written by Aijaz Zaka Syed
BACK home in the subcontinent, they say you should always stay away from the cops: Their friendship as well as adversity is bad for one’s health. I am reminded of the advice as the world’s chief cop bombs its allies and friends in Pakistan. With friends like these, do you really need enemies?
When Pervez Musharraf had enthusiastically recruited Pakistan in the US war after that call from Colin Powell, he had assured his people that it was the only option available to Pakistan. Else, the general reasoned, the US would have bombed Pakistan back to the Stone Age. Fortunately or unfortunately for Pakistan, Musharraf is not around. Otherwise we could have asked the good general why the Coalition of the Willing has turned on its own.
Or is Pakistan no longer part of Bush’s divine mission to promote democracy and freedom in the Muslim world now that Musharraf is not in power? Or have Pakistan’s new leaders relinquished the total control of the Islamic republic to Uncle Sam?
Last week as new President Asif Ali Zardari joined “Brother Hamid Karzai” in a duet celebrating democracy and the glorious war of terror, the US forces were going about taking out “the terrorists” in the Northwest — “terrorists” who were women and children. I have nothing against Karzai. But he is not exactly the poster boy of democracy in the Muslim world. Most Pakistanis love to hate him. Musharraf might have committed a thousand blunders but he knew how to deal with the likes of Karzai.
But how do Pakistan’s new leaders propose to deal with the increasingly demanding Americans? Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani won the instant gratitude and admiration of his worried people by standing up to the US. The general was lionized by the Americans as “our man” when he took over from Musharraf as the army chief. There was much talk of his “enlightened moderation” and his positive outlook on the West.
Which was why the Pakistanis were elated to see the general lash out at the Americans vowing “retaliation” if they continued to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Whether the Pak Army will really take on America, the leading member of the fabled trinity, is still a hypothetical question. However, by asserting himself Kayani articulated the sentiments of the nation of 170 million people — at the receiving end for some time. More importantly, the general has provided the much-needed leadership and sense of direction to his disillusioned people at one of the most difficult points in the nation’s history.
But where are those who are supposed to lead the nation at all times? Where are the champions of democracy and freedom when they are under threat by the friends who are not so friendly?
While the rejuvenated Pak media is constantly debating the growing US attacks protesting against mounting civilian casualties, silence of the politicians is deafening. Zardari evaded all questions about the US incursions at his first press conference. It’s understandable if Benazir Bhutto’s widower finds himself indebted to Uncle Sam. After all, the US did play not an insignificant role in the turnaround of his fortune. It was the US pressure that persuaded Musharraf to bring in the National Reconciliation Ordinance paving the way for the return of Benazir and Zardari. It was the US again that pushed Musharraf to shed his uniform and hold elections. So even though it was the pro-democracy movement pioneered by the lawyers and the media that eventually brought Musharraf down, the man who spent 11 years in the prison on his way to the presidency views Washington as his real benefactor.
Which is why it’s doubtful when and if the neocons in their last desperate bid to make the most out of the Bush presidency hit Pakistan, they’ll face much resistance from the politicians.
Having totally wrecked Iraq and Afghanistan over the past seven years, the neocons are looking for fresh targets, new enemies and new territory to sustain the interest of the bored American voters. After the disastrous eight years of the Bush presidency, you would think the Republicans would be too embarrassed to ask for another shot at power. But if you can get Bush re-elected after what he unleashed on the Americans and the world in his first term, you can surely get another dummy elected all over again — even if he is too old to run and is promising to persist with the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan and open new fronts in Pakistan and Iran. Right now, the neocons are dangerously desperate. They could do anything to keep Barack Hussein Obama out of the White House. And for them, attacking Pakistan is the surest and only way to laugh all the way to the vote bank.
But who will tell the Bushies that if they hit Pakistan, the things could really come to a boil? The world’s first Muslim nuclear state might have been much abused by the men in khaki and the civvies over the past half a century. However, it’s not the defanged and neutered Iraq of Saddam Hussein. This is a country that has fought three major wars with the giant called India. The US may be the world’s greatest military power. But if it attacks Pakistan, all hell will break loose. It will end up turning the whole of Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia, into a large battlefield. So much so, Saddam’s Iraq would look like a long picnic.