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Listen to Your Brother, Musharraf By: Paul Sperry
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 09, 2007

Dr. Naved Musharraf warned his older brother years ago not to follow in the footsteps of other Pakistani strongmen who ruled with an iron fist and became corrupted by power.

"Look, don't overstay and end up like previous martial law governments," Musharraf, a U.S. citizen, advised his brother after he seized control of Islamabad in a 1999 coup. "They were thrown out by the people."

But Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has snubbed his advice, launching his second military crackdown in eight years, a kind of coup against his own government. Over the weekend, the general, who refuses to remove his uniform and govern as a civilian leader as promised, suspended the constitution and declared martial law.

In Musharraf's latest power grab, more than 3,500 civilians have been rounded up and detained, most of them lawyers, judges and political opponents. Pakistan's leader, viewed by the Bush administration as an ally in the war on terror, has ordered his troops to seize the supreme court, police stations and media outlets. They've also cut telephone lines and censored the press.

In 2002, Musharraf enacted the Legal Framework Order, or LFO, giving himself the absolute power to sack the prime minister and dissolve parliament, while formalizing his position as both head of the army and state.

Under pressure from the West, Musharraf made a public commitment to retire from the army and remove his uniform by Dec. 31, 2004. But he soon changed his mind.

"I thought that removing my uniform would dilute my authority and command at a time when both were required most," he said in his recently published memoir. "Therefore, much against my habit and character, I decided to go against my word. I decided not to give up my uniform."

The Pakistani supreme court recently challenged that decision, however, leading to Musharraf's purging of its justices. The draconian move made it clear to critics that his main motive in the crackdown is not to protect the government from terrorism, as he claims, but to save his job and consolidate power.

"This is consistent with who he is. He wants all power all the time," said Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst. "He's not prepared to share power with anyone" -- including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was away in Dubai when Musharraf ordered martial law.

Dr. Musharraf, a Chicago anesthesiologist who moved to America in 1974, says his older brother does have a authoritarian streak, and can be a bully.

"He used to impose his will on me," he told the New York Times in a 1999 interview. "He'd get angry with me."

He said he hoped his brother would keep his promise to the people of Pakistan and return to democracy.

"If he carries out his promises he's given, I'll be happy," Dr. Musharraf said. "If he becomes corrupted by power, I'll be uncomfortable. I hope he does his job, holds elections and gets out."

Even before the latest crackdown, Musharraf's public approval ratings had sunk to 21 percent in Pakistan.

Both Washington and London had been pushing Musharraf toward democratic reforms with little success. Now, in the wake of his emergency rule, they are demanding he restore the constitution, step down as army chief and hold free elections now.

Musharraf, who sponsored the Taliban before 9/11, has been a reluctant partner in the war on terror. He admits in his memoir that the only reason he signed on to America's war was for "self-interest and self-preservation."

While claiming to cooperate with U.S. antiterror objectives, he has cut deals with Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal belt; freed high-value al-Qaida targets whom U.S. authorities helped him capture, such as Mohammed Noor Khan; and refused to let authorities question Danny Pearl's murderer, Omar Sheikh, or nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan.

On his watch, moreover, Osama bin Laden and the rest of al-Qaida'a high command have carved out a new sanctuary within Pakistan, where they are training both local and foreign jihadists from Europe and America, including young children now, to attack the West.

And at the same time, Musharraf forbids U.S. patrols in his country to hunt down bin Laden or even counter-attack insurgents.

"It's not that we lack the ability to go into that space," said Tom Fingar of the office of the director of U.S. National Intelligence. "But we have chosen not to do so without the permission of the Pakistani government."

He complained Islamabad consistently denies the U.S. military, based across the border in Afghanistan, permission to go after known al-Qaida training camps.

And the CIA station chief in Islamabad is confined to that city and almost completely isolated. He and other officers cannot venture out into the tribal areas without a Pakistani military escort.

Still, the administration has showered Musharraf's regime with $11 billion in military and economic aid since 9/11, while removing long-time sanctions imposed on Pakistan for rogue nuclear operations and other international violations.

Musharraf also revealed in his memoir that he only took steps toward democracy following his original 1999 military coup because of "external constraints imposed on me by the West in its demand for 'democracy.'"

He argues on page 334 of the book that much of what the West considers terrorism is viewed in the Muslim world as a "struggle for freedom" among the "mujahideen." And Western notions about "democracy" must be tailored to local cultures.

"The sooner the West accepts this reality, instead of thrusting on every country ideas that may be alien to people's aspirations, the better it will be for global harmony," he said. "I still am struggling to convince the West that Pakistan is more democratic today than it ever was in the past."

Musharraf added: "Ironically, to become so it needed me in uniform."

The Supreme Court justices Musharraf arrested might see it differently.

Paul Sperry, a Hoover Institution media fellow, is author of Infiltration and co-author of a forthcoming book on the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Email: Sperry@SperryFiles.com.

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