“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Musharraf and the Latest Coup

Here's some interesting news from the Asia Times: Pakistan Foils Coup Plot.
Hattip:Bill Roggio

Forty people, most of them middle ranking Air Force officers have been arrested in a thwarted coup attempt against Pervez Musharraf. According to the Asia Times article, all of them are Islamists.

How the coup plotters were divulged
The conspiracy was discovered through the naivety of an air force officer who this month used a cell phone to activate a high-tech rocket aimed at the president's residence in Rawalpindi. The rocket was recovered, and its activating mechanism revealed the officer's telephone number. His arrest led to the other arrests.

Other rockets were then recovered from various high security zones, including the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Islamabad.

The Fallout
Still in the US, Musharraf also claimed that former ISI officials were supporting the Taliban and he sent instructions to the director general of the ISI to check on top officials, including retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul and retired Colonel Ameer Sultan (known as Colonel Imam). Gul is a former director general of the ISI and Ameer is considered as the founding father of the Taliban movement. He was Pakistan's consul-general in Herat in western Afghanistan when the Taliban emerged in the mid-1990s.

Musharraf also instructed that a list be compiled of all retired officers who had been involved in any significant intelligence operations and who were suspected of still being sympathetic towards the Taliban.

At the same time, he began to backtrack from an agreement Islamabad had made with the Pakistani Taliban in the Waziristan tribal areas for the release of al-Qaeda-linked people detained in Pakistan. Instead, more were arrested, including Shah Mehboob, a brother of former jihad veteran and member of parliament, Shah Abdul Aziz. Also arrested was a British-born suspected member of al-Qaeda, known as Abdullah.

Musharraf's Future
"This is just one glimpse of upcoming events as a result of Musharraf's pro-American policies, which are in contrast to the thinking pattern of Pakistan's state institutions," said retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja, a former ISI official who went to Afghanistan after his forced retirement and fought alongside Osama bin Laden against Soviet Russia in the 1980s. (Khawaja features on Musharraf's list mentioned above.)

"Musharraf always blamed the madrassas [Islamic seminaries] for extremism, but all plots against him or his government go back to the armed forces. But he still does not realize why this happens," Khawaja maintained.

"He says retired ISI officials are involved in supporting the Taliban. I say there is no difference between retired and serving ones. All of them have the same approach, mindset and conviction. The retired ones act freely, while the serving ones have some job constraints, but both think in the same way. The present move of a coup against Musharraf is the writing on the wall that if he continues with pro-American policies, he will continue to face problems like that," Khawaja said.

US Foreign Policy Implications
This is not something new, but over the years Musharraf and hardliners within the army have been able to live with one another. Had a hardline ruler been in Musharraf's place, Western countries would have tightened the noose around Pakistan and its security institutions would not have been able to manipulate their support of the Taliban. Because of Musharraf, Western countries are not prepared to be tough on Pakistan, which allows the hardliners to continue their activities.

Musharraf is acutely aware of the undercurrents in the army, which historically draws its inspiration from Islam, and more recently from the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001, when anti-US sentiment also took root. Musharraf exploited this by convincing the West of his usefulness in keeping the army - "full of extremism" - under control, something that a democratically elected government could not do, he argued. This cozy arrangement, or uneasy truce, between Musharraf and hardline Islamists in the ranks is breaking down as the US is demanding that Musharraf do something about the resurgent Taliban. He has responded, as outlined above, by cracking down on Taliban supporters and sympathizers. These people, both in uniform and out, have in turn given their reponse: they are not prepared to throw away all the gains that have been made in Afghanistan.

Musharraf's on borrowed time. He knows it and with his book sales, has been feathering his nest in anticipation of his future endeavers. His value to the west has been as an ally against Islamists in Pakistan and his days of playing it down the middle between Bush and the Taliban are numbered. Both sides are becoming impatient. Bill Roggio has pointed out some very encouraging news that the MSM somehow overlooked.
Pakistan's The News reports NATO aircraft "Nato planes intruded into Pakistani territory from the neighbouring [Nurestan] province of Afghanistan several times where an operation against al-Qaeda and Taliban has been going on since few days," residents of Chitral told the The News. AFP confirms the fighting took place in Nurestan after an ISAF convoy was attack. Up to 14 Taliban were killed in the airstrikes. While the temptation is assume the air strikes were deliberate, the likelihood is NATO forces in Nurestan were engaged in "hot pursuit" of Taliban and al-Qaeda crossing into Pakistan.

After Musharraf
The fact that NATO aircraft are intruding into Pakistani territory without a complaint from Musharraf could indicate that the coup attempt has backfired severely and/or Musharraf has decided to cash-out of Pakistan and throw-in with the West. As the Asia Times writer pointed out, in some ways, it would be easier to deal with Pakistan if Musharraf were no longer there.

1 comment: