for all Pakistanis.

Things did not happen as one would have hoped, they were not meant to be in so short a time. In “1000 years in less than 100 hours”, in THE NATION noted,

“For Pervez Musharraf personally and for Pakistan generally, Agra has been an unparalleled triumph. The world media attention focussed on Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint for the most extended time in the last 50 years. It showed Musharraf the unelected as a man with an absolute mandate, albeit gathered painstakingly and patiently over numerous consultations/briefings, it also showed the intransigence of some extremists among the Indian leadership. For a change the Pakistani leadership was shown up as a mature entity in this backdrop. It may not have been a good day for democracy, Musharraf came out as a far more articulate and committed leader than the Pakistani political leaders that preceded him while democracy’s vagaries were on display, howsoever much the Indians tried to paper over their deep-rooted prejudices. But then again that is the beauty of a democratic system, the ability of individuals and factions to display dissent, albeit in this case mostly behind closed doors. Democracy suits India, does the same unfettered democracy suit Pakistan? The answer is yes, Musharraf may have proven himself unique, but what about the next person and the next? Unfortunately, we cannot trust the present or the future to the whims and caprices of one individual just because we have been lucky this time over in the person of Pervez Musharraf. For whatever it is worth, Pervez Musharraf almost pulled off at Agra in less than a 100 hours the fault lines between two great religions developed over a 1000 years.

In the CROSSROADS OF HOPE in THE NATION on July 14, 2001, it was recorded that,

“The funny thing is that Pervez Musharraf, the unelected, has a mandate from the people of Pakistan while Vajpayee the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy does not seem to have even the mandate from his own party. Pervez Musharraf will understand when I say that the “Break-in Phase” may have been relatively easy but one hopes the talks may not end up in a dogfight. One thing is sure, mindful of world perception India will never risk Pervez Musharraf, the young and vibrant on the same media platform of a Joint Press Conference with Vajpayee the elderly, and clearly infirm the Break-out Phase.

In the “MEDIA SUCCESS STORY”, in THE NATION on Aug 01, 2001, post-facto evaluation showed that,

“On the contrary, it was a combination of the military regime and the free press that won the media war. In military terms, Pakistan’s armour (the free press) was allowed to run free in open country, the leading tank commanders (print media persons) given freedom of action to deal with targets on the move with the available means at their disposal. On the move Pakistan’s print media outscored their opposite numbers without any inhibition or restraint, not only holding their own even when outnumbered more than 4 to 1 ie. two Anchor/Hosts plus two “experts” as well as the “referees” in the broadcasting room to cut off embarrassing disclosures in mid-speech. This regime must take a lesson from this success and free the electronic media, that is the only way to ensure accountability, that in turn will lead to institutionalized good governance. Only those who have nothing to fear can afford this, obviously this regime has very few skeletons in its cupboard. Pervez Musharraf must sit down and think hard, to what does he owe his media success to, other than his own virtuoso performance? To PTV or his very wise decision to put his trust in the effectiveness of Pakistan’s free press? Free the electronic media, Mr President and see how Pakistan’s image flourishes once out of PTV’s grubby clutches.

Analyzing the military rule in THE NATION on Aug 11, 2000 in “DISSOLUTION OF CREDIBILITY”, it was written that,

“Obviously this has been a humane and considerate martial law. The collective responsibility of its leaders notwithstanding, the buck stops at the desk of the head honcho, in this case that of the Chief of Army Staff (and now President) Pervez Musharraf. Like every human being he is susceptible to the whispered falsehood in his ears but he seems to have developed a fairly good mechanism within himself to ultimately discern truth from falsehood. Exercising tremendous control in public, he almost never berates or humiliates anyone, those not meeting his approval get at most stony silence, not even a glare. For an absolute ruler this display of supreme confidence, that of keeping one’s cool, is a tremendous asset. That calm exterior gives not only him but his entire military regime strength and the regime’s credibility in public perception. That is why the undercutting of this credibility in the matter of devolution of power is such a tragedy. The expectations of the public rested in the military regime carrying out an honest and transparent transfer of powers at all levels, if at the base levels manipulations rules the day, what can one expect but rubber stamps at higher levels when democracy comes into full force? In the end it is the credibility of the military regime that will determine not only the future prosperity but the continued existence of the country as one having viable governance. This dissolution of credibility is something this military regime must guard against.

In “MISSED OPPORTUNITIES in THE NATION on Sept 15, 2001, one surmised that,

“The present military regime came to power with greater potential in its leadership to do good for the country than its predecessor three martial laws, the professionalism of the hierarchy being more potent than their counterparts in earlier regimes. For the most part the senior officers are sincere and dedicated people, well motivated to do their best for Pakistan. The agenda unfolded by Pervez Musharraf aroused great aspirations among the people of Pakistan, and while much has been accomplished in the way of establishing good governance, the past 24 months has seen many missed opportunities, as the clock winds down to Oct 12, 2002, these will haunt the legacy of this military regime.


“The President’s speech has gone down well, even though he speaks far better extempore than from a prepared text, he made some very telling points by giving examples of our Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) patience in making peace with Jews. One of the reasons for deterioration of law and order is the economic deprivation born mainly out of western sanctions. Economic revival is the key to domestically being able to cope with our local problems; quick pragmatic decisions have to be taken by the US, European Union countries and Japan. Time is of the essence! Musharraf has risked everything for doing the right thing without delay, how fast will the western nations respond by shoring up his position diplomatically, militarily and economically? And while at it, the Bush Administration could also analyze the root cause of fundamentalism in this very vital area; Kashmir is something that needs their priority attention for an amicable and lasting solution.

