“IN THE LINE OF FIRE” – REMINISCENCESAugust 21, 2009
Posted by Mr. Ahmad Subhani
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan: Our country is beset with a peculiar phenomenon, that is, sitting governments usually ascribe most of their failures and difficulties to the policies and practices followed by their preceding regimes. The same has happened in the case of former President, Pervez Musharraf. It has been alleged by the incumbent Govt, that the difficulties and intractable problems that it is encountering, is the fall out of Musharraf’s era Prima facie, most of the allegations made are either fabricated while the rest have been blown out of all proportion. During Pervez Musharraf’’s reign, Pakistan registered phenomenal progress in all spheres of national activity, so much so, that in his days, Pakistan’s economy was rated as the second fastest growing economy in Asia and was considered to be nearing the “ take off “ stage.
This scribe, who has closely witnessed “ the ebbs and flows “ that this nation has gone through in its sixty-two years checkered history, and as an impartial observer ( having no links or affiliation with any political group or party ever ), considers myself as qualified enough to judge un-biased, whatever has transpired during this period. However, in this write up, I would like to confine myself to the Musharraf era—–1999 onwards. Having gone through his speeches, statements and actions, I have found him a straight forward, truthful, honest and courageous man. One may differ from his policies and performance, yet no one in his right frame of mind can call him corrupt or unpatriotic. In his memoirs, “In the Line of Fire”, he has described in his usual forthright style, how he has faced awkward situations and solved intractable problems during his eight -year rule. Reproduced, here-under, are extracts from his said memoirs covering important events that took place during his tenure: —
PERSONAL TRAITS :- I dedicate this book to the people of Pakistan—–those who toil, sacrifice, and pray for their country and who wait patiently for a better future. They deserve a committed, selfless leadership, which can help them realize their boundless potential. A metamorphosis took place in me in the first months and years after Partition. An uprooted little boy found earth that was natural to him. He took root in it for ever. I would protect that earth with my life. (P.-18)
I said that I was very sorry and it would not happen again……all he said was, “OK, never do it again” and let me go. That is when I learnt the power of truth that has never left me. (P-34)
First, I have seen for myself that honesty—even under adversity, even if it could lead to a negative outcome—- always disarm the other person. Second, truthfulness is a sine qua non of good character. Third, contentment with whatever I have possessed or achieved, has kept me from greed or over ambition. I was fortunate to rise as far as I did, but I would have been content if my fortunes were different. (P 329)
9 / 11 EVENTS :- Powell was quite candid: “You are either with us or against us”. I took this as a blatant ultimatum…..I told him that we were with the United States against terrorism, having suffered (ourselves) from it for years……the next day, our director general of Inter Services Intelligence……told me on the phone about his meeting with the Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most un-diplomatic statement ever made, Armitage….told the director general…..that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age. (P 201)
WAR ON TERROR :- Pakistan’s decision to support the global war on terror was based on its own interests. There is no reason why we would not do enough for ourselves. In fact, Pakistan is the only country in the world that has done the maximum in the fight against terrorism (P 271). The United States and Europe too often equate all militancy with terrorism; in particular, they equate the struggle for freedom in Indian—held Kashmir with terrorism. Pakistan has always rejected this broad- brushed treatment (P 332). No one else’s bomb is called Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Capitalist or Communist, yet somehow our bomb becomes “Islamic”. As if it makes it illegitimate. This idea is illogical and essentially racist. This is an example of how Muslims continually feel unjustifiably singled out and alienated. (P 286)
KARGIL :- It was not credible for a prime minister to claim that something like Kargil could happen without his knowledge ( P 109 ). One myth is that the operation was launched without the army taking the political leadership into confidence. This is a very unfortunate perception, because nothing can be farther from the truth……As the operation developed, he (Nawaz Sharif) was briefed by the director general of military operations on May, 17. Later, briefings were arranged on June 2 and June 22. A second myth is that the military situation on the ground was precarious, and the prime minister dashed to Washington to get the army out of it. This disinformation is a much bigger lie. In their two months of operations, the Indians came no where near the watershed and our main defense. (P 96)
AIRCRAFT EPISODE :- The pilot had informed him (military secretary) that our plane was not being allowed to land at any airfield in Pakistan and was being ordered to get out of Pakistan’s air space immediately.. Only one hour and ten minutes’ fuel remained. (P 102). No one below the prime minister: could give such a drastic order. Sacking an army chief is one thing; but hijacking his plane and sending him to India is, as I said, diabolical. (P 103)
ARMY CHIEF AS ARBITRATOR :- I saw then how national personalities—–including opposition politicians—– regularly visited the army chief to encourage him to oppose the sitting Govt…….whenever any Govt. was performing poorly ( unfortunately that was the norm in the “ democratic decade “ of the1990s ) or was in political trouble, all roads led to the army GHQ. During this decade, whenever there was acrimony between the president and the prime minister, the army chief would be sucked into the fray. He was expected by all and sundry, including the antagonists, to act as an arbitrator. (P 77)
ARMY TAKE OVER / MARTIAL LAW :- Our past experience had amply demonstrated that martial law damages not only the military but also civil institutions……. We all wanted to ensure that this would be the last time the army was forced to assume leadership of the country. We had to set in place a system under which future army take overs would be all but impossible. (P 143-44)
CONSTITUTION :- In retrospect, I believe that my decision not to abrogate the constitution and not to impose martial law were both correct.. (P 152)
DEMOCRACY :- I ardently believe that no country can progress without democracy, but democracy has to be tailored in accordance with each nation’s peculiar environment. (P 154). If democracy is to be functional and sustainable, it has to be tailored to local conditions. In Pakistan, we had too many elections that only empowered an elite class whose primary objective is, to preserve, protect and fortify its privileges even at the cost of the country and neglect of its people. (P 155) ….. What we in Pakistan have consciously constructed, in stead, is a rule by a small elite class never democrat….. working with a tribal—feudal mind-set, “in the name of people” with a democratic camouflage. (P 154)
EXTREMISM :- At our core, the people of Pakistan are religious and moderate….. only a small fringe of population is extremist. This fringe holds rigid or orthodox, even obscurantist and intolerant views about religion. The problem arises when it wants to impose its rigid, dogmatic views on others. This fringe is not only militant and aggressive, but also can be indoctrinated into terrorism. (P 277). To-day, the central masses are confused about where Islam actually stands……They need to be drawn away from the cleric’s obscurantist views, toward the enlightened, progressive, moderate message of Islam. (P 278)
ACHIEVEMENTS :- History judges leaders by results. Let my results do the talking through a look at what I inherited in 1999, and what we achieved by 2005. All macroeconomic indicators became positive. In 1999, we were on the verge of default. The dreaded word “failed state” was on every one’s lips. The economy is (now) on upsurge. Our gross domestic product (GDP) has risen from $ 65 billion to $ 125 billion. The growth in GDP rose from 3.1 % to healthy 8.4 %…..our over all foreign debt has been reduced from 39 billion to 36 billion…..Per capita income has risen from $ 460 to $800. We are now in the middle income category of countries- up from the low income category. Foreign exchange reserves have risen from a paltry $ 300 million to $ 12.5 billion….Exports are hitting at $17 billion for 2006’ whereas they were only $ 7.8 billion in 1999……Revenue collection has increased from $ 5.1 billion to $ 11.7 billion Remittances jumped 400 % from $ 1 billion to over $ 4 billion….The 100 index of Karachi Stock Exchange which had remained under 1000 points, has become constantly bullish rising to over 11500 p0ints in 2006 (P 191—92)
AFTER PERVEZ MUSHARRAF :- “ In the Line of Fire” was published in 2006. Till then, the ship of the state was cruising forth smoothly with flying colours. However, in 2007, certain crucial events turned the tide against him. These were promptly exploited to the hilt by the opposition parties and their cohorts. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, then added fuel to the fire. Said mishaps eroded Musharraf’s popularity considerably and eventually led to his exit from the corridors of power in 2008. However, the change, as subsequent events proved, was catastrophic for Pakistan and its people. The performance of the newly elected “democratic” government, who came into power for more than one and a half years ago, has proved to be disastrous. All economic indicators that were positive in the previous government’s time have turned negative. Economy has nose-dived so rapidly and to such an extent, that Pakistan has been labeled as one of the ten failed states in the World. In the face of such gloomy circumstances, the attitude of the ruling junta and its allies is simply flabbergasting. Instead of tackling the fast deteriorating all-pervading conditions, especially the economic which has crushed the masses under the iron wheels of ever-increasing poverty, unemployment, deprivation and host of other issues that demand Government’s prompt attention and immediate remedial measures, Govt. functionaries, particularly, Nawaz Sharif and his lieutenants, are persisting with the demand that Pervez Musharraf be put on trial, come what may. Why Nawaz Sharif is so insistent on this trial, seems to be for two reasons; One- It, in fact, is a case of personal vendetta on his part since he was ousted from power by Musharraf in 1999 as a result of the notorious aircraft episode which was Nawaz Sharif’s own doing, Second- To divert attention of desperate and disillusioned teeming millions from their present agonizing plight.
May Allah, in his benevolent mercy, save Pakistan by providing it with competent leadership that could steer the nation towards its true destiny, as envisioned by its founding fathers, the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal.