August Issue 2007

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 17 years ago

It is ironic that General Musharraf is clinching a deal with Bhutto, the woman he was determined to banish from Pakistan’s politics forever. And even more ironic that she, daughter of one of the greatest champions of democracy, is going along with a man she was determined to send back to the barracks.

Just goes to prove, yet again, that there are no permanent foes and friends in politics, only “permanent interests” — Ms Bhutto’s being a third stint as prime minister, and General Musharraf’s a second term as president.

Of course, both would prefer to refer to these as being in the “national interest.” Unfortunately, neither of them have won rave reviews on that score.

Bhutto’s two terms were ridden with allegations of corruption and nepotism. Musharraf’s eight years have been spent fighting the US war on terrorism — with little success. On the contrary, the war has hit home in a big way. Post the Lal Masjid operation, suicide bombers, some in their teens, have been unleashed across the country from Islamabad to Waziristan. And they have struck strategic targets, including police academies and army checkposts, with tragic consequences, killing, on occasion, as many as 43 people in a day. Mosques and madrassahs are being overrun by fearless, radicalised young boys in army fatigues and gas masks, armed with rocket-launchers, Kalashnikovs and several rounds of bullets.

Extremely disturbing images, to say the least. But more disturbing is the fact that the army and police appear totally at sea when confronted with these elements. If those in charge are failing or cowering before the might of these militants, what does it bode for the future of this country?

Equally ominous are the warnings being issued by certain circles in the US of extending the war on terror inside Pakistan, more specifically to areas bordering Afghanistan, to flush out Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who are suspected to have taken refuge here. Earlier attempts by the US to target suspected militant hideouts in Pakistan have led to angry reprisals against local authorities. And this time round, the consequences could be far worse as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are now on the warpath.

Is Pakistan destined to become another Afghanistan or Iraq in its sixtieth year of independence?

The Musharraf-Bhutto combine have a gruelling task ahead.


Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.