Things had to take a drastic turn after Sept 11, as THE NATION on Sept 29, 2001 recorded in “GEO-POLITICAL SOMERSAULT”

Seeped in the geo-politics of this region as well as our history with Afghanistan, Musharraf moved swiftly to effect damage control. He scored big by his quick support to the US, the rough indicators of success being, viz (1) the expected reaction in the streets has not taken off, at least as yet (2) the sanctions against Pakistan have been or are in the process of being lifted and (3) India’s visible anger with the US for not putting Pakistan and the Taliban in the same boat (to be sunk). The ultimate litmus test of something good happening to Pakistan is when India is annoyed and its leaders express their frustration publicly. And why not? Two weeks since the US terror bombing, the substantial shift in geo-political re-alignment is unprecedented.

His ultimate test came on Oct 9, 2001 when in “CHOOSING MERIT OVER FRIENDSHIP” in THE NATION,

Gen Pervez Musharraf’s penchant for clearing the decks for battle and his timing thereof are both exquisite. Very much as he did immediately on taking over as COAS in 1998, he removed the weak links in his chain of command.

Earlier on Sept 1 in “SOLDIER AND GENTLEMAN”, quote “Three years into his COAS-ship, two years into his CE-ship and several months into President-ship has shown Pervez Musharraf to be really sincere about doing something solid and tangible for the country. The majority of his choices of close aides have been good but the choices have ranged from the likes of the late GA on the one side to at least some who are the virtual pits. Unfortunately public perception is very fickle, it rarely focuses on all the good done in the world, it homes in on evil. As a keen student of history Musharraf cannot afford that all the good he has done for their country is “interred with his bones, only the evil lives after him”, to paraphrase Shakespeare in Marc Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Ceaser. The President must see to it that he does not allow his place in history to become hostage to those who put their own individual selfish gain beyond that of the country.

In “THE JURY IS OUT”, THE NATION noted on Dec 23, 2001 that

Pervez Musharraf declined politely to give the details of the Sharif mass exit (as is appropriate when confidential deals are brokered and guaranteed by a staunch friend like Saudi Arabia), in the long run Pakistan will probably come out ahead, provided the military regime plays its cards right, keeps it cool and renders genuine accountability across the board. However, if public perception persists that some people with atrocious reputation are being protected rather than being prosecuted, as pimps if nothing else, then the credibility of the accountability process will become undermined. And public perception will take a rather serious dip in its esteem of the Pakistani military establishment.

All said and done, and for better or for worse, there is a military regime in Pakistan, and for the most part it is doing good rather than bad. It has not failed but neither it has succeeded as per the public expectations, not due to lack of sincerity or intention but  (1) because the expectations were too high and (2) the right people who could sincerely implement the sincerity of their intentions were not inducted into governance. Military rule is no substitute for democracy but democracy cannot guarantee the country’s continued existence unless it is tempered to suit the environment prevailing, the varying cultures of the participating races and the geo-political compulsions of the area one is placed in. Without this Army, there is no Pakistan and whatever democracy western sensitivities may propagate, their’s is a hypocritical stance that treats different countries with differing standards. In some countries they are the champions of democracy, where it suits their political and commercial interests they will condone autocracy. Those who defame the Army at will, do not either understand the consequences of putting the Army’s credibility under undue pressures or probably do so knowing the consequences thereof. If the Army fails to hold the nation together, the resultant human tragedy will surpass Afghanistan, Somalia, Zaire, etc. We do not want to end up as a bloody postscript in the international print and electronic media, with nobody really caring what happens to us. Therefore, we have no choice, since Musharraf is the Chief of the Army and the Army is power, we have to support him. And hope that he will not misuse the responsibility thrust upon him, that he does good for this country for the sake of this country and the Army, not for his own persona.


Good leaders need luck, both Napolean and Nixon recommended it. Again Pervez Mosharraf has a win-win situation here. Both Jaish Mohammad and Lashkar-I-Tayyaba were on our hit list to be dismantled anyway as their activities within Pakistan were detrimental to the concept of the freedom struggle in Kashmir, which is largely indigenous. Thanks be to India we have a good enough excuse for us now to do it. Religious and ethnic parties that foment militancy of any kind,  those that talk more about Kashmir from outside Kashmir but reserve their killings to internecine strife between themselves within Pakistan, must be banned. The Indian bellicosity has united the nation behind the President i.e everywhere except those on the cocktail circuit whose loyalty and patriotism is questionable even at the best of times.  Feted in Beijing on his way to Kathmandu for the SAARC Conference in an unusual show of Chinese warmth at this critical time,  Musharraf has shown up India to be what it is, a regional bully engaged in dangerous nuclear brinkmanship for domestic political compulsions, mainly the elections in February in India’s most populous State, UP.


The President must be sincerely commended for having the battle instinct to post combat experienced officers to what is perceived as “vital ground”. Pragmatism has generally evaded our military hierarchy for over 50 years. Some are great “warriors” during times of peace (a booming loud voice helps), very few choose to be in harm’s way once war is imminent. Pervez Musharraf has made very calculated moves cold-bloodedly in the supreme interests of the nation, he must ensure that only the best fill critical civil and military positions as force-multiplier assets to Pakistan. As a man who does not wait for hell to freeze before taking decisions, Pervez Musharraf has now to take some very important ones in a great hurry. On his correct instincts will depend the future existence of Pakistan, by now we know that Pervez Musharraf will not shirk his duties to the nation whatever it takes.