Emperor: After Musharraf, what?
General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan very, very narrowly escaped
an assassination attempt on his life at Rawalpindi on the afternoon
of December 25, when two pick-up vans carrying explosives and
reportedly driven by suicide bombers rammed into his convoy from two
different directions. Two policemen and 12 passers-by were killed.
Musharraf's car was damaged, but he is stated to have escaped
unhurt. Had one of the suicide vans directly dashed against his
vehicle, he might not have escaped.
What should be
deeply worrying is that the perpetrators of this attack would seem
to have had precise knowledge of his movement plans and timings. In
my earlier analysis of the unsuccessful attempt on him on December
14, I had stated that internal complicity and external negligence
were responsible for the near-disaster. In the present case, there
is so far no evidence of external negligence, but the earlier
conclusion of internal complicity stands corroborated.
The two incidents
in quick concession have highlighted the poor state of the
intelligence and security apparatus and the presence of elements
inside it which have been colluding with the jihadi terrorist
elements. The intelligence agencies and the police have so far
failed in their attempts to determine the responsibility for the
earlier attempt and to arrest those responsible. They had rounded up
over 40 suspects, but none of them has so far been found to have
been responsible. The Pakistani authorities have been giving the
appearance as if there was no internal complicity and have not
ordered any in-house enquiry to identify those helping the
terrorists. Admission of internal complicity would mean that
Musharraf no longer has the unqualified support of his colleagues
and subordinates in the military and security machinery. He does not
want to make that admission---at least openly.
In the light of the
clear evidence of internal complicity, would Pakistan's security
apparastus be able to provide effective security to the heads of
State/Government attending the SAARC summit from January 4 to 6?
Would it not be advisable for the Pakistani authorities to postpone
the summit till the two cases have been successfully investigated
and the perpetrators arrested? If they anyhow decide to go ahead
with the summit, what additional security measures would be required
for our Prime Minister? Would the Pakistani authorities be capable
of providing them? These are important questions which need to be
Al Qaeda of Osama
bin Laden and the Pakistani components of his International Islamic
Front (IIF) advocate suicide bombings and have a repeatedly
demonstrated capability for suicide missions. Though many Al Qaeda
leaders and cadres have taken shelter in Pakistan, it has not so far
carried out any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory. The
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which now co-ordinates the work of the IIF,
has been responsible for the maximum number of suicide attacks in
Indian territory, but it has not carried out any in Pakistani
territory so far. Nor has the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI).
The HUJI and the
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) were initially suspected in the kidnapping
and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in
January-February,2002, but the suspicion was not proved. All the
post 9/11 terrorist incidents in Pakistani territory were found to
have been carried out either by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Alami,
meaning HUM--International, which is a wing of the HUM, or by the
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Sunni terrorist organisation. Like the
LET, the HUJI and the JEM, they too are members of the IIF.
In the jihadi
circles, there is strong anger against Musharraf for two reasons.
Firstly, his support to the US in its military action against Al
Qaeda and the Taliban and his action, even if ineffective, against
some of the Pakistani components of the IIF. Secondly, his perceived
co-operation with the US in its investigation of the role of some
Pakistani nuclear scientists in assisting North Korea, Iran and
Libya in their attempts to acquire a military nuclear capability.
considerable resentment over what they look upon as the indignity
caused to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan by subjecting him to interrogation
or debriefing and allegedly putting restrictions on his travels.
A.Q.Khan himself is not a fundamentalist or a jihadi, but he is a
hero to the fundamentalist and jihadi elements. They look upon him
as the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb to counter India's and
also as the father of the Islamic bomb to protect the Ummah from
They are furious
over the treatment meted out to someone who, in their eyes, has
served the cause of Islam so well. A.Q.Khan has many admirers and
close friends in the military-intelligence establishment. He is a
mediocre metalurgist, but his success lay in his ability to build a
vast clandestine network for the procurement of nuclear and
missile-related equipment and technologies abroad. He worked very
closely with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in building his
network. His friends and admirers among the serving and retired
officers of the military-intelligence establishment have also been
shocked by the debriefing of A.Q.Khan and his colleagues in the
Kahuta uranium enrichment plant.
As a result of
these developments, Musharraf's honeymoon with the jihadi elements
and with his own senior colleagues and the rank and file in the
military-intelligence establishment seems to be coming to an end. It
is likely that unless his police and investigative agencies help him
by quickly identifying and neutralising those responsible for the
two attempts, including their accomplices inside the establishment,
the jihadi terrorist elements will not keep quiet till they have
When Zia-ul-Haq was
killed in a plane crash in August 1988, Pakistan was in the
beginning of an election campaign after the dismissal of the
Mohammad Khan Junejo Government by Zia. Gen. Aslam Beg, who was the
Army chief, had the good sense to let the elections proceed as
scheduled, but kept a tight control over the elected government
headed by Mrs. Benazir Bhutto.
If Musharraf is
eliminated before October next, the Chairman of the Senate would
take over as the acting President till a Presidential election could
be held and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali would find it
difficult to overlook the claims of Gen.Mohamad Aziz Khan, the
present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to take over as the
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). Of the 30 Lts-General/Generals in
the Pakistan Army at present, he is the only one who is clearly
identified as a fundmentalist close to the religious fundamentalist
as well as the jihadi terrorist organisations. He was the head of
the clandestine Army of Islam which was created by Zia and has a
long record of close contacts with Al Qaeda and the IIF.
Musharraf manages to survive and continue in power, he would find it
difficult to resist the pressure to revert to a confrontationist
position towards India in order to pacify the jihadis. If he is
assassinated and Mohd. Aziz Khan succeeds him, there could be an
escalation of acts of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and other
parts of India.
Either way, the
coming months could have unpredictable consequences not only for
Pakistan, but also for Indo-Pakistan relations.
Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.
of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,
Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Advisory Committee,
Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.