The Speech Musharraf Won’t Make

President Musharraf has made many speeches. This is the speech that (were he to make it) would change the course of Indo-Pakistan relations. Unfortunately, it would take a greater leader than Musharraf to make this speech. Here it is, with the hope that it may still get some Pakistani ears

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I begin in the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.

Pakistani Brothers and Sisters!

After a lot of thought, I’m now clear about the two paths that lie ahead of us. One path leads to continued poverty, strife (internal and external), and ultimately to annihilation. Choosing the other path can allow us to work on the long-deferred task of actually building our nation.

To choose between these two paths, we have to take a decision regarding two critical issues: our relationship with India, and our stand on Kashmir. I shall speak about each here.

It should be clear to all rational people that our nation can never fully progress until we make peace with India. They say that we can choose our friends, but not our family. It is the same with the geographical neighbors of a country. Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with India as a neighbor. Whether we like it or not, India is also a major power in the region. We our have a choice regarding the kind of relationship we have with it. A relationship of peace can harbinger a new era of trade and prosperity for both nations. We have many common interests and problems. Together, we can be strong representatives of group of developing nations. Together, we can make SAARC, which has been hobbled by our conflict, into an effective entity. Peace would allow us to divert our crucial resources towards building our infrastructure and for the welfare of our people. Or, we can choose to continue on the path of strife, which on the one hand, serves to keep the masses in poverty and on the other hand, serves to fill the pockets of a few.

During all the fifty years of our independence, we have chosen the path of strife. Certainly the choice was not ours alone — India contributed to it as much as we did. Nonetheless, we played our part in keeping the pot boiling. The time has now come to rethink this policy. Do we want the next fifty years to be better, the same, or worse than the last fifty? Certainly we would like India to change and agree to everything that we say, but that is unlikely to happen. So the choice we have is to consider whether there is any change that we can make in our attitudes to make a significant difference.

The first is for us to genuinely desire peace. I know that the number of people in Pakistan who genuinely desire peace outnumber those that would wish for the conflict to continue or increase. There are, of course, plenty of naysayers. There are those that oppose peace for religious reasons — those that would much rather fight till death. There are those, including some senior people in the army, who would like to continue with the status quo since it serves to fill their pockets. And there are those that favor conflict as they still have bruised egos from past encounters.

I’d ask the first group to choose better occupations for their sons than to be cannon fodder for martyrdom. To the second, I say, your time has come, and no longer will the country exist simply to serve a few, but to serve the many. And the resulting economic prosperity will open more doors towards wealth than it will close. And to the third, who would carry on fighting simply for repairing a bruised ego, I relate to your sentiments, but the path of conflict is no assurance that our egos can be repaired. Neither India, nor Pakistan, is a pushover. Holding on to false pride does not befit the wise. The best path to rebuild our pride as a nation is through peace and prosperity and not through enmity with India. To do this we have to discard our old paradigms and create new ones.

What are the paradigms that we have to discard? Let us first talk about Kashmir. There will be many who are wondering how we can talk about peace with India without first talking about Kashmir. As I have repeatedly said, Kashmir runs in our blood. For years we have supported the Kashmir struggle. In the last two decades, this has been a very violent struggle. Of course, the Indian forces have committed many atrocities upon the people of Kashmir, but I am sad to say that the Jihadis have committed atrocities that are no less. Our support in favour of the violent struggle in Kashmir has served the purpose of keeping India bleeding and keeping the issue of Kashmir alive. However, if we were to be honest with ourselves, it is the Kashmiris who have suffered the most in this violent struggle. The people of Kashmir are fed up of violence. It has robbed them of their lives, their liberties and their peace, and has resulted in an even harsher crackdown from the Indian authorities. Do we want Kashmir or do we want the welfare of Kashmiris? If we want the latter, it is time to bring the violent jihad to an end.

Of course, ultimately we have to concern ourselves with the welfare of Pakistan above all other things. Our policy of supporting violence in Kashmir and India has served us well in inflicting a huge damage to India at very little cost to us. There are many who would want to continue this support. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, this is indeed a great temptation for me as well. But as the President of Pakistan, I can see that this support has not come without a cost to our nation. Supporting the jihadis has allowed them great liberties inside the country and has resulted in our society becoming considerably more violent. Our actions in Kashmir are no longer hidden from the international community, and we continue to erode trust of the international community by repeating contentions which they and we know are false. The global attitude towards covert support of violent actions against civilians has changed. And equally importantly, we cannot hope for genuinely peaceful relations with India as long as we continue fostering terrorism within it.

The first step towards genuine change is confession of wrongdoing. And I say to India, I admit that Pakistan has directly supported the violent struggle in Kashmir and I hereby declare that we will cease to do so. This will allow me to look any world leader in the eye and state that we only provide moral support to the struggle of Kashmir. Our moral support is of value only once we choose a path of morality. Covertly encouraging terrorism in our neighboring country is immoral, not to mention unwise in the current circumstances. By making this confession, I have a message for the people of India. It is with great peril that I have done this and I have done so because I genuinely desire peace. I am not repeating the same time-worn phrases. I am admitting there is something in our existing policy to be changed and am taking the steps to genuinely chart a new course in our relationship.

We talk of peace, not out of weakness, but out of a common desire to better our people. And we fear that if we make peace, Kashmir may become peaceful. And if Kashmir becomes peaceful, the people on the Indian side of Kashmir may well be quite satisfied with where they are. And this we are afraid of. But, my Pakistani brothers and sisters, while the cause of Kashmir runs in our blood, let us make sure that it does not become a cancer that destroys us. The cause of Kashmir is not greater than the cause of Pakistan. It is a myth that we need Kashmir to define our nationhood. We are willing to walk the talk with Kashmir, but at the same time I say to India that there will not be peace in our hearts till the saga of Kashmir comes to a just conclusion. If Kashmir becomes peaceful, so be it. If the people of Kashmir are satisfied with their situation, so be it. If our cause is the Kashmiri people and not a piece of land, we should be willing to face our fears and give peace a chance.

As I extend a hand of true friendship to India, I wish for a different future for our children than what we have together given them for the last fifty years. Together, we can curtail the violence that affects our societies. Let us stop teaching our children hatred towards one another. A nation living on hate is a nation that is sick. We need to heal ourselves. Let us build a Pakistan that is strong and prosperous and at peace with all its neighbors.

Pakistan Paindabad!

© Sankrant Sanu., all rights reserved.

Who Killed Daniel Pearl?

Author’s note: I started writing this article, with the above title, before it was announced that Daniel Pearl was killed. Since then this fact has apparently been confirmed, which makes the thesis of this article even more relevant.

That Daniel Pearl was dead had become increasingly likely for some time. Enough clues were available that Daniel Pearl would not be found alive for a simple reason — the truths he would reveal would prove to be too embarrassing to the Pakistani government.

There is a perception in the western media that the intent of the Daniel Pearl kidnapping was to embarrass Musharraf’s government and to prevent the clampdown on banned organizations like the Jaish-i-Mohammad. In fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction. According to a report in the Pakistani daily The News International (Jang) on Feb 2, 2002, the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl was likely related to the fear that his reporting would expose the failure of the Pakistani government to clamp down on groups like Jaish-i-Mohammad. The Jang editorial on Feb 2, 2002, states:

“…another possible cause for Pearl’s ordeal could be the story he was following which said militant groups in Pakistan were thriving despite crackdown. He had quoted Jaish-e-Mohammed representatives saying that police “left behind enough people to keep their office running.” He also found a Jaish regional centre near Bahawalpur operating, as well as a still functioning bank account despite a freeze ordered by the State Bank.”1

Among other embarrassments to the Pakistani government, that Pearl was investigating, was the large presence of escaped Taliban and Al Qaeda members in Pakistan. Writing in the Pakistani daily The News International, on February 4, 2002, respected Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai recounts a meeting at his home in Peshawar with Daniel Pearl and his wife about 10 days before Pearl’s kidnapping on Jan 23.

“The couple wanted to discuss a host of issues, ranging from the happenings in Afghanistan to the crackdown by President General Pervez Musharraf’s government on radical Islamic groups in Pakistan.

