Thursday, January 3, 2008


By B. Raman
The much talked about US plans for a political paradrop of a neo Benazir Bhutto into Pakistan in the hope of providing the badly-needed oxygen to President General Pervez Musharraf and saving the country from Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and an assortment of other pro-Al Qaeda and anti-US jihadi terrorist groups is likely to create a third mess in a row for the US after the earlier two in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. All the reports from a variety of sources in Pakistan are clear on one point---- there is widespread anti-Americanism in the general public. This is not confined to the fundamentalist and jihadi parties. It is widely shared right across the country.

3. One of the reasons for the growing unpopularity of Musharraf is the public perception of him as a collaborator of the US in its so-called war against jihadi terrorism, which is viewed as a war against Islam. Outside the tribal areas, the Pakistani people are by and large moderate. They are unhappy over the role of the fundamentalists and the jihadis in hampering the modernisation of the country and in retarding its economic development. But they are equally unhappy over the perceived role of the US in influencing, if not dictating, not only the foreign, but also the domestic policy of the country.

4. Any leader---whether it be the Neo Benazir or anyone else--- who seeks to regain power with the support of the US with promises to co-operate with the US more effectively than at present in the so-called war against jihadi terrorism is unlikely to have much credibility in the eyes of the people.

5. Moreover, anyone even with rudimentary knowledge of Pakistan would know that Benazir, like Musharraf, is an opportunist par excellence. Both have broken more promises than kept them in the past. Both have betrayed more political allies than stood by them. Look at the way the Neo Benazir let down Mr.Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in her anxiety to come to power. Look at the way Musharraf is apparently prepared to ditch the PML (Qaide Azam), whose formation was engineered by him in 2002 in order to have himself elected as the President, in order to get her support for his re-election.

6. Benazir and Musharraf were birds of the same feather in the past. Remember how she, as the Prime Minister in her first term (1988-90) asked the Inter-Services Intelligence to start terrorism in India's Jammu and Kashmir in 1989? She, Maj.Gen.Naseerullah Babar, her Interior Minister during her second term (1993-96), and Musharraf, then the Director-General of Military Operations (DMO), were the joint creators of the Taliban and facilitated its capture of Kabul in September, 1996.It was she, who allowed Osama bin Laden, to shift from Khartoum to Jalalabad in 1996, thereby paving the way for the creation of Al Qaeda's infrastructure in Afghan territory. She was as responsible as Musharraf for the rogue activities of Dr.A.Q.Khan and other nuclear scientists. Pakistan's clandestine nuclear co-operation with Iran and Libya, started under Zia-ul-Haq, made headway under her and its clandestine nuclear and missile co-operation with North Korea started during her second tenure .

7. Musharraf has not kept up his promises to co-operate sincerely with the US in neutralising Al Qaeda activities from Pakistani territory.He has avoided action against the operations of the Neo Taliban in Afghan territory from its sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. Not having learnt any lessons from its pathetic faith in Musharraf, which has not produced results, the US is banking on Benazir's promise of strong action against the extremists and terrorists if the US supports her return to power. It seems to believe that Musharraf and Benazir acting together could save Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of the jihadi terrorists.

8. To expect that two opportunists such as Musharraf and Benazir, known for their insincerity, would now mend their ways and work jointly against terrorists is to live in a fools' paradise. Musharraf wants desperately to continue in power to save himself from ignominy. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that he would need the support of the US for this. She wants desperately to return to power, to have the corruption cases against her closed and to let her husband Asif Zirdari make more money as if the millions, if not billions, made by him during her first two tenures are not adequate.She feels she can do so only with US support.

9. Sections of the US media have quoted US officials as justifying the proposed Musharraf-Benazir patch-up as the best of the bad options available. So they said, when they gave unqualified backing to Musharraf post 9/11. So they are saying now.

10. US calculations of political stability in Pakistan under such a patch-up may be belied. Benazir of today is not the Benazir of 1988. She came to power in 1988 through her own efforts with the support of the people of Sindh and southern and central Punjab. The voters rejected the PML of Nawaz Sharif, which they saw as the creation of the Army and the ISI. She made a deal with the US after winning the elections in order to make the Army drop its objections to her becoming the Prime Minister.

11. Today, the Neo Benazir, who denounced Nawaz and his PML in 1988 as the stooges of the Army and the ISI, is seeking the benediction of the US even before winning the elections and the support of Musharraf and his Army for her return to power and the closing of the corruption cases against her and her husband.

12.Even if the US-engineered patch-up ultimately materialises and she returns to contest the elections, the victory of her party will be uncertain. The elections will be seen as between the collaborators of the Army and the US on the one side and their opponents on the other. The opponents will have a decided advantage in view of the prevailing anti-Army and anti-US atmosphere. Moreover, she and her party could face difficulties even in Sindh in view of the expected strong showing of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Mr.Altaf Hussain.

13. Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal need to be protected from the hands of Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorists. Nobody can find fault with the over-all US objective, but it has been going about it in the wrong way. It should have allowed genuine democracy to take its own course, even at the risk of political forces not well disposed towards the US coming to power. Instead, by giving the impression of taking sides even before the elections and by making its ill-advised preferences known before the elections, it has given rise to the strong possibility of more instability, not less, more terrorism, not less.Even if Benazir comes to power in an election rigged by the Army,she will be seen as Pakistan's Hamid Karzai, who came to power not by the will of the people, but by riding on the shoulders of the US.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.


Sherry Rehman
Central Information Secretary
Pakistan Peoples Party,Pakistan
Letter to the Editor,
The Outlook September 10, 2007

This is with reference to Mr B Raman's article 'The Third Mess' that appeared in your esteemed publication on September 3, 2007. I apologise for this letter's length in advance, but the accusations he levels at Ms Bhutto, are innumerable, and require an answer.

Mr B. Raman is a well-respected writer who has held high level posts with the government of India . He currently heads the prestigious Institute for Topical Studies in Chennai, and one expects a person of his stature to present a responsible, accurate, insightful, objective and balanced view of affairs rather than ruthlessly pass on-the-fence opinions seeking to mislead the reader into a labyrinth of half-truths.

There are a number of factual errors and flawed conclusions Mr Raman has made while sitting miles away from the country and its people he has chosen to write on. Raman calls Ms Bhutto an opportunist as he feels she let Nawaz Sharif down. Not only is this untrue but malicious. Ms Bhutto had ideological as well as political differences with Mr Sharif over his growing association with the right-wing political party during the All Parties Conference in July this year. This rightwing alliance is in power in two out of four provinces of the country. Ms Bhutto, for her part, took a principled stance to not sit with the government parties and this was made public right from the start. If the respected author had taken the trouble to read press reports, he would have gathered that Ms Bhutto has made several public statements favouring Mr Sharif's return to the country and still considers him an ally in the struggle for the restoration of democracy.

Mr Raman would have also done well to understand the dynamics of Ms Bhutto's ongoing negotiations with the regime. Pakistan is a country that has suffered war-like violence for eight years now. People are entrapped in the vicious circle of poverty, unemployment, lack of justice leading to lawlessness - a state strengthened by the absence of a representative government. In this backdrop, the PPP, being the largest political party in the country with a massive following at the grassroots level has two options: confront the regime and put the nation through more trauma and bloodbaths, or hold negotiations for a peaceful transition to democracy.

Unlike other political parties, the PPP would not want to take the path of confrontation when the path of negotiations can be effectively taken to ensure the country's return to democracy without any bloodshed and violence.

Ms Bhutto's consistent demand before and during the negotiations has been the country's return to democracy through free and fair elections, balance of powers between the vital organs of the state, and especially between the Parliament and the Presidency and the removal of a president in uniform. None of these demands are undemocratic in nature, nor has Ms Bhutto ever asked the government to assure her a PM's seat post the elections. Furthermore, Ms Bhutto seeks indemnity for all the governments that were in power from 1988-99 (that includes six years of Mr Sharif's rule). The PPP is least worried about the votes as we are sure that the people of Pakistan will vote for the Party, for its liberal and democratic agenda, if they are allowed to vote without the fear of the gun.

Mr Raman maliciously accuses Ms Bhutto for being involved in terrorism in India and for being the creator of Taliban. He further accuses her of being a part of the nuclear racket. Interestingly, the writer, despite his academic credentials fails to cite a single reference/proof to support his claims. Just to set the record straight, Ms Bhutto ruffled quite a few feathers in the Pakistani establishment for her fearless stand against nuclear proliferation and she has paid the price for it too. As far as the writer's allegations regarding Ms Bhutto being the creator of Taliban is concerned, this again reflects poorly on the writer's knowledge and the understanding of dynamics that drive the foreign policy of any country. The Taliban government was not created by Ms Bhutto's government. It was instead contained to Kandahar, as a localised entity, and never accorded recognition by her government even after they had dislodged the government in Kabul and claimed to be the rulers of Afghanistan.

The writer also accuses Ms Bhutto of aiming to return to power to make money. This is again defamatory and personal. Mr Raman would do well to know that this is not the first time Ms Bhutto has been approached by the regime. If power was all the PPP had aimed for, we had a better opportunity to grab it in the 2002 elections when we received the highest number of votes in the elections despite the massive rigging that oversaw the rise of right wing political parties to power.

Just to set the record straight, the US is not 'engineering' the dialogue, as the writer implies. The US and the British government have been encouraging towards such a dialogue as they see transition and not confrontation as the best answer to the political turmoil that Pakistan has been going through.

When a writer of the calibre of Mr Raman makes such a case, and a publication of the stature of Outlook India carries it, one expects an element of responsibility from the two due to their great influence in shaping public opinion. I hope your publication will review the arguments espoused in this article in the very near future.

Sincerely Yours,

Sherry Rehman

Central Information Secretary,

Pakistan Peoples Party

-- Sherry RehmanCentral Information SecretaryPakistan Peoples Party49 Old Clifton, Karachi021 5834663/421, St 37, F 7/1, Islamabad051 9224129Pakistan" La Ikraha Fid Deen"{There is No Compulsion in Religion]The Quran