The Janus State
Pervez Musharraf came to power on 13 October 1999 in dramatic circumstances which could almost have been scripted in Bollywood. Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to sack him in a national television broadcast and ‘hijack’ his plane en route from Colombo to Karachi enabled the Chief of Army Staff to pose as a reluctant coup maker. In reality, tensions had been growing between the army and the Pakistan Prime Minister since the Kargil conflict in July in which Musharraf was a leading strategist. The former company commander of a commando battalion and member of the elite Special Service Group had been promoted to Chief of Army Staff in October 1998 because, like Zia before him, he was seen as an apolitical figure without a power base in the army. Both coup makers were from partition migrant families in a Punjabi-and Pashtun-dominated institution. It was there, however, that the similarities ceased. Musharraf lacked Zia’s Deobandi-influenced piety and was more of the old-style Pakistan army officer, not averse to Scotch and soda and as at home on the golf course as the parade ground. He was thus far more like Ayub than Zia. His liberalism had been nurtured by family background. His father, Syed Musharrafuddin, was educated at Aligarh. His mother, who held a degree in English Literature from Delhi’s Indraprastha College, was equally liberally educated. Musharraf, because of his father’s posting to the Pakistan Embassy in Ankara, had spent seven years of his childhood (1949-56) in Turkey.
Despite Musharraf’s liberalism, he shared the army’s traditional disdain for politicians. He possessed public relations skills, but lacked the political skills to overcome the lack of legitimacy accorded to a coup-maker. While Musharraf possessed a liberal tinge, he was schooled in the instinctive authoritarianism of the Pakistan army. He thus became increasingly ruffled and impatient when his policies were questioned. He surrounded himself with loyalists who gave the advice he wished to hear. He eventually blundered into the situation in which he needed to declare an emergency following his suspension of a popular and independent-minded Chief Justice. Musharraf, who had declared himself the saviour of Pakistan’s democracy, was badly caught out. This action in November 2007 dealt a final blow to his international standing. Washington had grown weary of his ‘Janus-faced’ approach to militancy, after initially enthusiastically embracing him as an ally in the ‘War on Terror’. The Pakistan public also increasingly opposed his calibrated approach to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants. A liberalized media exposed Pakistan’s President to claims that he was a Western ‘stooge’.
The atmosphere had been very different at the outset of his regime. Musharraf, both in terms of his personal liberalism, being photographed with his pet dogs and in his taking the title of Chief Executive rather than Chief Martial Law Administrator, had sought to differentiate himself from Zia. Musharraf’s role model in early speeches, in keeping with his childhood and mid-career training in Turkey, was Kemal Ataturk. Enthusiasts for his regime continued to view him as the ‘second Jinnah’, committed to the founding father’s vision of a ‘moderate, progressive Muslim society’. Islamic moderation remained a watchword throughout the Musharraf era, although much less was heard about the ‘good governance’ agenda which he had vowed would replace the ‘sham democracy’ of the 1990s.
Despite the rhetoric, Musharraf did not modernize the taxation system, or roll back the Islamization legacies of the Zia era. Administrative reform shook up local government, but did not free rural society from the thralldom of patrimonial politics. There was little headway in tackling misogynist practices arising either from tribal custom or from the Hudood Ordinances. Musharraf’s attachment to a ‘good governance’ agenda, Islamic moderation and composite dialogue with India thus failed not only because of external economic and political buffetings, but because of the internal weaknesses and contradictions at the heart of the Pakistan state.
Reports which focus on his personality traits to account for the failings miss the vital point that Musharraf, like earlier Pakistan military rulers, needed to co-opt political allies. In doing so he lost the ability to introduce wide-ranging change and was as much in thrall to the vested interests of the religious establishment and the feudal class as were elected leaders. Military-backed rule thus once again proved unable to modernize Pakistan, even with a liberal and progressive-minded figure at its helm. Even the surging rate of economic growth proved to be an unsustainable bubble because of the failure to tackle long-term structural problems.
The Musharraf era exemplifies three long-running themes in Pakistan’s post independence history: firstly, that military governments are ultimately unable to modernize society, governance and the economy because of their lack of legitimacy; secondly, that Pakistan’s utilization of Islamic proxies has derailed relations with its neighbours and come at an increasing domestic cost; thirdly, the military rule is likely to increase ethnic tensions within the smaller provinces of Pakistan. The Musharraf era also reveals the complexities in Pakistan’s development which can puzzle if not elude headline writers and analysts alike. For here was a state in which a military ‘dictator’ could pursue more liberal media policies than his elected predecessor; one in which Baloch tribal chieftains with the absolute power of life and death over their dependants could represent national struggle from state ‘exploitation’; a state which is simultaneously remarkably resilient and ‘soft’ in terms of its ability to implement basic economic and administrative functions.
9/11 and its Aftermath
9/11 and the US’ and its allies’ subsequent ‘War on Terror’ exerted as profound an impact on Musharraf’s Pakistan as had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Zia’s regime a generation earlier. In both instances, Pakistan found itself a front-line state in a struggle whose ramifications reached far beyond the region. While 9/11 restored Musharraf’s international standing and brought a massive influx of resources, it also threatened the state’s established security policies. Reversal of support for the Afghan Taliban and a toning down of support for the Kashmir jihad would have in themselves alienated sections of Pakistan opinion. The accompanying military action from 2004 onwards in the Tribal Areas set the regime not only against its former proteges, but firmly against the tide of public opinion. This would not have mattered in former times, but Musharraf had made a point of liberalizing the media to provide ‘democratic‘ credentials for his regime.
There are many colourful and contrasting depictions of the circumstances in which Musharraf brought the powerful army corps commanders round to the policy of opposing their former Taliban proteges in Afghanistan. Economic weaknesses, with debts of $38 billion, along with strategic threats possibly from both the US and India, lay behind the decision. It was subsequently referred to as the ‘turnaround‘ in official circles. Superficially this was accurate, as Pakistan had been one of just three countries which had formally recognized the Taliban regime in Kabul. We have seen earlier that the Taliban were regarded as a means of securing Pakistan’s strategic interests and at least in part owed their rise to power to military and security assistance from Islamabad. However, the Taliban had proved not compliant neighbours for Pakistan. A goodwill visit by a Pakistani football team to Kandahar ended in the humiliation of public head-shaving after the visitors had violated the Taliban dress code by wearing shorts. Despite Islamabad’s appeals over the fate of the Bamiyan Buddha statues, the 2,000-year old sculptures were blasted from their cliff face in February 2001. Ultimately, however, the Taliban lost their value as a ‘strategic asset’ to Pakistan because of the growing influence of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, after they were forced to abandon Sudan.
Pakistan supported the Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2001 by granting over-flight and landing rights to the US, by sharing intelligence and facilitating the logistical supply of forces engaged in Afghanistan. In return, it gained leverage and acceptance from the international community when its standing was low not just because of the military seizure of power, but also the issue of nuclear proliferation. The US understood the egotistical Dr. A.Q. Khan, whom Musharraf had removed from his position as head of the nuclear programme in March 2001, and later placed under house arrest, was not simply a lone ‘rogue’ element in his secret dealings with Libya, Iran and North Korea. The inflow of foreign military and economic aid boosted Pakistan’s flagging economy. In 2000, Pakistan’s fiscal debt was 5.3% of GDP and its total debt stood at 92% of GDP. It is true that Pakistan had been granted an IMF standby credit of US $596 million before 9/11. Bit it was the country’s post 9/11 international standing which led to the inflow of foreign aid, higher remittances from overseas Pakistanis and the rescheduling of debt by the Paris Club of donors to help the accelerating growth rates. President Bush’s removal of economic sanctions, which had been in place since the nuclear tests and the Musharraf coup, paved the way for over &600 million in economic support funds to be received in 2002. The improving economic outlook saw annual rates of economic growth rise from an average of 3% at the beginning of the Musharraf era to a peak of over 6%. The parlous foreign exchange reserves, which were only sufficient to cover one month’s imports at US 908 million in 2000, rose to around 1 billion by 2004. One striking piece of evidence of the increased prosperity was the expansion of mobile-phone use in the six-year period 2001-07: from 600,000 to around 50 million.
Musharraf was unable, however, to make rapid economic growth sustainable, by tackling structural weaknesses in the economy. These included not just low taxation rates and poor physical infrastructure, but low human capital. Pakistan lagged most of South Asia with respect to Human Development Indicators such as infant mortality, primary school enrolment and expenditure on education. As the Human Development Report for 2007 summed up, ‘Economic growth in Pakistan is yet to be adequately linked with human development by deliberate re-distributive public policy. Indeed, the predicament of Pakistan lies in the utter divorce of income distribution policies from growth policies’. With a third of the population living below the poverty line and over half having no access to education, basic health services or sanitation, growth remained captive to exogenous favourable events and to the continued provision of credit for wealthier consumers. Critics of Musharraf’s economic reforms were justified in their stance that macro-economic improvements with respect to indebtedness and foreign reserves were primarily the result of a one-off windfall arising from Pakistan’s stance post 9/11.
