Why Musharraf isn't a 'key ally in the war on terror'

Over and over again we’re told that President Musharraf is ‘a key ally in the war on terror’ and ‘a moderate’ who is supposedly trying to defeat extremists.

Musharraf is no moderate. In 1999 he almost started a nuclear war with India by sending his forces into Kargil across the border between India, Pakistan and Kashmir. When Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the army to withdraw Musharraf started planning his military coup (1), (2). In October 2001 during the US invasion of Afghanistan Musharraf publicly warned the Northern Alliance not to “take advantage” of this to expel the Taliban from Afghanistan’s government (3).

That’s not unusual behaviour in Pakistan’s military which from independence on has moved from massacring non-Muslims in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to arming, training and funding Islamic jihadists and terrorists from the Taliban to Pakistani terrorist groups targeting civilians in India and Kashmir (4). In the late 90s Osama Bin Laden operated from some of the same camps in which Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence trained these terrorist groups (5).

The army also continues its longstanding practice of covertly aiding Islamic fundamentalist parties in Pakistan with money and allowing them and fundamentalist terrorists free rein while threatening, arresting and harassing members of secular parties (6), (7), (8), (9).

Despite promises from Musharraf of fair elections EU observers reported that neither the 2002 elections nor the recent ones were fair (10), (11), (12), (13), (14). Musharraf and his Islamic fundamentalist allies in the Pakistan Muslim League lost the latest elections despite sending police to harass and arrest opposition party members; despite the ISI harassing, attacking and murdering journalists under Musharraff, as the Committee to Protect Journalists reports (15); despite the atmosphere of fear created by the military and their violent fundamentalist allies; despite placing opposition party leaders like Imran Khan under house arrest after they were handed over to police by Islamic extremists (16).

Yet shamefully the US government are still providing Musharraf and the military more billions in military aid. The Bush administration and the British government are also putting pressure on the parties that won the latest elections to let Musharraf stay on as President and allow his unconstitutional dismissal of the head of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to stand (17).

What does it say about their judgement and their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, that they prefer funding and supporting a military dictator and a military which has trained, armed, funded and fought alongside jihadist terrorists for decades to accepting the will of the majority of the people of Pakistan as expressed in elections? If our governments will just stop being either the dupes or the accomplices of Musharraf and Pakistan’s military then democracy there has a real chance to defeat violent extremism. Isn’t that what the ‘war on terror’ is meant to be about?

copyright © Duncan Malcolm McFarlane 2008

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(1) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005, Chapter 6, pages 248-256 of paperback edition

(2) = Siddiqa, Ayesha (2007). ‘MILITARY INC. : Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’, Pluto Press, London, 2007, pages 96-97 of paperback edition

(3) = New York Times 09 Oct 2001 , 'Pakistani Is Already Calling on U.S. to End Airstrikes Quickly', http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D01E3D9113CF93AA35753C1A9679C8B63

(4) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005, entire book but especially pages 71-3 , 78-80,190-191, 290, 298, 299-300

(5) = On Bin Laden using the same training camps in Afghanistan in which Pakistan’s ISI was training Pakistani jihadist groups listed by the state department as terrorist groups to fight in Kashmir – and on Bin Laden having links to these ISI trained Pakistani terrorist groups - see the following :

Washington Post 22 Aug 1998 ‘ Pakistanis reportedly killed in raids’ Washington post archive link


Washington Post 26 Aug 1998 ‘U.S strike is blow to Pakistan’s rulers’, Washington post archive link

Both cited by

Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005, pages 299 -300 of paperback edition

(6) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005, especially pages 51-2, 57-8, 200-213

(7) = Siddiqa, Ayesha (2007). ‘MILITARY INC. : Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’, Pluto Press, London, 2007, pages 63-4, 84-87, 102, 108

(8) = Guardian 4 Apr 2004, ‘Pakistan frees 1,300 hardliners’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/04/pakistan.rorymccarthy

(9) = Independent 17 Dec 2007 ‘Terror suspect escapes police’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/terror-suspect-escapes-police-765479.html

(10) = EU Election Observation Mission to Pakistan - October 2002 http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/human_rights/eu_election_ass_observ/pak/index.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/human_rights/eu_election_ass_observ/pak/finalreport02.pdf

(11) = Guardian 16 Sep 2002, ‘Musharraf regime 'is rigging election', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/sep/16/pakistan.rorymccarthy

(12) = Guardian 21 Feb 2008 , ‘Musharraf pushes Swiss to prosecute Zardari’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/21/pakistan, Third from last paragraph reads ‘But EU observers said they found evidence of significant manipulation in favour of Musharraf's party, particularly in the run-up to polling. "A level playing field was not provided for the campaign, with authorities primarily favouring the former ruling parties," Michael Gahler, head of the observer mission, told reporters.’

