Musharraf is back
After his return to politics, General is shooting off his mouth left, right and centre
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf is firmly back on the scene. His formal entry into Pakistan politics early this month has returned him to the world attention. It has been a typical Musharraf fightback. Just when we thought the general was slipping into oblivion, and the heady drama surrounding his tumultuous nine year tenure was exhausted of its news potential, Musharraf has steered his way back into our midst, alive and kicking with the same irrepressible energy and the readiness to talk. And the former president has been talking ever since, generating heat and dust along the way.
He has talked of how titillatingly close to the solution India and Pakistan were on Kashmir towards the end of his regime in 2008. The two countries, he told NDTV, were formulating the draft of the final agreement when he lost power. He also controversially talked about Islamabad’s role in supporting militancy in Kashmir prompting New Delhi to quickly declare vindication of its perennial claim to the effect. However, Musharraf later retracted the statement. The general also accused his bete noire Nawaz Sharif of a sell out on Kashmir. He said there was nothing in the Lahore Declaration signed by the then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in February 1999, which could form the basis for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Musharraf has made TV appearances and talked to newspapers, resurrecting the one-man PR machine that he is with all guns blazing. And he certainly has made a big splash.
For Kashmir, General's re-emergence as a politician – albeit with very uncertain prospects of ever getting to lead Pakistan again – is a fateful development. Incidentally, it comes around the time, the state is going through its worst convulsion in years. The situation looks even more difficult when compared with the last years of Musharraf's tenure when drastic decline in militancy led to a resurgence in mainstream politics and the consequent normalcy in Kashmir. Ironically, New Delhi always blaming Musharraf for Kargil never gave him credit for contributing to peace in the state.
Musharraf, however didn't only restrain militancy. He recast the way Pakistan related to the separatists and the mainstream politicians in Kashmir, something no Pakistani government dared to do before him. He turned his back on Syed Ali Shah Geelani who until then was Islamabad's best bet in Kashmir. He decisively backed Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and persuaded him to support Islamabad's new flexible approach to Kashmir solution. What's more, he embarked on an outreach to the state's major mainstream politicians including Omar Abdullah and senior PDP politicians. And he unveiled a radical four point formula for the settlement of Kashmir which envisaged a solution without any re-adjustment of the state's geography.
What distinguished Musharraf is that he created a way for a solution where none existed. He got things to move, engineering history rather than be subservient to it. He pitted himself against the vast historical baggage on Kashmir and almost got the better of it. But at the end of it all, history won. Musharraf exited from the scene with Kashmir continuing unresolved.
Kashmir’s relationship with him was ambivalent rather than of the outright adoration which in the past was the case with the likes of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later General Zia-ul-Haq. Before nineties, successive Pakistani leaders almost invariably acquired the status and mystique of a Bollywood hero in Kashmir. Their rhetoric on Kashmir became the talk of the town. But that was a world uncluttered with information overload and 24X7 TV news. As against them, Musharraf could sizzle TV - and still does -arguing for Kashmir solution, something that resonates with people in the Valley. But there has been a certainly disconnect with his policies. His Kashmir formula never got a resounding street support in Valley, nor was opposed. Somehow, he didn’t catch the popular imagination in Kashmir like Zulfkar Bhutto, probably because he is not adept at the rabble rousing rhetoric that Bhutto was famous for.
Now, what does his re-emergence on the scene as a political actor - mean for Kashmir. Perhaps little. A political landscape Pakistan which has remained resolutely divided between Bhuttos and Shariefs since the end of Zial-ul-Haq's 11 year reign holds little hope for Musharraf to return to power. In a scenario where the legendary former cricketer Imran khan has struggled to win a few seats for his party, Musharraf with his war on terror baggage cannot be expected to go far. However, the big difference that Musharraf makes is the way he brings his personality to bear on his politics. Here is an authoritative political voice from Pakistan who talks charmingly and helps us - perhaps more than anyone else - make sense of Pakistan, its challenges and predicaments and of course also its failings.
Musharraf's advantage is that his successors have given us a deafeningly quiet Pakistan. Both Zardari and Gillani have not only never distinguished themselves as the persuasive talkers but they have also struggled to make a political impact. As a result, Pakistan's government discourse, at least for the outside world, has fallen silent. And it is this silence and the inefficiency that it hides that offers Musharraf an opportunity to move in. Already, in the twenty days that he has charted his way back to the politics he has created enough media noise around him to drive home this inherent advantage. The general has not only answered questions but also generated some of his own, thereby adding new dimensions to the raging Pakistan debate. He is the only leader in Pakistan who seems to speak for the country. He talks of his past, relates it to the present and has sights on the futur. What matters is that world is hooked. And who knows, it may only be a matter of time before Pakistan's democracy that he gave way to opens up for him.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 19 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 20 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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