Musharraf, like Zia, had been given political as well as economic breathing space by the turn of international developments. He won kudos by opening licences for private TV and radio broadcasting, and allowed newspaper editors free rein. This policy provided a veneer of liberalism to his regime. It may also have been prompted by notions that the state-run TV system had lost Pakistan the media war with India over Kargil, and that local private channels could usefully compete with foreign satellite providers who were increasingly threatening old-style policing of television. The new media however gave discursive space not only to liberal voices, but to spokesmen of militant groups. It also reported on the ‘collateral damage’ arising from military action in Waziristan. It is unlikely that Musharraf would have become so universally unpopular because of his ‘pro-American’ stance if the old restricted media had survived. Ultimately private TV companies such as GEO fell foul of the government in 2007 when they sided with the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in his struggle with Musharraf. The introduction of the emergency which curbed both the media and political opponents did immense harm to Musharraf’s international standing. It coincided with both Washington and London’s increasing frustrations with the ambiguities surroundings Pakistan’s response to the threat of trans-national terrorist activity in the region. During his final period as President, Musharraf came under increasing pressure to replace his system of military-backed rule with a fully-fledged democratic system. This was seen by both Western analysts and liberals in Pakistan as holding the key to tackling not only the country’s chronic instability, but the terrorist threat which was seen as emanating from its porous border regions with Afghanistan. The sentiment was summed up by Zahid Hussain when he wrote, ‘The war against militancy and Islamic extremism can be best fought and won in a liberal democracy.’
Post 9/11 the Pakistan state engaged in increasingly complex and fraught responses to the militant groups which had either traditionally operated out of sanctuaries in its territory, or had crossed into Pakistan in the wake of the US toppling the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the capture of Al-Qaeda’s Tora Bora redoubt in December 2001. While security and later military operations were undertaken against ‘foreign fighters’ and leadership cadres of Al-Qaeda, the Pakistan state did not pursue the Afghan Taliban or Kashmir jihadists. Some ISI operatives and military commanders undoubtedly sympathized with the Afghan Taliban whom they had nurtured. The policy of providing sanctuary however primarily reflected Musharraf’s pragmatism and commitment to the long-term Indo-centric security strategy. The US overthrow of the Taliban regime represented a major setback as it brought non-Paktuns to the corridors of power in Kabul who had traditionally looked to India for support. Increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan raised fears of encirclement in some security analysts’ minds. This was not a totally irrational response, as Pakistan intelligence claimed Indian involvement in the growing insurgency in Balochistan. Pakistan also sought to counteract India by continuing to provide sanctuary to Kashmir jihadist organizations, more to keep up pressure on New Delhi than in a post-Kargil anticipation that Kashmir could be wrenched from India through a military victory.
Afghan Taliban from bases in Waziristan increasingly infiltrated into Afghanistan as the West diverted its attention from that country to Iraq. For many years Afghan Taliban leaders freely operated from headquarters in Quetta (the so-called Quetta Shura). Cross-border infiltration into Kashmir also continued during 2001. The bold move by Pakistan-based LeT and JeM to expand their jihad from Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian heartland by attacking the parliament in New Delhi on 13 December 2002 forced the Musharraf regime to readjust its policy. Both LeT and JeM received logistical and financial support from the military and ISI in their past development. This had not gone unnoticed either in New Delhi or Washington.
The high-profile attack on the Indian parliament brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It resulted in Musharraf’s banning not only LeT and JeM but the militant sectarian SSP and TNFJ organizations. The security operations against them were largely ineffective and in some instances desultory. According to one report, while the head of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, was under arrest following the attack on the Indian parliament, he still had access to an international telephone and was in touch with supporters and sympathizers in the US. Banned organizations could reform under new titles and by adopting legitimate business covers as charitable organizations. The SSP for example operated as Ahle Sunnat-wal-Jamaat; JeM as Tehreek-e-Khaddim-ul-Islam; and LeT as Jamaat-ud-Dawa. They provided jobs for militants returned from the jihad front and assistance for the families of those martyred. JuD was to provide humanitarian assistance to the wider population in the wake of the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir and following the 2010 flood disaster.
In a striking departure, the army and Frontier Corps began military campaigns in the Tribal Areas in 2004. The aim in the face of mounting pressure on Western forces in Afghanistan was to root out Afghan Taliban who had close ties with Al-Qaeda and ‘foreign forces’ (mostly Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks) who had found sanctuary in South Waziristan. The operations were marked by military setbacks, and growing resistance from local tribesmen who not only sympathized with the Afghan jihad cause, but tenaciously upheld long-term commitments to independence from outside intrusion and Paktunwali codes for revenge for deaths to kinsmen caught in the crossfire and protection of ‘guests’. A combination of increased resistance and hostile public opinion led to a series of peace deals in South Waziristan. The first was the so-called Shakai Agreement in April 2004. Later in February 2005 another peace deal was signed in South Waziristan with Baitullah Mehsud (Sra Rogah Deal).
Local pro-Taliban militant support was eventually institutionalized in 2007 with the formation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) by Baitullah Mehsud. The move was a direct response to the Pakistan army’s seizure of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad on 10 July 2007 in a bloody battle which claimed over 150 lives. The TTP brought together local militant commanders from the various Tribal Agencies, some of whom were committed to the local Islamization of society, others who were much more closely committed to Al-Qaeda and the international jihad. The extent to which the Deobandi mosques and schools alone provided the ideological motive for militant recruitment will be explored later. In addition, the TTP’s generous financial inducements, charitable support for militants’ dependants which has echoes in the army’s formal Fauji Foundation and the veneration in which the martyrs are held, seen in the pilgrimages to the tombs of Shaheeds, all played a part. The TTP helped fund its activities through local taxes, which had more overtones of a protection racket than Islamic charitable giving. Despite its decentralization, the TTP was capable of unified and sustained operations. Outside the Tribal Areas, the long established Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) operated under its umbrella in Swat. JeM, SSP and LeJ formed what became known as the Punjab Taliban. In all as many as 40 militant groups were brought under the TTP umbrella. While it remained committed to the Afghan jihad, it was increasingly drawn into conflict with the Pakistan state and sought to usher in an Islamic revolution. The Afghan Taliban focused its efforts across the Durand Line, and its sanctuaries in Pakistan were not engaged by the security forces.
The fighting was bloodiest in South Waziristan, reaching a peak in the winter of 2007-8. There was also conflict in North Waziristan in October 2007, which led 80,000 people to flee their homes. Over the course of 2008, government forces also fought militants in the Bajaur and Mohmand agencies. Military activity in FATA was to increase greatly in the post-Musharraf period, after a lull following the ANP’s assumption of office in the Frontier which saw further abortive peace agreements. The launching of operations in Waziristan was accompanied by growing terrorist blasts in Peshawar, which were eventually to spread to Punjab. Some Western analysts once again raised fears that Pakistan was a ‘failed’ state. Despite their immense human toll, such outrages did not presage an Islamist takeover of the state, which continued to rest on the twin bulwarks of the army and the economic, cultural and political commitment of the Punjabi population to the Pakistan state project.
Washington also had its long-term strategic interest in the stability of Pakistan, now a nuclear power as well as an ally in the ‘War on Terror’. As we have seen, it poured huge resources into the country post 9/11. The Bush presidency for many years feted Musharraf, thereby strengthening his own position. This policy was not universally supported by such prominent US critics as the veteran South Asia specialist, Seleg Harrison. The US also exerted influence to pull back India and Pakistan from the brink of war in 2002 and encouraged the reopening of diplomatic dialogue. In the later years of Musharraf presidency, however, relations with Washington became strained over the extent of Pakistan’s commitment to the ‘War on Terror’. The activities of the Quetta Shura were noted, as was the fact that the arrest of known militants frequently followed Western pressure, and although such leading figures as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (Al-Qaeda number 3 figure) and Mullah Obeidullah (the Taliban regime’s Defence Minister) were netted, and militants like Aby Hamza Rabia and Mushin Musa Marwalli Arwah were killed, many others remained at large. Leading militants such as Fazlur Rehman Khalil (HuM) and Maulana Masood Azhar (JeM) were released during 2002-4. It was especially irksome for Washington that Osama bin Laden remained at large.
The Musharraf regime responded to US criticisms by reporting that by May 2006 over 600 Al-Qaeda members had been arrested in Pakistan and perhaps as many as 1,000 had been killed. The effect that this had on organizational capacity can be gauged by the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri repeatedly called for an uprising against Musharraf and for his assassination as an enemy against Islam. There were many attempts on his life. Worryingly, information began to emerge of some servicemen being implicated in the two bomb attacks in the space of less than a fortnight in December 2003 and 6 July 2007 attack at Rawalpindi airport.