They were also curious whether any Taliban leaders who may have crossed over to Pakistan after collapse of their regime in Afghanistan would be willing to meet them. I told Pearl and Marianne that some Taliban leaders may be hiding in Pakistan but it was impossible to meet them. Such a meeting would make public their presence in Pakistan, cause embarrassment to the Musharraf regime and intensify the hunt by Pakistani law-enforcing agencies and the US military for any Taliban or al-Qaeda officials hiding in the country.”2

Western media has, in general, been fixated on reporting that Daniel Pearl was on a reporting project related to Richard C. Reid, the man who was arrested on a Paris-to-Miami flight in December with explosives in his shoes. It is unlikely that the scope of his investigation was that narrow.

If indeed the Pakistani establishment had the most to lose by Daniel Pearl’s reporting, the question about who kidnapped Daniel Pearl remains. The linkages between Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and the presumably banned terrorists groups remain both strong and murky. It is sometimes unclear who is driving whom. So there are three possibilities for who arranged for Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping.

      1. The first possibility remains that this was planned and executed entirely by people belonging to Jaish-i-Mohammad and related groups, under the direction of Omar Sheikh, a protégé of Maulana Mashur Azhar, without any involvement of the ISI.

2. The second possibility is that this was initiated by mid-level elements in the ISI using Omar Sheikh and his ilk as a front, and possibly also involving what are being called “former” ISI agents in the operation. These could, in fact, be the very ISI elements that were being asked to break, or at least bury deeper, their alliance with the Jihadi groups.

3. The third possibility is that it has been initiated at a fairly high level within the Pakistani military establishment, concerned that a media outlet of the credibility of the Wall Street Journal would expose President Musharraf’s soft implementation of the much-publicized clampdown on the militant organizations. It could also be intended to serve as a warning to other international journalists to “know their limits.”

Option (1) has been the forerunner in the mainstream press. The stated motivation has been to embarrass the Pakistani government and to protest the professed clampdown on the Jihadi organizations. Option (2), the involvement of elements of the ISI in the kidnapping has received some coverage in the international and Pakistani press3. Option (3), while unlikely, cannot be ruled out. To an impartial observer, it would be clear that any such scheme would have negative PR repercussions for the Pakistani government, especially if the truth were to come out. However, Pakistani military generals used to browbeating the domestic press could possibly have convinced themselves that such a move would be in the “national interest” and any negative fallout could be managed. They could also convince themselves that it would be fairly easy to manage the PR fallout by attributing the kidnapping to “Indian agents.”

Regarding the involvement of the ISI and the military in the drama, it would be worth examining some facts. The first is that, in case of such a plot it is clear that it would need to be done in a very secretive manner, and non-military organizations like the police would certainly be out of the loop on this. There is evidence of the fact that the police and the ISI were often working at cross-purposes in the investigation. The chief accused in the case, Omar Sheikh, was reported to be in the custody of a “non-police agency,” most likely the ISI up to a week before he was handed over to the Karachi police4. His handover to the Karachi police was when the news of his arrest was made public and this was timed to coincide with President Musharraf’s arrival in the United States.

That the military and President Musharraf viewed the Daniel Pearl kidnapping as mostly a media management problem is disconcerting. The military spokesman for President Musharraf first raised the issue of the “Indian link” to the kidnapping. This link was not given much credibility by the Karachi police officials who were investigating the case. However, the military despite a lack of supporting evidence continued to make the claim.

There are some reports that suggest that Daniel Pearl was considered suspicious by the establishment since he was a Jew and was based out of India. According to a report in theJang on Jan 30, 2002,

“…some Pakistan security officials… are privately searching for answers as to why a Jewish American reporter was exceeding “his limits” to investigate Pakistani religious group. These official are also guessing, rather loudly, as to why Pearl decided to bring in an Indian journalist as his full time assistant in Pakistan. Ansa Nomani, an American passport holder Indian-Muslim lady who had come from Mumbai to Karachi with Pearl, was working as his full time assistant in the country.

The same group of officials is also intrigued as to why an American newspaper reporter based in Mumbai would also establish a full time residence in Karachi by renting a residence. “An India based Jewish reporter serving a largely Jewish media organisation should have known the hazards of exposing himself to radical Islamic groups, particularly those who recently got crushed under American military might,” remarked a senior Pakistani official.

