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Portrait of a general as Hafiz fan

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Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf

General Parvez Musharraf, Hafiz Saeed’s new fan, is piggy back on wanted terrorist’s new political outfit to get a re-entry into Pakistan politics. He had his own variation of Muslim League which has been languishing after a short-lived fame as a King’s Party. His recent attempts to bring together Mohajir groups and parties have failed to click despite the patronage of powers that matter in Karachi, the home to Mohajirs like him…writes Dr Sakariya Kareen     

Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf

Former Pakistani military dictator, Parvez Musharraf, living in self-exile, has just said that he is Hafiz Saeed’s ‘biggest supporter’ whose outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba, ‘loves’ him. The Musharraf-speak, dubbed as balderdash by the sedate Karachi daily, Dawn, came minutes after wanted terrorist Saeed was freed by Pakistani judiciary from his seventh detention, which in essence is house arrest. It also coincided with Hafiz Saeed’s plans to make a foray into politics with his own political party.

The general is coming out of his labyrinth. Musharraf wants to ride on Saeed’s shoulders for his re-entry into politics. He had his own variation of Muslim League which has been languishing after a short-lived fame as a King’s Party. His recent attempts to bring together Mohajir groups and parties have failed to click despite the patronage of powers that matter in Karachi, the home to Mohajirs like him.

So it is no rocket science to decipher Musharraf’s admiration for an internationally recognised terrorist who carries a $10 million US bounty? Well, he believes that a certificate for Saeed would win him wide support in the highly radicalised society of Pakistan. He needs support desperately and fast because he fancies, howsoever unrealistic it may look, his chances in Pakistan’s general elections due early next year.

Musharraf wants to see ‘action’ in Kashmir—his code word for terror and bloodshed—which comes from Pakistan-backed militant organisations.  His open admiration of LeT is an admission therefore that Hafiz Saeed and his ilk are responsible for terror attacks in Kashmir and other parts of India. And that their action is at the behest of the deep state of Pakistan.

This is the real face of Musharraf, a man who does not believe in peace. No one need be taken in by the fact that as the ruler of Pakistan he took some action against global terrorists because after a US ultimatum he was left with no other choice.  Even then he and his military friends managed to whisk away Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan to a safe haven very close to the Pakistan Military Academy at  Abbottabad, which is about two hours’ drive from Capital Islamabad.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of newly former Mili Muslim League

There are reasons to believe that even GHQ has felt embarrassed by the Musharraf-speak. Because he has brought the spotlight on the vast terror machine nurtured by Pakistan’s military, particularly the notorious Inter Service Intelligence (ISI).

From all accounts, Musharraf’s self-professed love for a global terrorist cannot be dismissed lightly. It is a clue that certain terror groups in Pakistan will be continuously used against India because a military adventure against India might end in disaster for the land of the pure.

In October 1999, Musharraf had usurped power by ousting the elected government of Nawaz Sharif who was working on improving relations with India. The present day troubles of Sharif with the military have their roots in his desire to further trade with India for mutual benefit. Well, that is beside the point.

Before staging the coup, Musharraf had launched the Kargil misadventure, thinking that it would be a cake walk for him to take Kashmir. He failed to achieve his ambition; instead earned the wrath of the US, till then a pillar of support for Pakistan, perhaps stronger than China. It set in motion the downhill slide in US-Pakistan relations from which Pakistan has not recovered despite pretentions of being happier with the tight Chinese embrace.

Musharraf may have retired from the army and as President of the country a long while ago but he would not say anything that does not conform to the thinking in the Pakistani army, the most powerful institution in the country. The close Musharraf-military ties were most in evidence when the GHQ used its influence with the judiciary to let the former dictator leave the country while still facing treason charges slapped by the Nawaz Government. Also the allegation of being involved in the murder of Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister, in 2007.

Hafiz Saeed

Hafiz Saeed’s forte is religious right extremists who are in the forefront of military-mullah alliance. Some of them had laid siege to Islamabad in November which was ended only after some back room foot-work by the ISI. The civilian government was unable to handle the situation and proved its impotency. The absolute ascendancy of the military helps Musharraf envisage a role for himself, should the military-mullah alliance do well in the 2018 general elections.

Musharraf may not be taken seriously by India. Also in the U.S.,for that matter. But it might be a folly to dismiss him and everything he says out of hand. India must question Pakistan about the connection between a former army chief and country head, and an internationally denounced terror outfit. Is Hafiz Saeed allowed, rather encouraged, to roam freely in the country preaching hatred against India and inciting people to join jihad against India because he is ‘loved’ by many, high and low, in the country?

People seem to have forgotten that during the initial days of export of terror to India many Pakistanis openly talked about how successful they have been in ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts’. A former head of ISI, Gen Hamid Gul, took credit for raising the terror outfits that operated in Kashmir.

When talking about Pakistan’s export of terror Indians usually focus their attention on Kashmir. But jehadis from Pakistan are sent to operate in other parts of the country too. The Indian government says that there has been a decline of terror directed by Pakistan against India. That may be a good political statement but it cannot lead to any complacency when a former strong man of Pakistan with obvious ties to serving officers in the military professes his fondness for a terror mastermind.

 

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