The US response to what it saw as Islamabad’s half-hearted commitment to halting the flow of militants into Afghanistan was to use remote control missiles (drones) tp attack militant bases in Pakistan and even to threaten ‘hot pursuit’ of militants into Pakistan soil. This stance further inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan which was running at a high level despite US economic largesse. The drones did not always hit their military targets but caused civilian casualties in the Tribal Areas. The hatred of America was deeply corrosive of Musharraf’s standing. It was probably in to shore this up that Islamabad complained in public about the drone attacks, while privately supplying intelligence information which enabled the successful targeting of Al-Qaeda commanders and such notable Pakistan Taliban figures as Baitullah Mehsud. While only rhetoric was deployed against drone attacks, the ‘hot pursuit’ policy raised the real danger that there might be engagement between Pakistani and US ground forces. It was not until the post-Musharraf period, because of Taliban excesses in Swat and terrorist attacks on ‘soft’ civilian targets, that public opinion began to shift away from the notion that Pakistan was being asked to fight America’s war and was suffering therefore. Washington’s unilateral action in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad reversed this trend.
Relations with India
Pakistan’s relations with India veered from the edge of war to the brink of a major breakthrough on Kashmir. The high points were the Agra summit of July 2001 and the meeting between Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee during the Islamabad SAARC summit in January 2004. The low point was the military stand-off following the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. In the event, the Musharraf era closed with no decisive change to the decades-long enduring rivalry. The prospect of a ‘peace dividend’ for the region remained as tantalizing as ever. Throughout this period, Islamabad’s foreign policy remained fixed on the Indian ‘threat’, despite the pressure to reverse its strategy in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban represented a major strategic setback. The US-backed interim government of President Karzai brought members of the anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance who had previously been supported by India, Russia and Iran to the heart of government in Kabul. Rather than Afghanistan providing strategic depth, there was now the possibility of a two-front threat from India emanating from the country. Islamabad claimed that the new Indian consulates opened in Kandahar and Jalalabad were part of a growing Indian presence which had security threats attached to it. Similarly, there were allegations that India was fishing in the troubled waters of Balochistan through its consulate at Zahedan close to the Pakistan-Iran border. Undoubtedly India, through its humanitarian assistance and involvement in reconstruction projects, established a growing influence in post-war Afghanistan. Pakistan’s tolerance of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s network, which launched operations against ISAF/NATO troops from its base in Miranshah in North Waziristan, was a response to the Afghan Indian threat, as Islamabad wanted leverage with a future Paktun moderate Taliban grouping. While requiring a stake in any post-Karzai Afghanistan, Pakistan’s earlier experiences with the Taliban rule made it aware that a client state was an unrealistic aim.
The US worked hard to get Islamabad and New Delhi to improve their relations so that Al-Qaeda could not provoke war between the nuclear-armed South Asian powers. The US also had a vested interest in ensuring that tensions with India did not result in the reduction of Pakistan forces on the border with Afghanistan. In addition to US pressure, the lessening of cross-border infiltration from Pakistan into Kashmir from 2002 onwards paved the way for India to agree to a resumption of the composite dialogue process which had been abandoned following Kargil.
Musharraf was an unlikely partner for dialogue, as he was seen in New Delhi as the architect of the Kargil war which had claimed over a thousand lives. However, he displayed far greater flexibility than previous civilian leaders in his suggestions for unlocking the logjam of the Kashmir dispute. He not only declared that the UN Security Council Resolutions which had been the centre point of Pakistan diplomacy over six decades could be ‘set aside’, but in December 2005 raised a series of proposals which included soft borders, demilitarization, self-governance and joint mechanisms of supervision for the Kashmir region. Alongside these public pronouncements, the Musharraf regime engaged in back-channel diplomacy which by April 2007 had made progress in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. India as the status quo power was more inclined to put Kashmir on the back burner, while encouraging a range of confidence-building measures. They included the opening of a bus service with much fanfare between the two sides of Kashmir in April 2005. In reality, the Pakistan military still regarded India as the main strategic threat, despite the improvement of diplomatic relations from the nadir of 2001-2.
Pervez Musharraf termed the post-Zia era a period of ‘sham democracy’. It was, he maintained, marred by corruption, economic incompetence and disunity. He identified this litany of failure with the personalities of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, thereby having a ready-made excuse for their political exclusion. Benazir in political exile in London and Dubai. Nawaz Sharif was found guilty in July 2000 of charges of corruption, kidnapping and hijacking. He was allowed to leave Attock jail in December and go with family members to exile in Saudi Arabia. Although Musharraf was initially adept at speaking the language of an internationally acceptable ‘good governance’ agenda, with its vocabulary of transparency, accountability and empowerment, the attempt to build a ‘real’ democracy boiled down to the tried and tested approaches of the country’s previous military rulers: namely, a process of accountability to discipline political opponents, rather than root out across-the -board corruption; the curtailing of political activity; and the attempt to build direct links with the populace by means of local government reforms which bypassed the influence of the political opposition. While these measures temporarily weakened opponents, they were unable to secure legitimacy for a regime which faced mounting criticism at home and abroad. It thus had to restart a quasi-democratic political process. This involved alliances with the more opportunistic elements of the religious and feudal elites. From the attempt to bypass patrimonial politics, Musharraf was back to square one, relying for example on the manipulations of kinship networks and patronage by the Chaudhrys of Gujrat to underpin his power in Punjab.
Musharraf transformed Nawaz Sharif’s Ehtesab commission into the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). This was tasked under the Chairmanship of Lieutenant General Syed Mohammad Amjad to investigate corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. Its closed courts and snaring of opposition politicians in a string of cases led to the charges of its being a partisan body. Significantly, politicians who were known for corruption, but who had switched allegiance to pro-establishment parties were not investigated. This led to some accusations that the Musharraf loyalist PML(Q) was created by NAB. Undoubtedly the fear of being involved in court cases led to defection from the PPP with some 20 members forming the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian Patriot group. Its post-2002 election alliance with the PML(Q) was crucial in ensuring that Musharraf loyalists a majority in the National Assembly. While the NAB set about its political witch hunt, significantly only 8 of the 522 people who were prosecuted in its first four years of activity came from the armed forces.
Political activity was curbed not just by the NAB, but by sedition laws and the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. Freedom of association was curtailed from 15 March 2000, when an order was introduced banning public rallies, demonstrations and strikes. It was only shortly before the October 2002 polls that the ban on political activities was lifted. Even then rallies and processions were forbidden. The mounting problems besetting the Musharraf regime in 2007 led to a further period of curbs. On 3 November a state of emergency was introduced through a Provisional Constitutional Order. This was ended on 15 December, just one day before the campaigning for national elections was due to begin. In the event the polls were delayed until February 2008, following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
Local government reforms were overseen by a new National Reconciliation Bureau headed by Lieutenant General (retd) S. Tanwir Naqvi. The new district administration system gave considerable power to the elected district Nazims at the expense both of the bureaucracy and the provincial-level politicians. Significantly, the old Ziast ploy was adopted of holding the local elections on a non-party basis. Nazims were unconstrained as to how they spent government block grant funding allocated to their district, which bypassed both the bureaucrats and the provincial legislators. In the long run, the Nazim were unable to provide a bulwark for the Musharraf regime as were the Basic Democracies for Ayub. Some Nazims cashed in their new-found opportunities for wealth and rose to become provincial-level politicians. the reforms further encouraged patronage rather than issue-based politics.
The reforms did not increase administrative efficiency. On the contrary, the weakening of bureaucracy and the failure to follow through the promised police reform promulgated in the ordinance of 2002 contributed to a further decline in governance. This was marked by both inefficiency in the delivery of services and waning confidence in the state’s ability to sustain the rule of the law. Transparency International’s 2007 report maintained that the 350,000-strong police force was the most corrupt public sector agency in Pakistan. Such scholars as Alan Krueger and Jita Maleckova maintain that the resulting sense of marginality and frustration is even more significant than poverty itself in providing a breeding ground for terrorism.
Administrative reforms localized politics and further politicized local administration. Depoliticization at the provincial level boosted the politics of identity and patronage-based politics, as had happened in the Zia era. The kutchery style of politics was extended upwards from the local bodies. Simultaneously, local administration was politicized to an even greater degree than previously. This undermined government efficiency. Rather than addressing the issue of weak institutions which had beset the state since its foundation, Musharraf contributed to what has been termed the ‘graveyard of institutions’ in Pakistan. Alarmingly by the close of the Musharraf era, there was a decline in the reach of the state, not only in the traditionally lightly controlled FATA region, but in parts of the North West Frontier Province abutting the Tribal Areas and in South Punjab. This encouraged the activities of militant groups who had been initially patronized by the state, but increasingly pitted themselves against it.