(13) = Dawn (Pakistan) 21 Feb 2008 , ‘EU monitors point out poll irregularities’, http://www.dawn.com/2008/02/21/top10.htm

(14) = EUROPEAN UNION ,ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION PAKISTAN 2008 , NATIONAL AND PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS, 18 FEBRUARY 2008, PRELIMINARY STATEMENT , preliminary conclusions (pages 1 to 3), http://www.delpak.cec.eu.int/WHATSNEW/statement/Preliminary%20Statement%20Pakistan%2020%20February.pdf

1st Paragraph “The 18 February National and Provincial Assembly elections were held under a framework and environment that provided significant challenges for the conduct of democratic elections. A level playing field was not provided for the campaign, with public authorities primarily favouring the former ruling parties. However, on election day, voting was assessed as positive on the whole, although some disorder and procedural irregularities were noted.’

2nd & 3rd Paragraphs “Observers and candidate agents were not granted sufficient access to results compilation at constituency level. Very few returning officers displayed constituency results with a breakdown by polling station – a basic transparency requirement.

The election process began while emergency rule was in place and the constitution was suspended, together with its guarantees of fundamental rights. Several thousand people, including journalists, were detained. Emergency rule was lifted only one day before the beginning of the campaign period. During the period of emergency rule, many judges were removed, which undermined public confidence in the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. These developments were not conducive to a good environment for elections.”

5th paragraph of preliminary conclusions (2nd bullet point on page 2) : Elements of the legal framework for elections were problematic, including restrictions on fundamental rights of expression, assembly and movement, essential to a genuine democratic process. There were also restrictions on candidacy and a lack of transparency in results tabulation.

2nd last bullet point on page 2 : Nazims were directly involved in campaigning activity and the misuse of state resources in their areas, mostly on behalf of PML-Q candidates. There were credible reports of police harassment of opposition party workers and agents. Some candidates across the board placed undue pressure on public authorities within their constituency to make public resources available to them.

Last bullet point on page 2, para continuing onto page 3 : Since the 2002 elections the media environment has become more diverse and vibrant. Restrictions and pressures were placed on the media before, during and after emergency rule, and limited freedom of expression during the election period. Nonetheless, private media outlets provided candidates and parties with pluralistic coverage. In contrast, the public broadcasters, the main source of information for most of the population, failed to live up to their responsibility to maintain balance. They provided substantial coverage of the President, government and PML-Q and limited coverage of other parties.

(15) = (15) = Reuters 27 Jul 2006, ‘Pakistan urged to probe 7 reporters' deaths’, http://www.internews.org/articles/2006/20060727_washpost_pak.shtm , see especially 2nd paragraph and 4th to 8th paragraphs – According to the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists 48 journalists harassed, attacked in Pakistan in the fist 6 months of 2006 alone. Among them was one found shot in the back of the head with bullets of the type supplied as standard issue to Pakistan’s military intelligence forces after he published an article contradicting army claims that a missile attack in side Pakistan was not carried out by US forces

cited by

Siddiqa, Ayesha (2007). ‘MILITARY INC. : Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’, Pluto Press, London, 2007, chapter 3, pages 98 & 260 of paperback edition

(16) = Guardian 15 Nov 2007, ‘Khan arrested under terror laws as Musharraf defends crackdown’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/15/pakistan.declanwalsh , 8th to 10th paragraphs read ‘But moments later he was dragged into a physics building by activists from the student wing of Jamaat Islami…The JI students had warned Khan against bringing his campaign to the university, which has been a stronghold of the often violent Islamist activists since the 1980s….An hour later Khan was bundled into a white van and driven to the campus gates, where police took him into custody.’

(17) = Independent 21 Feb 2008, ‘Don't sack Musharraf, US and UK warn election victors’ , http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/dont-sack-musharraf-us-and-uk-warn-election-victors-784909.html

copyright © Duncan Malcolm McFarlane 2008