the Dilemma of the Musharraf Regime

By Dr. Sohail Mahmood


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  • Fog of War sets in
  • India Raises the Stakes
  • Anarchy if vacuum not filled
  • The True Reason behind Sep 11 Attacks
  • Holding onto a Shaky Coalition
  • Operation Infinite Freedom
  • Benazir, on the Taliban
  • Pakistan in Dilemma
  • Road to Independence -part II
  • Road to Independence -part I
  • of Rains and Rawalpindi
  • Al-Khalid Battle Tank
  • Fall at Agra
  • A Monument of Hope


    With no signs of diffusing tensions, Indian acts of massing troops along the border are now being augmented by missile tests...

    A massive buildup of Indian military on our borders and the stringent rhetoric of their leadership have created a difficult situation for the Musharraf regime. How best to respond?

    On May 28 President Musharraf made a tough speech on television. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s traditional stand on Kashmir, criticized Indian behavior as irresponsible. However, at the same time pledged that “cross-border terrorism” would end, once and for all. Good enough. A lot else needs to be done? While Pakistan certainly does not want war it cannot take any chances. The enemy across the border is both determined and capable to inflict unimaginable damage on us. They have lost patience with us. Therefore, make all preparations for war- both conventional and nuclear. Leave nothing to chance. Remember deterrence works only when you have acquired a second-strike capability. The enemy must be convinced that you will use your remaining nuclear arsenal (that has survived a first strike) to inflict fatal damage on it. Having known your resolve and capacity, the enemy desists from attacking you. Hence deterrence works. But what if you do not have a second-strike capability?


    What if you do not have a triad to defend your strategic assets? As far as Pakistan is concerned we presume that everyone, including India, knows about our resolve to fight to the end. However, having the capacity to do it is another matter. We doubt Pakistan’s ability for a second strike. The Musharraf regime must acquire it immediately. This is obvious. But from where do we acquire the monetary resources to create this triad? Who is going to finance it?

    In fact, Pakistan has few friends willing to help us at this moment of our greatest vulnerability. That is our tragedy. The enemy has done a good job isolating us. Acknowledge the strength of the enemy. That is wisdom. In fact, we are our worst enemies. As Pogo said: Look into the mirror and see your worst enemy – yourself. But we are in a crisis situation and redirecting and reforming the country cannot be doe overnight.

    The Musharraf regime must immediately do the following:

    (1) Avoid any needless provocations. General Musharraf has sounded all the necessary warnings as required. Please keep mum now. The chances of miscalculation, erroneous information leading to wrong decisions, any small slip can be extremely dangerous to the future of Pakistan. Tempers must remain cool. That is a minimum condition which most applies to our situation.

    (2) Quickly move to win the hearts and minds of world public opinion. A tough job indeed! Apprise the world community of the dangers of a nuclear war in the subcontinent. Convene an emergency session of the foreign ministers of the OIC for the purpose. Go to the UNSC also.

    (3) Ask the USA to do more to stop possible Indian aggression on Pakistan. Tell them that a “limited war” is a figment of the imagination. India cannot be allowed to hit across the LOC at the alleged training camps or some other pretext. Any attack can lead to an all-out war. There are no possible guarantees that a war can be limited under the circumstances. At the moment only the USA can knock some sense into the Indian mind to desist from attacking us.

    (4) Do whatever it takes to augment power. Also, project it in a suitable manner. The recent missile tests were thus appropriate. Remember only counter-vailing power can meet possible Indian aggressive designs and bellicosity. Nothing else works. Pakistan can rely on no one. When the chips are down it is us alone and we have to do whatever it takes to survive. But at the same time appear to be conciliatory and flexible. After all, we only want to prevent war thrust on us. Remember that in this future war Pakistan cannot possibly win. Therefore, make more efforts to avoid one. Let the world understand our dilemma.

    (5) Unite the nation by making concessions to the opponents of the regime. Please remember that many oppose you out of a principle. People are convinced that running the country is not the business of the military. Civilian supremacy over the armed forces is a basic postulate of democratic governance. This is a fundamental value of democracy and there can be no compromise on the matter. What can be done now? The Musharraf regime must convene an All-Parties Conference immediately and take all the political parties into confidence. The recent effort of the Musharraf government to reach out once again to the Alliance for the restoration of Democracy (ARD) and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) is a commendable move. What should the political parties do now? They should come to the meeting without any preconceived notions or attached conditions. National unity is an imperative. Remember wars in our time s is not just about military might and prowess but are total. Meaning the whole nation fights and there is no one front. The whole country is one large battlefield.

    (6) Most importantly, the Musharraf regime must clearly see the writing on the wall. Its days in power are numbered. The military government cannot handle the situation simply because it lacks universal public support. The enmity of India is real. Any look into the mind-set of the Sangh Parivar – the real power ruling India – would disclose their hatred of Pakistan. They are more than willing to inflict permanent damage on us. The Sangh Parivar has been preparing for an opportunity to deal us a death blow for decades. They feel that the time has come for the eventuality. Do not underestimate their resolve, capacity and willingness to destroy us. This is a deadly serious matter. In the end it has indeed become a zero-sum game. There is no possible win-all situation at this time.

    (7) Lastly, your understanding of the situation must be based on rationality, factual understanding keeping in mind the logic of the situation as it develops. Keep all possibilities in mind. You do not have the luxury of making mistakes or failing to comprehend eventualities and circumstantial developments. Meaning this requires intellectual skills along with cool thinking. The argument that since both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons and the capacity to destroy each other therefore the most likely development would be a conventional war across the LOC or working boundary. In 1teh summer of 1999 during the Kargil conflict India avoided escalation because of this fear of descending into the hole of nuclear conflict and not being able to get out. This time also India will dare not escalate the conflict (if it happens) into a stage where a nuclear exchange can result. The assumption of a neat and rational war is downright simplistic and also dangerous. Remember the fog of war belies the conduct of neat wars. Anything can happen at crunch time. Therefore assuming that things will not fog wrong is simply wrong if not downright stupid. No one can guarantee that a rain of missiles will not land on our cities. India has the capacity to do it and therefore it might. We can assume that it will. No one can guarantee our security except God. We must be mentally prepared for any eventuality. That would be prudent and a lesson of history. Let us not fail at the intellectual level. Therefore, prepare for the worst and pray for the best. In the end Pakistanis must have faith in God. The dilemma for the Musharraf regime is very real and the choices extremely limited. We pray for Pakistan.


    The writer teaches at Area Study Center Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.  

    Filed on June 2nd 2002.


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