Years that the locust hath eaten

Marshall Henri Philippe Petain, the hero of Verdun in World War I. In WWII after liberation of France, he told the Führer, his host in Germany, that he was leaving for France to surrender himself to the will of the French people. When he crossed the French border, a general of the French army arrested him in the name of Gen Charles de Gaulle. He was tried for collaboration and sentenced to death. Gen de Gaulle commuted it to life imprisonment in recognition of Marshall Petain’s services to the French people in World War I. Petain, the hero of Verdun, died in jail. Why doesn’t Gen Musharraf, a proclaimed offender and fugitive from justice, with no military victory to his credit, follow Marshall Petain’s noble example, catch the first PIA flight and return to Pakistan to face his people and meet the fate awaiting him?
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MUSHARRAF SHOULD LEAVE LONDON – SURRENDER HIMSELF TO THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE

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by Roedad Khan

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 Sometimes extreme dangers, instead of elevating a nation, bring it low. That is what happened to America after 9/11. I was in Washington DC on that fateful day and, returning from an early morning walk, was shocked to watch on television the terrible human tragedy in which thousands of innocent men and women lost their lives. Nobody can justify or condone a crime of such unparalleled magnitude. We understand America’s anger and we shared its grief and pain, but on Sept 20, as we listened to President George W Bush’s wartime rhetoric and Wild West allegories, we held our breath. When he finished, the spontaneous reaction of all those present was that he had virtually declared war on the entire Islamic world.

 It is unfortunate that he called his riposte a “crusade,” because he could not have chosen a word more likely to antagonise Muslims. America set off on the warpath against the Islamic world. Today Afghanistan and Iraq are under American military occupation. Libya is well under invasion, and Iran, Syria, and Pakistan appear next on the hit list. This, to paraphrase Clauswitz, is continuation of colonialism by other means. 

 How did 9/11 impact Pakistan? Gen Musharraf succumbed to a telephoned “ultimatum” from Washington on Sept 12 and promised “unstinted” cooperation to the Americans in the so-called war on terror. On Sept 13 he accepted all of their seven demands which he was told were not negotiable. “It looks like you got it all,” a surprised Bush told a triumphant Colin Powell. No self-respecting, sovereign country, no matter how small or weak, could have accepted such humiliating demands with such alacrity. Gen Musharraf executed a U-turn and disowned the Taliban. Pakistan joined the “coalition of the coerced.”

 It was entirely Gen Musharraf’s decision. The search for consensus that he talks about started on Sept 18 when surrender was already an accomplished fact. The Afghans never stabbed us in the back when we were in trouble and at war with India. No Afghan government was as friendly to Pakistan as the Taliban government. By allowing Americans to use our territory as a platform for bombing Afghanistan, we antagonised the Afghans, especially the majority Pakhtun who live in the Pakhtun belt along our border. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a military government laid the foundation of permanent enmity with Pakhtuns on both sides of the border.

 Musharraf had to choose between saying no to the American diktat and shame. He chose the latter, and opted for collaboration. Thus began Pakistan’s slide into disaster. We would have suffered if we had said no. But that is a little matter. We would have retained something which is of great value. We would have walked about the world with our heads erect. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif defied President Clinton and carried out a nuclear explosion. The Turks said no to the Americans and refused to allow them transit facilities for their invasion of Iraq. Despite tremendous pressure, the Iranians are courageously guarding their nuclear facilities.

 History will never forgive Gen Musharraf for reversing Mr. Jinnah’s Waziristan policy under American pressure, with disastrous consequences for Pakistan. When the British left, Mr. Jinnah took a bold decision to reverse the “pacification” policy, withdrew regular troops from Waziristan and entered into new agreements with the tribes. The change in policy produced dramatic results and paid rich dividends. All this has now changed. Mr. Jinnah’s Waziristan policy, which had stood the test of time, has been reversed. The result is a totally unnecessary and avoidable state of armed confrontation between the army and tribesmen.

 Today Pakistan is not the country it was a decade ago. Back then, the country was settled, stable, democratic and free. Today, thanks to Musharraf and his NRO, Pakistan is a “rentier state,” ill-led, ill-governed by a power-hungry junta supported by America.

 In the attempt to build “pure democracy,” this is what we get: a fraudulent democracy, a corrupt president and equally corrupt figurehead prime minister, a rubberstamp parliament, Potemkin villages dotted all over the country, the nation’s army at war with its own people in Waziristan; flagrant violation of our airspace and national sovereignty by US aircraft and security personnel. 

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 How will history remember Gen Musharraf? That he capitulated under American pressure and compromised national sovereignty; that Pakistan lost its independence and virtually became an American colony during his presidency; that he subordinated national interests to his political ambitions; that he inducted the army into the politics of Pakistan; that he used it as an instrument for capturing and retaining political power; that in the process he did incalculable harm to the army and to the country; that he joined hands with the corrupt and discredited politicians to acquire political support; that he held a dubious referendum so that he could rule anther five years; that he allowed blatant, flagrant use of the administration and official machinery in support of the “king’s party”; that he turned parliament into a rubberstamp; that he broke faith with his people when he failed to honour his public commitment to give up his post as chief of the army staff and doff his uniform; that he defaced, disfigured and mutilated the Constitution in order to perpetuate his rule; that he promised a great deal and delivered very little. His presidency will go down in history as a case study in the bankruptcy of military leadership. The years he remained in power will go down in history as “the years that the locust hath eaten.”

What fate awaits Gen Musharraf if he ever came to Pakistan? History will doubtless charge him with a number of sins of omission and commission and its judgment will be harsh. On the central accusation – that he toppled an elected government, arrested the prime minister and the chief justice and suspended the Constitution, he will be held guilty of treason.

 Remember, Marshall Henri Philippe Petain, the hero of Verdun in World War I. In WWII after liberation of France, he told the Führer, his host in Germany, that he was leaving for France to surrender himself to the will of the French people. When he crossed the French border, a general of the French army arrested him in the name of Gen Charles de Gaulle. He was tried for collaboration and sentenced to death. Gen de Gaulle commuted it to life imprisonment in recognition of Marshall Petain’s services to the French people in World War I. Petain, the hero of Verdun, died in jail.

 Why doesn’t Gen Musharraf, a proclaimed offender and fugitive from justice, with no military victory to his credit, follow Marshall Petain’s noble example, catch the first PIA flight and return to Pakistan to face his people and meet the fate awaiting him?

 Tailpiece: Why is the NRO case, in which Zardari is the principal beneficiary, hibernating in the Supreme Court? Will it ever come alive, I wonder. I am one of the petitioners.

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 The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats. net.pk, http://www.roedadkhan.com

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