Musharraf-Hafiz Tango


Pakistan military doesn’t differ between Lashkar-e-Toeba founder Hafiz Saeed and former President and military chief Pervez Musharraf so long as they serve its interest

By Mridu Kumari

While Pakistan is putting up a brave face in the wake of international community’s move to push the country in the dock over terrorism issue, it is the country’s highly trusted friend, China which has begun to hurt Islamabad where it hurts the most–economy; it has put on hold China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) citing involvement of huge corruption in the project. Chinese announcement came after Pakistan rejected the Chinese conditions for constructing the Diamer-Bhasha hydropower project and Beijing’s request to use Yuan as official currency in Gwadar. Experts say these developments signify a setback for the future economic cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing. But then it was inevitable. Several Pakistani lawmakers have in the recent past cried foul over CPEC project, citing its opaqueness on the operational front.

As the development sent chill down Pakistani leaders’ spine, common people are not able to comprehend as to what is happening on domestic political front; Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, Hafiz Saeed has formed a political outfit called Milli Muslim League (MML) and it will contest the 2018 parliamentary elections. If this has not shocked you then be prepared for unmitigated rude jolt as Pakistan’s former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf has expressed his desire to contest parliamentary polls in alliance with the  MML, the outfit which unsuccessfully contested bye-poll in Lahore against Kulsoom Nawaz, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife. Musharraf who is known for his foxiness has a fondness for LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad and he acknowledged it without any shred of hesitation. It should be noted that for any Pakistani army general–serving or retired, not admitting his connection with terrorist outfits is like fudging the facts about his country and its existential meaning.

Therefore, if the former Pakistani military dictator who is credited for thrusting thousands of his country’s soldiers into the 1999 Kargil War only to be pushed back after being bludgeoned black and blue by Indian soldiers, says that he is ready to shake hands with the UN and the US declared terrorist Hafiz Saeed for electoral politics, this move needs closer observation. As soon after Musharraf’s announcement, Nadeem Awan, the Information Secretary of Jamaat-ud-Dawa(JuD), the political front of the LeT said that the former military dictator’s desire to form an alliance with the MML will be “on the agenda in the next meeting, where we will discuss all possibilities of the coalition.” Though the issue will be cleared by Hafiz Saeed, it should be noted that Musharraf who is in exile in Dubai, is ready to come back to his country.  

Facing serious charges of unlawfully suspending the Constitution and instituting emergency rule in 2007, murdering former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf is out on bail. But since Pakistan is a country where military rules the roost, the former Pakistan military dictator may find way to come back to the country and join mainstream politics with help from the former. Hafiz Saeed who along with his four aides-Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain was placed under house arrest under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 on January 31, was released by the judicial review board of Punjab province comprising judges of the Lahore High Court. He was released despite objections from India and the US. That means both civilian and military establishment co-opted with judiciary in the release of Hafiz Saeed against whom the US has announced a bounty of $10 million for his alleged role in the Mumbai terror attack.

Pakistan military doesn’t differ between Hafiz Saeed and Pervez Musharraf so long as they serve its interest. It is primarily Pakistani military that wants embers of Kashmir to keep on burning.  And Musharraf has on record said that he is the biggest supporter of the LeT and Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD) as they suppress Indian army in Kashmir. Hafiz Saeed’s objective is to keep Indian establishment on its toe by pushing terrorists into Indian territory thereby, enabling Pakistan’s military fulfill its strategic goal. There is no denying the fact that Pakistan military plays a role in bringing Musharraf and Hafiz Saeed together. Pervez Musharraf, the 74-year-old retired general who is on self-exile in Dubai, said that the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed “is involved in Kashmir” and he supports their involvement. It should be noted that there is a group in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and also some political outfits, including cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan headed party that want to stoke the Kashmir issue. Imran Khan too has a soft corner for the LeT founder and JuD leader. He is equally close to his country’s military leaders. But in any situation, Pakistan’s men-in-uniform will prefer their own man than Imran Khan when it comes to decision making and putting India on the mat.

For a complex and chaotic country like Pakistan, it is, however, difficult to walk straight political and economic path. Its financial situation is in dire straits. China has stopped funding $64 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor citing involvement of corruption in the project, while the US is reviewing financial aid to the country. As major subversive or terrorism incidents don’t take place without coordinated action from a group of selected armed jihadis, ISI and the Pakistani army officials. There are 20 terrorist groups which are active in the region and they share a common ideology with more or less the same objective of setting up caliphate in the region. While Pakistan military is said to be at odds with this ideology, it is standing with them on their activities in India and Afghanistan.

Following India’s concerted effort to keep Pakistan in the spot over its support to terrorist outfits besides, looming threat of it being declared as terrorist state by the Donald Trump administration, some powerful groups within the Pakistani force have drawn a road map to protect their strategic interests vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. They want pro-Pakistan outfits to survive so that their nexus with the country’s drug mafia and money launderers could continue along with their strategy to keep the region burning. This has resulted in making things complex and knotty so much so that many senior ISI and Pakistani defence officials, it is said, don’t know for whom a certain outfit is working and for what purpose. It is in this background, recent overture of Pervez Musharraf towards the UN and the US declared terrorist and his outfit has to be closely watched. In any case, however, the 2018 parliamentary polls will be highly crucial for Pakistan. Military will like that poll verdict in the country be fractured so that it could continue to play one functionary of the government against another. It would not like Sharifs or Bhuttos to be at the helms of the country’s affairs as they don’t support military and ISI’s every nefarious activity. At the same time China will find itself under focus so long as Pakistan is concerned. Although it has not overtly indulged in any country’s internal affairs, but after the Zimbabwe episode, there should not be any confusion as to what Beijing would do with its all-weather friend to which it has bank rolled millions of money to keep CPEC project going.