Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org

PAKISTAN COULD SPLIT IN REVOLT, images of 'crusader' america

September 19, 2001

"The decision to support America under pressure is one of the military leadership and not the decision of the army as an institution. The nation will never accept it. Such a decision by an employee of the state has no validity. If Mullah Omar gives a call for jihad (holy war), the Islamic world will support it." Former Head of Pakistan's powerful Intelligence Agency (ISI)

MID-EAST REALITIES - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 9/19: General Pervez Musharaff has now spoken to his own country, invoking stories of Mohamed and the Koran. Clearly he is shaken...and shaking. All former bets about the "new world order" now need to recalculated and recast. A multitude of historic forces have now been set in motion. Not only did the world of the United States change because of what happened on 11 September 2001. A political, even an existential earthquake is potentially underway now in various locations on the globe with events threatening to spiral possibly out of control. The very fact that a man of limited understanding, an American Texan who is most at home in cowboy boots using slogans from the old Wild West, is now President of the United States should be unsettling to far more than seems to be the case. The fact that this President actually was repeatedly using the term "crusade" earlier this week (until informed he was in the minds of Muslims and Arabs invoking images of the Crusades of early Islamic history!) should be a major warning how not fully enaged and aware the President of the United States actually is -- no matter what his multitude of spinners then say about what he really means to say. When we look back in the future, much that is happening now may be pregnant with early warning signs of potential cataclysm yet to come, including the following:

By Zahid Hussain and Stephen Farrell

[The Times, UK, Islamabad - 19 Sept]: A FORMER head of Pakistan's powerful Intelligence agency said yesterday that the Pakistan Army would rise up and revolt together with civilians if the Government supported attacks on Afghanistan, in the loudest sign so far of the pressures on President Musharraf.

General Hamid Gul, the former head of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), who was in charge of the covert operation in Afghanistan but is now one of the most vocal critics of his former CIA allies, has turned on General Musharraf for taking sides against the Taleban.

"The decision to support America under pressure is one of the military leadership, and not the decision of the army as an institution. The nation will never accept it," he said. "Such a decision by an employee of the state has no validity. If Mullah Omar gives a call for jihad (holy war), the Islamic world will support it.

"America's chocolate-and-cream soldiers cannot compete with the battle-hardened Afghans. Afghans are happy that the Americans are coming, because they can take them prisoner and use them as hostages."

Yesterday thousands of demonstrators carrying life-sized pictures of Osama bin Laden marched through the streets of Karachi shouting "Death to America" and burning effigies of President Bush and General Musharraf.

Paramilitary police armed with machineguns and wearing riot gear were deployed to stop protesters marching on the US Consulate. Some called for "jihad until the destruction of America", others for the overthrow of General Musharraf.

The President has been backed by the two giants of the domestic political scene - the Pakistan People's Party of Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif - but antipathy to his decision to offer Pakistan's airspace and facilities to America's international "coalition against terror" runs throughout the religious, military and political institutions of Pakistan.

Although General Musharraf does not come from a traditional Punjabi military background - he is a refugee whose parents fled India after Partition in 1947 - most analysts believe that the army stands fully united behind him, at the moment. Over the past two years since his military coup in October, 1999, he has strengthened his position within the high command by bringing in his own loyalists in important positions such as corps commanders in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Quetta and Peshawar.

One of the three generals who organised the coup, General Mahmoud Ahmed, is now in charge of the ISI agency and is heading the Pakistani delegation sent to persuade the Taleban to hand over bin Laden.

Military experts say that all the generals who opposed the coup and presented potential threats have retired after completing their terms.

Although the high command appears to be fully behind General Musharraf, some generals have more hardline Islamic views. This is mainly a legacy of General Zia ul-Haq, who took power in 1977 after executing Mrs Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and then set about "Islamising" Pakistan's society and army.

The army, which was based on the British model and has many senior officers - including the President - who trained at British staff colleges, is still deeply hierarchical, but in recent years the Islamist influence has strengthened. One senior officer estimated yesterday that nearly 30 per cent of officers have strong Islamic views.

Some analysts believe that General Musharraf will survive only if he stops the protests early. They argue the army is more likely to divide along the faultlines between Islamicists and moderates if the troops have to confront abuse, accusing them of being traitors to Pakistan and Islam.

This is the first time that fundamentalists have come into direct confrontation with the military and the outcome will decide the future of Pakistan, many believe.

"It is the biggest test for Musharraf," Nasim Zehra, a political columnist, said.

"The outcome depends on how Musharraf communicates to the people and how he is able to prevent the spread of protests by a show of force. If he is able to contain the agitation within one week he will be able to sail through, but if it goes on and spreads to other parts of the country then there is a serious problem for him."

General Musharraf's most vocal opponents are religious parties and militant groups, whose influence has strengthened in recent years in the democratic vacuum created since his coup. Long patronised by the army, these groups are now prepared to turn their guns against the hand that once fed them.

Their disillusionment grew last month when the President banned armed mujahidin groups from collecting funds, displaying weapons and holding public recruiting ceremonies. It has accelerated since General Musharraf sided with the United States against the Taleban, who have close religious and family links with fellow Pashtun tribesmen across the border in Pakistan.

"The people will come out on the streets and revolt against the government," said Sami ul-Haq, the head of Pakistan's largest madrassa (religious school), the Jamia Afghania in Akora Khattak, which is regarded as a cradle of the Taleban leadership.

His Pakistan and Afghan Defence Council has called for a nationwide strike and has threatened to hold rallies for one month to mobilise public opinion against a possible American strike.

"The defence of Afghanistan is the defence of Pakistan," Mr ul Haq, a Pashtun, said. "How can we provide our bases to fight our own brothers? As with the Russians, Afghanistan will become a graveyard for Americans."

The Urdu-language newspaper Nawa-i-Waqat (The Voice of Time) pointed out that Washington used Pakistan to prop up mujahidin fighting Soviet forces during the 1980s, only to abandon it once the Cold War ended. "America has always ditched us at critical times, and by imposing sanctions it has tried to cripple us economically," it said.

Creating hostility between Pakistan and Afghanistan was also, it hinted, part of a conspiracy to undermine the world's one Muslim nuclear power.

Yet General Musharraf sees this as a turning point and the chance to extricate Pakistan from its drift toward Islamisation and alienation from the West and international donors who keep afloat an economy struggling with $36 billion in external debts.

He has his supporters. "A difficult moment has arrived for Pakistan, perhaps even a defining moment." Najmuddin Shaikh, a former Foreign Secretary, wrote yesterday. "Externally we must recognise that the stakes are higher than they have ever been. Internally there will be repercussions, but the choice should be clear: for our own security we should use this tragedy to pursue this campaign and extend it with a new steely resolve."
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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2001/9/394.htm