We could'nt help notice the contrast in the assessement of General Musharraf's position in Pakistan right now from two reports. The first article "Musharraf's unhappy new year
" is from the The Economist
. Its argument can be summarized in the opening para:
FOR Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, troubles are coming not as single spies but in battalions. An American rocket attack on January 13th on a remote mountain village in Bajaur, a tribal agency near the border with Afghanistan, provoked angry nation-wide protests. Army action in Baluchistan province against rebellious tribesmen continues to take a toll of soldiers and civilians, and this week anonymous threats prompted foreign aid organisations to suspend operations there. Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, devastated by an earthquake in October, is suffering the misery of a Himalayan winter. Many Pakistanis fear the peace process with India is going nowhere. To cap it all, the president has faced a political rebellion in Sindh province.
This pretty much echoes our arguments presented here
. The editorial then talks about Musharraf's strategy (or lackthereof) on 'restoring' democracy:
Besieged as he seems to be, General Musharraf still shows no inclination to broaden his political base by making friends with the parties of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, two exiled former prime ministers. Rather, he seems to see the presidential elections due next year as a chance to weaken them further, and consolidate his own power. Ruling Pakistan is not at all easy, even for an all-powerful dictator who, most observers reckon, sincerely wants to do well by the country.
Second, we present an article by Indian blogger/cricket journalist Amit Varma
in the Wall Street Journal
titled "Musharraf's Strong Position
" (Hattip: nukh). The contrast could'nt be more as manifested in the title. He goes on and interviews a couple of editors of English language newspapers in Pakistan and generally takes their word for granted. It is another issue that the total circulation of such newspapers is estimated to be a paltry 300,000 in a country of 160 million.
Gen. Musharraf in no immediate danger from the protests in most major Pakistan cities against the recent U.S. air strikes targeting al Qaeda terrorists hiding along the border with Afghanistan. The radical Islamic groups, who cynically exploited outrage over Pakistani civilian casualties to whip up these protests, know this only too well.
"These demonstrations are just a cynical ploy by the Islamists," said Murtaza Razvi, Lahore editor of the Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most widely-read English-language newspaper. "They are just playing to their vote bank. No political party in the country can overthrow Musharraf."
Although Islamic political parties scored some success in parliamentary elections in 2002, they are a minority in parliament and their importance is often overrated by outside observers. "They have more influence in the cities than in the rural areas," said Mr. Razvi. "But not enough to unseat Musharraf."
writes Mr. Varma. It is contrasting to note that Gen. Musharraf courts the very same Islamist parties inorder to undermine the mainstream parties viz. PPP and PML. So far he has been playing off one politcal party/ethnic group versus another (relatively Secular vs Islamists, Sindhis Vs Balochis, etc.) thus retaining his own power as Chief of State and the Armed Forces. But his divide-and-rule policy backfired when all the political parties including the Punjab PPP
were firmly opposed to Musharraf's ill-conceived Kalabagh Dam plan and even the non-Islamist parties
were united in the protests against the U.S. missile strikes.
Clearly, we do not advocate status quo. Gen Musharraf has been a catastrophe both in the Global War on Terror and has'nt changed one bit vis-a-vis India since being the architect of the Kargil War. Neither do we advocate an immediate 'regime change'. But we are nevertheless not convinced that all is well for the Generalissmo in his country.
PS: We wonder why none of the Indian bloggers/journalists visiting Lahore don't pay a visit to al-Dawa University in Murdike not far from Lahore where the Jamat-ud-Dawa 'charity' group is based. More on it in this
report from Frontline