Musharraf, like Ayub and Zia before him found it impossible to engineer legitimacy for his regime. His power base lay with the army not through the ballot box. Attempts to secure some degree of popular legitimization brought further problems. The June 2002 referendum designed to legitimize his presidency had many of the hallmarks of Zia’s 1984 rigged referendum. Indeed, Musharraf was led to apologize for the patent interference which had delivered 98% of the votes in his favour. The opposition parties maintained that the turnout was a mere 5% of the electorate. The official government figure was 70%. The New York Times neatly summed it up when it declared that ‘the balloting had actually diminished Musharraf’s stature’. The irregularities certainly dispelled the favourable impression created by the political reforms which increased the number of seats for women, reduced the voting age to eighteen, and stipulated that only those who held degrees were eligible for election to the National Assembly. The most far-reaching reform, however, ended separate electorates, thus enabling the return of minorities to the political mainstream for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
The national and provincial elections in October 2002 were in fact stage-managed similarly to the referendum. The Political Parties Amendment Act of 28 June, which set eligibility requirements for parties, turned the clock back to the Zia period. Another Presidential Ordinance issued the following month limited Prime Ministers to two terms in office, thereby ruling out Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. In the event neither of the two most important opposition leaders returned to Pakistan to campaign. Musharraf further armed himself against possible opposition by issuing the Legal Framework Order which established a National Security Council and restored the President’s power to dismiss the Prime Minister.
At the same time as restricting opponents, Musharraf cultivated ties with the Islamic parties and the more opportunistic elements of the Punjab’s rural elite. The religious parties’ unprecedented electoral success, which saw them gain 45% of the votes and 29 National Assembly seats in NWFP, arose in part from the inflaming of Pashtun sentiment following the US military intervention in Afghanistan. It will be recalled that no Islamic party had previously obtained more than 5% of the national vote. The six-party MMA coalition was also greatly assisted by the neutralization of the mainstream parties and support from the military establishment. This was seen most visibly in the lifting of legal cases against religious leaders. The other beneficiary of official support was the so-called ‘Kings’ party, the PML(Q), which emerged with 77 National Assembly seats and formed the largest party. It mainly comprised pro-establishment former members of the PML(N).
After a period of horse-trading following the election, the PML(Q) took office under the leadership of the Baloch politician Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. He was as much a puppet of the President as Mohammad Khan Junejo had initially been under Zia. Jamali was to be replaced, after a brief transitional period under Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, by Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive. Aziz had even less political standing, but was the technocrat type of public figure preferred by military leaders from Ayub onwards. Following his swearing in as Prime Minister, he promised to seek ‘guidance’ from the President in order to provide ‘good governance’ for the people.
Musharraf maintained a tight control over the PML(Q), although he did not join it as Ayub had done with the Convention Muslim League. The President arbitrated in its internal disputes and eased tensions with allies such as the MQM when they arose. As Ayesha Siddiqa has perceptively remarked, this approach ‘Instead of strengthening democratic institutions, as Musharraf claimed . . . encouraged clientelism’. Factionalism within the ranks of PML(Q) was an inevitable result. The most powerful group comprised the followers of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Parvaiz Elahi, which was cemented around landed and biraderi ties. The generally weak political position of the PML(Q) was revealed in the 2008 elections. In the absence of rigging and with Musharraf’s star on the wane, the PML(Q) saw its support eroded by a resurgent PML(N) and PPP.
The MMA proved more difficult partners than the PML(Q). Its JI component was especially critical of Musharraf’s failure to stand down as Chief of Army Staff while holding the dual office of President. The JI was also hostile to the government’s pro-American policy. It finally parted ways with its JUI(F) coalition partner and with Musharraf over the military action against the Red Mosque. The MMA’s limited action in implementing Islamic measures made it open to being outflanked by radical Islamists. At the same time it did little to meet the Frontier population’s aspirations for improved economic conditions. The main consequence of the MMA government was however its inactivity in the face of growing influence of the TNSM in Swat. The provincial government in Peshawar had responsibility for the region but did nothing to quell the increasing vigilante actions within it.
We have noted earlier that military rule has not only undermined Pakistan’s political institutionalization, but has also weakened the ability of civil society to underpin democratization. Musharraf differed from both Ayub and Zia in that, apart from the short-term emergency in November 2007, he did not crack down either on the media or on civil society institutions. Ironically, perhaps the greatest testament to Musharraf’s liberalism was the scope it allowed for civil society organizations led by lawyers to push him out of office.
The State of Islam
Musharraf portrayed Pakistan as a moderate Islamic state which would act as a source of stability in a volatile West Asia region. He launched the concept of Enlightened Moderation at the 2002 OIC conference in Malaya. He also emphasized Sufi teachings as a counter to extremism. In November 2006, he launched a National Sufi Council amidst great fanfare in Lahore. Education sector reforms sought to modernize the curriculum of religious schools, with $50 million allocated to pay the salaries of teachers of non-religious subjects. Mounting sectarian violence, claims by both India and Afghanistan of continuing cross-border terrorism, the involvement of members of the Pakistan diaspora in acts of international terrorism and a rising tide of suicide bombings and fiyadeen attacks within Pakistan belied this image.
Suicide bombings were introduced to Pakistan via the Iraq conflict. The first major attack claimed the lives of a busload of French naval construction workers outside the Sheraton Hotel, Karachi on 8 May 2002. By the end of the Musharraf era such episodes were a weekly occurrence. For an international audience, Pakistan became synonymous with terrorism. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the number of violence-related deaths rocketed from 183 in 2003 to 3,599 in 2007. The Musharraf regime’s attempts to secure legitimacy subsequently shifted, as it presented itself as a bulwark against the destabilization of a nuclear-armed state.
Government efforts ensured that a number of religious scholars, headed by the Chairman of the Barelvi education board, Tanzimul Madaris Pakistan, issued a fatwa on 19 May 2005 which forbade suicide attacks on Muslims and places of worship and public congregations. Deobandi ulema steadfastly refused to provide a blanket condemnation of suicide attacks. Even more damaging was the government’s inability to clamp down on the mushrooming ‘hate literature‘. The banning of 90 books by the Interior Ministry in 2006 which contained such literature was the tip of the iceberg. Monthly copies of Mujalla Al-Dawa and Ghazwa, the mouthpieces of LeT, continued to circulate in the Musharraf era. These included jihadist articles and glorification of militant actions. Even more extremist materials than newspapers and magazines were the CDs in circulation which included footage of the beheadings of US ‘spies’. These could be obtained quite readily on newsstands outside militant mosques. Extremist messages were also broadcast by radio stations. The most famous of these were run by Mullah Fazlullah in Swat, but there were dozens if not hundreds of other FM stations operating in FATA.
Was the government unable to curb such material, or did it choose not to do so? At the heart of Musharraf’s stance was a pragmatic view of Islam’s usefulness for state policy. He could not break with the religious parties in the MMA, as he needed their support. This set up contradictions with his policy of Enlightened Moderation. Ultimately he would only go so far in risking the opposition of religious groups, which in any case became increasingly disaffected by his pro-US stance. He thus adopted on the whole a cautious approach, whether this was curbing militants, attempting to roll back state-sponsored Islamization, or responding to Western pressures to reform the curriculum of the madaris. Musharraf never abandoned the policy of utilizing ties with Islamic proxies to secure strategic interests in both Afghanistan and Kashmir. He of course had to tread more carefully after 9/11. This involved, as we have seen earlier, distinguishing between militant organizations which had links with Al-Qaeda or were acting independently of the establishment’s control and those which might yet prove useful for the pursuit of national strategic goals.
A combination of Musharraf’s own liberal attitudes, mounting sectarian conflict and the need to secure a favourable international image for his regime led him initially to attempt to roll back some of the Islamization measures, which had been introduced from the Zia era onwards. In May 2000, Musharraf attempted to introduce a limited reform to take away the power of local police officials to respond to blasphemy charges. There had been a number of cases directed against the Christian minority which revealed that the blasphemy ordinance was being used maliciously. Strikes organized by the religious parties led him however to back down. Four years later, he returned to the issue calling for both the Hudood Ordinance and the Blasphemy Ordinance to be ‘studied afresh’ so that they were not misused. The pronouncement was accompanied by the creation of an independent National Commission for Human Rights.
It was not until 2006 that President Musharraf moved to reform the Hudood Ordinance, following mounting pressure from human rights groups and women’s organizations that women who were the victims of rape were being punished while their male assailants were not being prosecuted. Rather than annul the Hudood Ordinance, thereby risking the hostility of Islamic groups, the government introduced the Women’s Protection Bill which, when it became law on 1 December, allowed rape to be prosecuted under civil law. Opponents called the measure mere ‘eyewash’. It failed to protect women, but was useful in burnishing Musharraf’s moderate image in the West.
The Musharraf regime also moved cautiously on the issue of madrasa reform, again seeking to balance the need for international approval against the risk of stirring up domestic opposition. While the government had ridden out the October 2001 street protests against US intervention in Afghanistan, orchestrated by the religious parties, Musharraf subsequently trod warily. The role of madaris in encouraging extremism had come under considerable international scrutiny since 9/11. The initial Western understanding, although this was later challenged, saw the madaris as being the last educational resource for the poor who had been abandoned by the state. Education in these institutions exposed individuals to abuse and to an atmosphere which increased intolerance and militancy. While not all madaris trained militants, they provided an ideological justification for violence. The growing tide of sectarian violence provided Musharraf with his own motivation for exerting a tighter grip. After an initial lull in sectarian killings in 2000, they threatened to get out of hand, as they had done in the closing months of Nawaz Sharif’s rule. It was not until 2002 that he introduced an ordinance making the imparting of sectarian hatred and militancy in madaris a crime punishable by two years’ rigourous imprisonment. The ordinance also drew up a three-year project to provide government funds and technical assistance for the widening of the curriculum to include ‘modern’ general subjects including English and Science. Nevertheless the implementation of reform was slow and large numbers of madaris remained unregistered. Of the 13,000 or so that were registered, the vast majority did not participate in the reform programme, which were seen as being American-driven.
Strategic concerns, as we have noted, lay behind the calibrated response to militancy in FATA. Undoubtedly, however, Musharraf’s need of MMA support impacted on his response to the growing activities of militant groups who sought to impose shari’ah both in the Malakand division and the federal territory of Islamabad.
The spill-over of the Swat insurgency in April 2009 was to herald a major military offensive not only in Swat but later in South Waziristan. Earlier events in Swat were often seen in the West as heralding the spread of Talibanization from the peripheral border areas to Pakistan’s heartland. What Swat demonstrates is the longer-term roots of contemporary Talibanization in some of the Pashtun areas. The TTP operations in Swat were in reality those of the TSNM writ large. The latter organization had emerrged under the leadership of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, a former JI leader, in response to the legal vaccum created by the merger of the Swat Princely State with the rest of Pakistan in 1969. It had developed in response to the local population’s sense that the old-style riwaj system of law, which allowed disputants to be tried by customary law or shari’ah, had worked but the new provincially administered Tribal Area criminal and civil codes were inadequate. The implementation of shari’ah was sought not only as an Islamization measure but to secure speedy and fair justice for the local population.
Swat’s merger with Pakistan had also been accompanied by increased corruption and tensions between the dominant Yusufzai elite and the Gujjar lower classes. As early as 1995 the TSNM had become engaged in armed struggle with the Pakistan state, so what was to happen in Swat in the following decade was by no means unprecedented. The TSNM not only espoused the cause of legal reform but appealed to the poorer sections of Swat society, most notably the Gujjars and Kammis who had acquired land
at the end of princely rule but were vulnerable to harassment from local leading Yusufzai Khans. Sufi Muhammad had encouraged his followers in 2001 to fight the US invasion of Afghanistan, during which many had perished. When Musharraf cracked down on militant groups following the attack on the Indian parliament, the TSNM was banned and Sufi Muhammad was arrested. His son-in-law, Maulvi Fazlullah, who was to become the Taliban commander in the region, stepped up the campaign to enforce shari’ah. The black turbaned movement grew in strength under his leadership and forged links with other militant groups in the Tribal Areas. This was evidenced when his brother was killed in a US drone attack on an Al-Qaeda compound at Damadola in Bajaur. The MMA government which had responsibility for Swat and the rest of the Malakand division, did not check the expansion of TSNM power, even though this was at the expense of the state functionaries. Fazlullah announced that the TSNM was a component of the TTP follwing its creation in 2007. It was this step, along with the burning of girls’ schools and the continuing use of illegal FM stations to broadcast calls for Islamic revolution, that led to the military operation in Swat late in the Musharraf era. The military operation Rah-e-Haq, in which more than 200 policemen and soldiers were killed in fighting with the supporters of TSNM, drove Fazlullah to take refuge in the hills. The new ANP government in Peshawar was no more committed to defeating the TSNM than the MMA had been. The peace treaty of May 2008 enabled Fazlullah to regroup before temporarily seizing power in Swat from the Pakistan state.
Some Western critics have maintained that the July 2007 Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) affair in Islamabad, if not stage-managed by Musharraf, was the outcome of his deliberately allowing militancy to fester. He could then present himself as the only barrier to a ‘Talibanized’ Pakistan. The reality is more likely that a combination of the need for MMA assistance, knowledge that the liberated media would sensationalize any action and the fear that there would be backlash in the Tribal Areas led to a policy of inactivity. Moreover, the prayer leader of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, had continued links with ISI. These may have afforded him protection as part of the post 9/11 carefully calibrated response to militancy. They may also have been his undoing, leading him to overstep the limits in his campaign to enforce shari’ah and to refuse incentives to surrender as the stand-off developed. Respected Pakistani commentators maintain that it was impossible, given the mosque’s proximity to the ISI headquarters, that the agency was unaware of the stockpiling of weapons and the presence of militants from such banned organizations as JeM within the compound.
The Red Mosque in Islamabad had been constructed in 1965 with the Deobandi scholar Maulana Muhammad Abdullah as its imam. Its close links with the military dated from the Zia era when it had been important in raising recruits for the Afghanistan jihad. The mosque was also associated with hardline Sunni sectarianism. Maulana Abdullah had ties with SSP and was assassinated by Shia militants in 1998. The mosque’s running was taken over by his sons Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi. The latter, who was a History graduate from Quaid-e-Azam University, had until that point been following a secular path. Despite its former establishment links, the mosque became a focus of opposition to the Musharraf regime when it reversed its security policies post 9/11. Abdul Rashid Ghazi went underground in 2004 after being accused of involvement in a plot to blow up government buildings in Islamabad. He reportedly had close links with such leading Al-Qaeda figures as Ayman Al-Zawahari. Every Friday demonstrations were raised at the mosque in support of Osama bin Laden.
The provocation for eventual military action against the mosque however came as a result of the activities of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s wife Ume-Hassan, who headed the girls’ madrasa (Jamia Hafsa) which was attached to it. Baton- wielding burqa-clad students took over a nearby children’s library and abducted women who they claimed were running a neighbourhood brothel. Their initial protests in January 2007 had been prompted by the government’s demolition of illegally constructed mosques in Islamabad. For many years the Capital Development Authority had turned a blind eye to their expansion. The vigilante actions of the Jamia Hafsa students formed the backdrop to clashes with the male Lal Masjid students, who sought to impose shari’ah by unlawfully destroying CDs and cassettes of local shopkeepers. They also kidnapped a number of policemen. After months of inaction, troops stormed the mosque on 10 July 2007 and 50 militants were killed, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi. He was soon to be extolled in posters, conference gatherings and on web pages as a ‘gallant warrior’ and martyr.
While the military operation was successful, it resulted in an intensification of the insurgencies in the Tribal Areas under the umbrella of the newly formed TTP. When Ghazi’s brother was released, while he disavowed suicide attacks and bombings, he publicly thanked Allah for bestowing upon people like Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammad the power to enforce the shari’ah. Punjab based sectarian militants not only joined the TTP, but for the first time targeted the state, initially in the Pashtun areas, but ultimately in the Punjab as well. These attacks became increasingly daring and were directed at the army and ISI, which had in the past helped to nurture and protect organizations such as the LeJ and SSP. The immediate of the Lal Masjid operation saw an average of one suicide attack a day during July. Suicide bombers targeted security forces, government buildings and symbols of Western presence in Pakistan, such as the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad which was hit in September 2008. Musharraf survived a further assassination attempt, but Benazir Bhutto was to fall victim to the mounting tide of violence which in 2008 saw over 2,000 terrorist attacks, killing or injuring around 7,000 people.
Insurgency in Balochistan
The Musharraf era did see the completion of one major construction project: Gwadar port. This too, however, generated centre-province tensions. Indeed, it was a contributory factor in the third round of insurgency in Balochistan since independence. The return of a military guided government committed to the development of Balochistan in the national interest provoked long standing antipathy towards the province’s ‘colonial status’. The establishment of cantonments in Balochistan in the wake of 9/11 made it appear that a Punjab-led occupying force was taking over. Musharraf’s encouragement for Pushtun Islamist parties further created a sense of Balochistan marginalization in provincial as well as national politics. The circumstances were thus created for a new phase in militancy. Musharraf appears to have little respect for the Baloch Sardars, believing that they objected to any development in the region which might weaken their autocratic power. From this perspective, their claims to be upholding Baloch rights and interests are merely hypocritical. Security concerns that New Delhi was assisting a low-intensity insurgency may further have encouraged a high-handed attitude which failed to consult Baloch interests when drawing up the developmental projects in the province.
The Pakistan government attached great strategic and economic importance to the Gwadar development. The deep-sea port at the entrance of the Arabian Sea is designed to provide naval strategic depth for Pakistan (it is 450 km further from the Indian border than Karachi). It came into operation in 2008 and is being managed by the Port of Singapore Authority. The economic aim is to make Pakistan a transit hub for trade, especially in oil for Central Asia and the rapidly developing Xinjiang region of China.