A growing feeling in some government quarters, including intelligence services, that the western reporters and officials currently operating in Pakistan may not be provided an unhindered access to government installations, Islamic groups and individuals appeared to have gained momentum in the wake of Pearl’s kidnapping, officials confirmed.”5

In a military state accustomed to limits on journalistic investigation, the audacity of a “Jewish” journalist exposing uncomfortable truths to a worldwide audience could have been too much to bear.

The question remains of what, if any, knowledge President Musharraf had of the goings on in the kidnapping case. The prominent US portrait of Musharraf is that of a courageous and embattled general trying his best to clamp down on the extremist elements in Pakistan despite strong domestic opposition to these policies. While Musharraf’s actual compulsions merit separate analysis, his role in this episode remains disturbing.

Some clues to Musharraf’s involvement are found in the interview he gave to the Washington Post on Feb 8, just before leaving for the United States. There are three notable points in the interview. The first is actually an omission. The arrest of Sheikh Omar was announced on Feb 12. It is reported that he was in custody with “non-police” agencies for a week, before he was turned over to the police. This means that by the time Musharraf gave the interview, Sheikh Omar was already in custody, a fairly important event that he failed to mention, not only to the public, but also apparently to the FBI.6

The second point is that he continued to invoke “Indian involvement,” even when he knew that hypothesis had been discredited by his own police chief and he had no new evidence to support the claim. He even went so far as to say that key leaders of the Jaish-i-Mohammad, including Sheikh Omar Saeed and Masood Azhar, both of who were freed in the deal to end the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar, Afghanistan, were possibly Indian agents. Attributing the “Indian hand” to any unpalatable event is, of course, not new in Pakistan. What is incredible is that Musharraf as President of Pakistan would offer such a far-fetched hypothesis to a US interviewer, even when he knew it was unlikely to be taken seriously, given the scanty evidence. Why would Musharraf bother to repeat this charge even at the cost of losing credibility unless the truth was much worse?

The third point he made was one that identified his views most closely with the “security officials,” quoted in Jang on Jan 30, which suggested that Daniel Pearl essentially got what he deserved. In his interview to the Washington Post on the eve of his visit to the US, the Postreported:

“…he (Musharraf) was critical of Pearl’s conduct, suggesting that the 38-year-old reporter had risked too much by pursuing contacts with Pakistan’s terrorist underworld.

“According to my information, Mr. Pearl was also trying to get overly involved with people who are maybe dangerous,” Musharraf said. “I wonder whether it was because of his over-involvement that he landed himself into this kind of a problem.””

These are ominous words coming from the President, and could suggest that Musharraf knew more of what happened to Daniel Pearl than he was letting on, and possibly knew that Daniel Pearl was already dead at the time of this interview.

While none of this is conclusive evidence it certainly raises some very troubling questions:

1. Who were the kidnappers of Daniel Pearl? What was their motivation for holding Daniel Pearl? Why did they not try to negotiate their demands once they had kidnapped him?

2. Why were the Pakistani military and police spokespersons making contradictory claims about the Indian involvement?

3. Why were the Pakistani police investigators and the FBI kept in the dark for a week by ISI investigators that they were holding Sheikh Omar?

4. Why did President Musharraf not mention the arrest of Sheikh Omar in the interviews he gave several days after the incident?

5. Why were Musharraf and other Pakistani “security officials” upset at Daniel Pearl?

6. Has Jaish-i-Mohammad really been banned in Pakistan?

Any enterprising investigator should remember that trying to find the truth behind these questions could be injurious to your health. This is at least one lesson to take from the Daniel Pearl saga.

References:

1. Editorial, “The Danny Pearl affair,” The News International, Feb 2, 2002.
2. “Kidnapping to harm Islamic groups” by Rahimullah Yusufzai, The News International, Feb 4, 2002.
3. For example, “Strange fish caught in Daniel Pearl dragnet” by Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online, Feb 2, 2002.
4. “A Struggle in The Shadows: How Pakistan’s spy service may have tried to spring Daniel Pearl” by Zahid Hussain, Newsweek International (Feb 25 issue, online on MSNBC).
5. “Indian connection in US newsman case” by Kamran Khan, The News International, Jan 30, 2002.
6. “A Struggle in The Shadows: How Pakistan’s spy service may have tried to spring Daniel Pearl” by Zahid Hussain, Newsweek International (Feb 25 issue, online on MSNBC).

© Sankrant Sanu., all rights reserved.