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The cauldron called Pakistan
Irrelevance of Musharraf
By H.K. Dua

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi has pushed the troubled state of Pakistan into a crisis deeper than it had ever been in the 60 years of its existence. The tragedy is that no one in Pakistan, or the world outside, really knows how to pull the country out of it.

Like in a Greek tragedy, events were inexorably moving towards the kind of fate Benazir Bhutto has met. She herself was feeling the heat of unfolding events that were pushing her to the centrestage in Pakistan's politics and making her become a victim of gunshots and a bomb blast, the kind of which have already done enough damage to the country during the last several decades.

It is not just the end of the Bhutto dynasty that the gunshots signify. What comes out of Pakistan is a situation which is grim and is bound to have a bearing beyond the country's borders.

The state of Pakistan is getting pushed into an anarchy that often prevails within a cauldron where events are not easy to control, the situation is always on the boil and the spillover dangerous to handle. President Musharraf can only stir the cauldron without making any effect.

No one in India can be liking the situation within Pakistan. The country is getting out of hands of its own rulers and much that is happening on the ground is gory, carrying only bad tidings for the people of Pakistan.

The unfolding tragedy of Pakistan cannot be ignored by India, which is invariably affected by the fires next door. The rest of the world, particularly the United States — which has invested a lot of its political capital on Pakistan and backing the wrong horses at the wrong time and for far too long — has also been caught napping.

Our own mandarins at the South Block are good at smart analysis, but it will be surprising if they have worked out a policy on Pakistan faced with greater chaos where no one's writ might run for some time.

Washington has never been right on Pakistan. The jehadis it nurtured over the years to fight out the Soviet forces in Afghanistan are no longer under its control. The jehadis are a major force now in Pakistan, challenging even the mighty United States itself.

Al-Qaida, which has taken on President George Bush with a vengeance, is entrenched in Pakistan and cocking a snook at the United States as well as President Musharraf who is seen as Washington's man in Pakistan.

In one cruel stroke that felled Benazir Bhutto, the jehadis or their sympathisers in the Pakistan Army, have demolished the entire American strategy of forging an alliance between President Musharraf and the Army on one side and Benazir Bhutto on the other to fight Islamist extremism. American Presidents are fond of engineering solutions only to see them fall apart before they fly back from Texas to Washington.

India and the world are now seeing Pakistan where President Musharraf could not even save the life of Benazir Bhutto who was to provide him with a civilian facade of a made-in-America brand of democracy, which Washington likes to export for consumption abroad.

Nor did, until recently, the Indian establishment feel that President Musharraf is no longer relevant to the emerging situation in Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf can only see the country slip out of his control, much damaged and at the mercy of events.

Here is a country of 160 million people unfortunately sitting on a mix of elements all at war with one another. The Pakistan army is, by and large, known to be highly professional and well trained, but it cannot be ignored that many of those who General Zia-ul-Haq (who executed none else than Benazir Bhutto's father) recruited are jehadis in mentality and have reached Colonel and Brigadier levels.

It is in the character of the Pakistan Army that it simply does not want to share power with the civilians, be it Benazir or Nawaz Sharif. The lawyers' agitation that began with Musharraf's fight against the Supreme Court last March is not yet a force to challenge either the Army or the fundamentalists, who are in control of two provinces and are often used by the Army to keep the civilians at bay.

The world should be worried about how this dangerous mix of conflicting interests and designs will burst in its face. It may be too late for it to put the pieces back together in Pakistan. 

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