Baloch nationalists fear that trade profits will be siphoned off to other provinces. They are also concerned about the influx of non-Baloch labourers in search of employment opportunities. Another grievance is the fact that local land has been acquired by real estate agencies at low prices, subsequently sold on at vast profit to non-Baloch. On 3 May 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed by a remote-controlled car bomb as they made their way to work at Gwadar. Security was immediately stepped up and protection provided to the 450 Chinese technicians. Responsibility for this outrage was claimed by a shadowy organization known as the Balochistan Liberation Army. It has been engaged in a low intensity insurgency since 2000. Its roots can be traced to the 1973-77 insurgency when it was funded by the Soviet Union. Some analysts have claimed that its re-emergence was facilitated by Indian support, alarmed at the Chinese strategic interests at Gwadar.
By 2005, violence had escalated and shifted from Gwadar to the Bugti tribal area, a locality so rich in natural gas that it provides around a third of Pakistan’s energy needs. The Bugtis were not involved in the 1973-77 Balochistan insurgency. The tribal Sardar Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had traditionally been regarded as loyal to Islamabad. He had for example become Chief Minister of Balochistan in 1988. He founded his own political party which drew mainly on Bugti support: The Jamhoori Watan Party. The rape of Dr. Shazia Khalid was the catalyst for the conflict between the Bugtis and the Pakistan state. She was assaulted on 2 January 2005 by an army officer. The incident occurred at the Pakistan Petroleum Plant at Sui. It was seen by Nawab Bugti as an attack on his tribe’s ‘honour’ as Shazia was a ‘protected guest’. Bugti’s attempt to prevent an official cover up led to mounting conflict and attacks on gas pipelines by tribesmen. Bugti fled his residence at Dera Bugti shortly before it came under attack. From a cave in the Bhamboor Hills he directed what became known an insurgency against authorities. He died a martyr for the Baloch cause on 26 August 2006, when an intercepted satellite phone-call revealed the cave at Tarnai, near Kohlu, in which he was hiding. F-16s and helicopter gunships bombed the area killing the veteran Baloch leader and 36 of his followers. The insurgency had by the time spread from the Bugtis to their traditional Marri rivals. The Marri tribal area became the centre of military activity following a rocket attack on 14 December 2005 on a Pakistan Frontier Corps camp outside the town of Kohlu, which was being visited at the time by President Musharraf. There was also firing on the helicopter which was carrying the Frontier Corps’ Inspector-General Shujaat Zamir. Three days later Kohlu town was bombed along with its surrounding areas. The Marri in these circumstances finally settled differences with the Bugtis, so that there could be a common front in the Baloch struggle.
The Marri tribe provided the main personnel for the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which commenced a campaign directed against security personnel, gas pipes, electricity pylons and railway tracks. On 1 May 2006, the BLA claimed the responsibility for blowing up a railway bridge on the main Quetta railway line in the Kohlu district. In the same month, President Musharraf banned it as a terrorist organization. At least 450 persons, including 226 civilians, 82 soldiers and 147 insurgents, were killed in 772 incidents in Balochistan in 2006.
The attacks continued into 2007: in May, a series of railway line explosions severely disrupted communications between Balochistan and the rest of Pakistan. Punjabi ‘settlers’ became the victim of target killings. The insurgency in Balochistan, because it was not linked with the ‘War on Terror’, attracted far less international attention than that in the Tribal Areas. However, the region is of immense strategic and economic significance for Pakistan’s future development.
Military-backed government raised again the old claim of Punjabization. Musharraf adhered to centralization as much as any previous military ruler, despite his talk of devolution. Indeed the practical effect of the ‘localization of politics’ arising from his local government reforms was as Mohammad Waseem has pointed out, to ‘enhance unbridled centralism’. Yet the Musharraf era revealed the extreme limitations facing a centralizing administration committed to top-down modernization if it lacked political legitimacy. Attempts to develop Balochistan on behalf of the national interest ran into increasing particularist opposition. Similarly, Musharraf was unable like Zia before him to address Pakistan’s mounting water management and electricity supply problems by forcing througfh the Kalabagh Dam project.
As early as the mid 1980s, plans were drawn up for a major dam to be constructed at Kalabagh on the Indus. Its proponents argued that the hydro-electricity produced by it (over 2,000 MW generation capacity) would meet the growing energy ‘gap’, while it would also address the increasing water shortage. Despite promises of international support and the expenditure of vast sums of money on the project plans, provincial opposition to federal government’s proposals prevented the scheme going ahead. The greatest opposition came from Sindh with fears that the dam would reduce the Indus flow with resulting desertification in the interior and increased flooding by sea water
Musharraf sought to cut through this stalemate by announcing in December 2005 that the Kalabagh Dam would go ahead. He could not, however, command the country as easily as he could the army. Within less than six months, the mounting campaigns in Sindh and NWFP forced him to abandon the proposal. This was democracy of a kind in operation, but the problem of water supply and electricity generation would not be so easily wished away. Unsurprisingly the post-2008 PPP-led government of President Zardari did not reopen what would have been a can of worms for its Sindhi supporters. The 2010 flood disaster, however, pointed to the fact that Pakistan faced more immediate problems of water management arising from climate change than it had previously anticipated. The Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, went on record that the flood disaster in Sindh would have been mitigated if the Kalabag Dam had been constructed. Lack of trust, however, continues to threatens timely mreasures such as smaller dam projects, let alone the politically charged Kalabagh scheme whose construction in any case would take around six years.
Civil-Military Relations and Milbus Under Musharraf
The military’s penetration of Pakistan’s state, economy and society has been a constant theme throughout this text. Its emergence as a key interest group which intervened to safeguard institutional interests in the name of the nation’s stability and security dates back, as we have seen, to the early post-independence era. Under Ayub and Zia, the military role in the running of the state grew apace, although its power was never hegemonic, both because military regimes failed to acquire political legitimacy and because they had to rely to a degree on civilian allies drawn from the rural elite, the Islamic establishment and the bureaucracy. Under Musharraf, military control increased at the expense of the bureaucracy, although the Islamic parties remained restive allies in comparison with the more supine landowners.
Before turning to the intensified role of the army in both Pakistan’s administration and economy, it is important to note that Musharraf institutionalized its role at the heart of politics.
This was achieved firstly by restoring the powers of the President to dismiss the Prime Minister and assemblies which had been a feature of Zia’s legacy, but had been removed during Nawaz Sharif’s second stint in office. This measure was important as Musharraf once again restored a direct linkage between the presidency and the military by virtue of his dual office holding as COAS and President. In the early 1990s, civilian presidents had worked closely with the army but always at one step removed. The Legal Framework Order which was incorporated into the constitution early in 2004 ensured presidential power in Pakistan. Secondly, Musharraf gave the military a permanent role in governance through the passage of the National Security Council Act in 2004. The idea that the military should have a permanent presence in deliberation of national policy-making drew inspiration from the Turkish model of civil-military relations. The notion of a Pakistani version was mooted during the Zia era. Musharraf’s introduction of the National Security Council revealed both the long-term suspicion of the army that the state’s functioning could not be left to elected politicians and an established pattern of intervention to safeguard its interests
Despite the misgivings of some of the Islamic parties, the 2002 elections had delivered a National Assembly that was sufficiently pro-establishment to ease through the the legislation. Supporters of the measure stressed that the NSC was merely consultative and that by bringing the army into the heart of governance it would strengthen democracy by encouraging responsibility and removing the need for future coups. This ignored the fact that the NSC not only reduced still further the possibility of the army being held accountable to civilians, but also was reflective of the weakness of democracy rather than a step towards its consolidation.
At the same time as institutionalizing the imbalance in civil-military relations, the Musharraf regime increased both the size of the military’s internal economy and the penetration of serving and retired military personnel in all major institutions. This included not only businesses and commercial undertakings where they may have acquired military based technical skills, but also as heads of universities and think tanks. Within government itself, around 4-5,000 posts were held by military officers.
Long established military enterprises such as the Frontier Works Organization, further extended their activities by seeking private sector partnerships, as for example in the project along with the Habib Rafique Group and Sacchal Construction to build a Lahore-Sheikhupura-Faisalabad motorway. The military’s interest in real-estate development was another marked feature of this period. In 2002, for example, a presidential order enabled the Defence Housing Authority in Lahore to come into existence by taking over the Lahore Cantonment Cooperative Housing Society which had been in existence since 1925. The army was not alone in speculating in real estate which, according to Ayesha Siddiqa, ‘can be considered as one of the primary sources of economic activity in the country, especially after 9/11’, but it remains a ‘major stakeholder’ and most importantly there is clear evidence here of its political power being used to forward economic interests. Property prices escalate in army-run housing schemes because they are seen as more ‘secure’ and have a better infrastructure than civilian-run schemes.
The direct military association with power opened it up to corruption, which reduced its standing in the public’s eyes. This declined further as Musharraf’s own popularity slumped whilst he continued to hold dual offices of President and Chief of Army Staff. The army regained its high standing because of its tackling militancy and the disastrous floods in July-August 2010. Nonetheless it is important not to see the army’s burgeoning economic interests in a totally negative light. Most military enterprises were run reasonably efficiently. The Fauji Foundation’s support for ex-servicemen and their dependents not only provided the conditions for steady supply of recruits, but through, for example, its educational facilities enabled the army to act as the only meritocratic institution in Pakistan. This was evidenced most clearly when General Ashfaq Kayani replaced Musharraf as Army Chief in November 2007. Kayani’s father had been a non-commissioned officer.
Musharraf’s Decline and Fall
Musharraf, like his military predecessors, lacked legitimacy and cast about for ways to secure a popular mandate. He was more adept at political manipulation than Ayub, but lacked Zia’s native cunning. By 2007, the year in which he needed to secure re-election and parliamentary elections were scheduled, he faced mounting unpopularity because of his perceived pro-American stance. At the same time, his Western allies were urging him to come to terms with Benazir Bhutto to shore up democratic and liberal forces in Pakistan against a growing tide of militancy. Musharraf not only shared the army’s mistrust of the PPP, but personally disliked Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. His initial preference was to secure his position as President before allowing her to return to Pakistan on his terms. He attempted this manoeuvre by securing re-election as President from the loyalist parliament dominated by the PML(Q). The questionable legitimacy of this action encouraged the mainstream opposition parties to boycott the indirect electoral college comprising the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and the Senate. This duly re-elected Musharraf as President for five years on 6 October. This did not shore up Musharraf’s position, however, which had already been severely weakened because of his suspension in March 2007 of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on allegations of misconduct and nepotism. The Chief Justice had displayed increasing independence. Musharraf feared that he might pose a legal threat to his re-election process. His action, however, seriously backfired as Pakistan’s lawyers came out onto the streets in mass protest which widened from its concern with the independence of the judiciary into an anti-Musharraf movement. This was the beginning of what was to become the ‘Go Musharraf, Go’ campaign which eventually culminated in his resignation.
Musharraf was unable to prevent Benazir Bhutto’s and Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan shortly after his re-election. Benazir Bhutto had returned on 18 October after an amnesty had been granted and all corruption charges against her were lifted. Her triumphant return was marred by an assassination attempt in Karachi in which a suicide bomber killed 136 people and injured at least 450. Nawaz Sharif returned from his Saudi exile in less dramatic circumstances on 25 November. It was increasingly clear that Musharraf would only be able to preserve his position by working with the leaders of the two parties which would come out on top in the impending elections. In another ill-considered step, however, he painted himself further into a corner by taking the drastic step of declaring a state of emergency on 3 November. This was prompted not by fear of Bhutto and Sharif so much as concern that the Supreme Court would invalidate his recent re-election. The new restriction on the mainstream media which had been given freedom to grow earlier in his regime were epitomized by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Ordinance. The state of emergency was lifted on 15 December in time for parliamentary elections after new appointees to the Supreme Court ratified Musharraf’s election. Earlier on 28 November he had stepped down as Chief of Army Staff, handing control of the army to General Ashfaq Kayani. This decision, which had been long demanded by opponents, did nothing however to restore his credibility and merely further exposed him to opposition without the army’s ‘cover’. The emergency had done irreparable damage to both his domestic and international standing. The Commonwealth had suspended Pakistan from membership on 22 November. Musharraf may have won the battle for the presidency but had lost the wider war of political acceptability. This was amply demonstrated by the concerted attempts to secure his impeachment in the wake of national elections. These had been delayed from January to February 2008 following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007. political opponents claimed that Musharraf was behind her murder. Subsequent reports have pointed out lapses of security for which he must bear responsibility. In the wake of the revulsion and shock which followed her death, some writers feared for the unity of the Pakistan federation. These anxieties were to be proved exaggerated. The main consequences were to prevent any establishment rigging of the polls. The PPP undoubtedly benefited from the sympathy vote, while the PML(N) returned to power in its Punjab heartland at the expense of the discredited pro-Musharraf PML(Q). The pattern of the pre-2002 elections was restored in which the religious-based parties were reduced to the margins. The ANP was the main beneficiary of this process in the NWFP. In a striking reversal of fortune, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and the new co-chair of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, emerged as the key figure in Pakistan politics.
Musharraf’s fate was sealed when Nawaz Sharif agreed to join Zardari’s coalition government. While the cooperation between them was short-lived, they were able to demand the President’s impeachment with a reasonable expectation that they could muster the necessary two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and Senate to pass an impeachment resolution. Musharraf pre-empted this process by announcing his resignation on 18 August. He maintained that the charges against him were false and that his decision was prompted by the need for national unity. Pakistan’s long journey to democratic consolidation was set to enter a new phase.
The mixed legacy of Musharraf’s nearly nine years in office was reflected by the jubilant celebration of political opponents and civil society groups, while the responses of the business classes and of many ordinary citizens were more muted. It may have been this along with an undoubted patriotism which later raised his ambition for a possible return to the political stage through the vehicle of a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim league (APML). By the time of its launch at the beginning of October 2010, the Musharraf era appeared an oasis of relative stability and efficient governance following the chaos and insecurity of the Zardari years. Memories are short in politics so Musharraf’s moves were not greeted with the condemnation which had accompanied his departure from the political scene.
In 2008, however, Musharraf, if not exactly a busted flush, appeared to have a few tricks left up his sleeve. He had promised to improve Pakistan’s governance and economy but had bequeathed a deteriorating situation to his successors. Rather than being the self-proclaimed saviour of the country, he had not begun to address the problems which had bedevilled it since 1947. Political institutions had been further weakened and the issue of provincial autonomy versus centralization still awaited a resolution. Half-hearted attempts had been made to roll back the Islamization measures introduced by Zia. At the same time, the challenge of shariatization had increased, in part because of the ambiguous attitude of the Musharraf regime to Islamic parties and Islamic proxies. The initial hopes for improvement in relations with India had stalled, along with the composite dialogue process. Similarly, the proclaimed empowerment of the masses through political reform had proved a chimera. Perhaps, in these circumstances, the best summary of the Musharraf regime would run along the lines that much was promised but little was delivered. Pakistan still had to resolve the issues which had blocked off its economic and political development since independence. If Pakistan was not a failed state under Musharraf’s stewardship, it remained immobilized. Yet there had never been greater need for structural reform.
By courtesy: Pakistan, A New History by Ian Talbot, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York 2015
A Dictator by any Name
The Military Strikes Back 1999-2008
General Pervez Musharraf overthrew an elected government, an offense punishable by the Constitution of Pakistan.
Lest it be forgotten, General Pervez Musharraf was always a military dictator who, to start with, overthrew an elected government, which is a treasonable offense punishable by death according to the Constitution of Pakistan. The epithet added to him being a ‘liberal dictator’, a crucial fallacy committed even by otherwise smart and intelligent academics, glosses over and partially legitimizes the fact that he was, once and always, a military dictator.
The fascination by Pakistan’s anti-democratic elite, particularly its neoliberal, globalised elite, who partied long and hard with Musharraf and entertained him (and his hand-picked prime minister Shaukat Aziz), of imagining Musharraf as being some type of ‘liberal’, was limited to his westernised lifestyle which they shared.
There was nothing ‘liberal’ about his dictatorial politics, an incipient style of anti-democratic conduct, which the westernized elite also supported wholeheartedly. Whether Musharraf’s personal lifestyle-liberalism did any good in opening social spaces to this elite (and non-elite) – being more tolerant of certain cultural and social practices, allowing women to occasionally find greater political agency and so on – is an important, though secondary, consideration.
The fact that dictators can be, when they so choose, benevolent and do some social good, needs to be sharply contrasted with their anti-democratic, authoritarian interventions that often have serious consequences in the long run.
One so-called liberal dictator of a very different era, General Ayub Khan, was partially responsible for the separation of East Pakistan; Musharraf, three decades later, left a legacy of violence, killings and suicide bombings under the guise of militant Islam and jihadism, which are perhaps only now being addressed.
Despite the best of lifestyle-liberal intentions, political consequences of decisions taken by dictators, leave their mark. Envisaging himself first as an Ataturk, and often as a Jinnah, by the end of his reign in 2008, as numerous events in 2007 were to reveal, Musharraf became another uniformed bully, hungry for personal power … just another military dictator dependent on the largesse of the United States.
Since General Yahya Khan, unlike Pakistan’s three coup makers, was more an accidental and make-shift military ruler rather than a military dictator, Musharraf needs to be viewed against the experiences provided by Generals Ayub and Ziaul Haq. And, unlike his two military predecessors, General Musharraf’s nine-year-long presence on, and dominance of Pakistan’s political scene was far more colourful and riddled with far greater contradictions. While Ayub and Zia were ideologically opposites of each other, only sharing their distaste for civilian politicians, one could argue that their agenda and their politics were far more straightforward, simple and uncomplicated compared to Musharraf’s brand of lifestyle-liberalism mixed with a different brand of dictatorial politics.
One must also emphasize that the regional, global and domestic contexts – in terms of ethnic politics, social classes, global linkages and capitalist accumulation – of all three were also markedly different, though some similarities could be drawn.
From the Cold War politics of the 1960s to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, to the US intervention in Afghanistan in the last decade, one could argue that Pakistan’s three military dictators shared some global and regional similarities, but the 1960s, the 1980s and the 2000s were all considerably different.
One major starting point to their coups which indicates how much the world and Pakistan had changed over the 40 years since 1958, was that, unlike his predecessors, Musharraf did not declare Martial Law when he dismissed and subsequently banished prime minister Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. In fact, that he chose the title of Chief Executive as he wanted “to serve people, rather than rule” was clearly indicative of the sensibilities of a new generation and a different world.
Pakistan’s higher judiciary, in all its wisdom and based on many decades of its institutional experience of endorsing and working with military dictators, gave Musharraf three years after his coup to hold elections. As Pakistan’s chief executive, supported by the westernized elite, backed by numerous formerly radical members of civil society and NGOs, with a finance (and later, prime) minister specially invited from Citibank, Musharraf set up a technocratic government based on his Seven Point Reform agenda, which would make any autocrat proud.
The first three years of the Musharraf regime were troubled, although it was popular in some domestic circles, with Pakistan still a pariah state internationally because of sanctions that had been imposed after the nuclear tests in 1998. Things were made worse by the Musharraf coup in an era when military interventions were no longer fashionable. This international isolation, with consequences on Pakistan’s economy, lasted till the fateful day in September 2001 when much of the world changed.
Just as Gen Zia was rescued by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Musharraf found after 9/11, a longevity which he could not have expected in 1999. Once Musharraf decided that he was with the US rather than against it, and was far secure of his future, he began to unravel new interventions in the political and governance structures he had prepared.
He started by building a new system of local government (prior to 2001), doing away with the urban-rural divide and reducing the powers of bureaucrats. He increased considerably the number of seats reserved for women at all tiers of electoral representation. Having moved on from being a non-descript chief executive to be the president of Pakistan in July 2001, he called for a referendum in April 2002 to seek legitimacy from the people for his efforts, receiving a ‘Yes’ vote, in true dictator style, of 97.5 per cent.
Unlike Gen Zia’s never ending ‘90 days’, to his credit, Musharraf did hold elections after the Supreme Court’s three-year moratorium was over, in 2002. Yet, one must recognise that after the US attack on Afghanistan, with his future secured, he could easily afford to do so. With George Bush in the White House backing his ‘buddy’ in Islamabad fighting the War on Terror, Musharraf could get away with a great deal at home. And he did.
Meddling with the Constitution after creating a King’s Party of former tried and failed politicians from Nawaz Sharif’s party, he enforced electoral reforms which specifically barred both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from becoming prime minister again. He also lowered the voting age to 18 years, believing that Pakistan’s millennials would endorse his vision of Enlightened Moderation and vote for candidates he approved of, making graduation a requirement to contest elections.
Always under pressure from the religious right, however, he had to give in to their demands of allowing religious non-graduate, seminary-trained individuals to contest his graduate-only elections.
The result was that while he got a subservient parliament in Islamabad and Lahore, he was forced to give away the NWFP [since renamed KP] to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious parties opposed to Musharraf’s pro-West agenda and to his, and the GHQ’s, U-turn on the Taliban. Nevertheless, Musharraf learned to use the MMA presence in the NWFP as a bargaining chip with the Americans to his significant advantage.
The 2007 Implosion
From 9/11 onwards, thinking that he was assured of a tenure reminiscent of Ayub Khan, backed unequivocally by the US, pumped up by the hubris and bravado of a commando that he once was, Musharraf unfolded another experiment in praetorian democracy in the country that was different from what the country had under Zia. Musharraf’s experiment, having been initiated in 2002, imploded in 2007. If ever there was a year of supreme significance in Pakistan’s political history, with consequences well into its future, it was 2007. In March of that year, Musharraf dismissed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. It was an event which resulted in not just the lawyers’ movement, but played a key role in bringing Musharraf down eventually, and in rebuilding Nawaz Sharif’s political future.
On May 12, Musharraf showed his true colours and demonstrated his vicious streak in Islamabad that left many killed in Karachi as they awaited the arrival of the deposed chief justice. Then in July, an attack on Lal Masjid by the army – shown live on Musharraf’s gift to the Pakistani people, a free-for-all, independent, electronic media – led to the killing of an unknown number of militants. The incident resulted in the country’s worst wave of domestic terror which continued for at least a decade, killing, by some accounts, up to 70,000. In October, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), granting amnesty to many prominent politicians, a further sign of his weakening grip on power. On November 3, Musharraf imposed a desperate mini-martial law, an Emergency, as an uncertain future stared him in the face.
Elections had been announced by then, and both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had returned to the country and were challenging Musharraf under the banner of a Charter of Democracy they had signed a year earlier in London. Having survived an assassination attempt in Karachi on her return in October, Benazir Bhutto fell victim to an assassin’s bullet on December 27, ending an extraordinary year.
Pervez Musharraf was forced out by democratic forces in 2008. A decade later, he threatens to return to Pakistan to contest elections, but remains an absconder from the courts where he is under trial, among other cases, for treason. Given Pakistan’s political history, this is clearly a unique situation for a former president who also happened to be the army chief.
Good intentions are one thing; eventual outcomes something else. Whatever Musharraf thought he would leave as a legacy, he left Pakistan far more unstable, more violent, less tolerant, and in further disarray.
The Balochistan crisis, on which news continues to be suppressed, was a creation of his regime, where the killing of Akbar Bugti stands out yet another case of state murder. Failure or success need to be evaluated in terms of what could have been achieved, and what wasn’t in assessing opportunities that were floundered.
Musharraf and his technocratic whiz kids are to be held responsible for not achieving many key reforms when they had undisputed power, with key sections of the political class either in disarray or bought over, with support from some key constituencies, and when those in power were awash with capital from abroad. Just the fiscal space created because postponed debt repayments on account of 9/11 amounted to an extra $5 billion each year which could have been spent on social and infrastructure development. Yet, most was squandered in speculative property and stock market machinations which produced nothing tangible except making many of the cronies of the regime very rich.
Musharraf had a dictatorial model of politics, with crony capitalism his sense of economics, and lifestyle-liberalism his social agenda, all backed up by huge dependence on the United States.
A decade after his ouster, much of what Musharraf did has been undone, reversed by popular and political mandate, been put aside completely, perhaps a sign of maturity of the country’s democratic transition and transformation.
While his regime left behind consequences that survived well beyond 2008, history will prove Musharraf and his interventions to be far fickler and fleeting than he could have ever imagined. No wonder he is remembered only as a lifestyle-liberal or ‘dictator chic’ (as Edward Luce of the Financial Times has used the phrase in a different context), who just happened to be Pakistan’s third military dictator.
By S. Akbar Zaidi: The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. He teaches at Columbia University in New York, and at the IBA in Karachi.
Dawn December 1, 2017
HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL
Editorial Dawn Dec. 1, 2017
Is it shocking or the new normal? Former military dictator and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf has expressed his admiration and support for Hafiz Saeed and the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.. Unprovoked, seemingly for no reason other than his need to make headlines with increasingly outrageous statements and with no regard for Pakistan’s delicate international position, Mr Musharraf has once again spewed out fantastical nonsense. What is more than puzzling is that when Mr Musharraf was army chief and had installed himself as a military dictator, it was his regime that took significant steps to restrain militancy. Indeed, it was on the former dictator’s orders that many militants groups were outlawed, and at least nominal clampdowns enforced.
Quite why Mr Musharraf has felt the need to traverse the ground between an advocate of a moderate Pakistan to now saying virtually anything that appears to pop in his mind or interviewers goad him into saying is not clear.
What is clear is that his former institution or whoever is able to counsel restraint needs to urgently speak to Mr Musharraf and put an end to his unpredictable outbursts.
Perhaps Mr Musharraf also needs to be reminded of the destructiveness of his regime. After nearly a decade in charge, militants were rampant, the economy had tanked and society was under the influence of growing extremism.
If there is a singular justification for why modern Pakistan needs democracy not dictatorship, Mr Musharraf is it. Unable to deal with his ouster after a revolt by Pakistani society, Mr Musharraf has tried to establish himself as a legitimate political alternative to no avail.
Now, he has chosen self-exile rather than facing a treason trial. But even by the standards of a frustrated former strongman, Mr Musharraf appears to have little regard for the damage his comments can cause to the country.
If a long-term army chief and military dictator cannot exercise restraint, perhaps it is time for him to be ignored all together by the nation.