The White House considers President Musharraf one of their strongest partners in their fight against the Taliban, yet that very position is alienating Musharraf from many of his own people. He leads an army with deep historical ties to the Islamists and the Taliban.
Munizae Jahangir explores the dynamics of Pakistan and the complicated relationship between the U.S and the President General.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Is the U.S. actually willing to risk the loss of Musharraf? And where is public opinion on Musharraf’s relationship to the Americans?
MUNIZAE JAHANGIR (JOURNALIST): What the U.S. has time and time again said that this time, behind President Musharraf, that President Musharraf has done a lot in terms of the war on terror. Certainly he has. Who else would allow their territory to be bombed upon by the U.S. and suffer these kinds of losses and suffer the kind of ill will and the hatred that comes from his own people? So, yes, President Musharraf has done a lot for the U.S., and they have handed over many al-Qaida terrorists to the U.S. So the U.S. does stand behind him to an extent. Whether they can see a Pakistan without Musharraf or not is something that we do not know. The assistant secretary of state, Richard Boucher, was in Pakistan, and he met with all opposition party leaders in Pakistan to talk to them about free and fair elections. And he also met the election commissioner, which is very significant that he actually did take out the time to meet the election commissioner and address some of the grievances that opposition parties had with the way elections were being handled.
(VOICEOVER): Six thousand Madrasah students gearing up for a confrontation with the government after President Musharraf ordered the demolition of more than eighty Madrasahs and mosques in Islamabad, built without permission on state land. To protest the order, hundreds of these women have forcibly occupied a children’s library next to this seminary, the Jamia Hafsa, in Islamabad. These women in their twenties take turns to guard the library, located right next to the famous Lal Masjid. Their demand: the government should rebuild mosques it previously demolished and abandon its drive.
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What you just saw with the footage of the Lal Masjid is just the tip of the iceberg. These women, I do not think that they are interested in creating trouble. The reason why they’re sitting at these Madrasahs is because these Madrasahs were given to them by General Zia-ul-Haq, who was the president of Pakistan in the 80s, late 70s, so that Madrasahs can be formed and Taliban can be trained to be sent to war to fight America’s war against Russia. These women have been there years, and these clerics have been there for years. What they cannot understand now is that the very state that was friendly with them has now turned around and told them to get out. That is something that they cannot understand, and that is why there is a confrontation with the state. Of course, many critics say that the state can control this problem, because they are, after all, their men. And we have seen—.
JAY: What do you mean by “their men”?
JAHANGIR: Meaning that these were the very people who were reinstated there by the army at the time. I mean, we still have army rule right now. We have the same people in government.
JAY: And this is sections of the army that actually have traditionally been quite sympathetic to the Islamists.
JAHANGIR: President Musharraf at that time was very high up, and General Zia was in power. In fact, he was going to be named military secretary, and that did not happen. All of them are responsible for bringing the Taliban into power, including the Americans. So this is really your old friend has now become now an enemy, and the friend doesn’t know how to react to that. What we have seen in other areas apart from Islamabad—and in Islamabad, really, a lot of people say that it’s a media gimmick to deflect attention from the judicial crisis.
JAY: If I’m understanding it at all correctly, there seems to be three very major contending forces in a broad way: the more secular movement for a more modern democratic form of Pakistan; Islamist vision at its extreme for a Pakistani Islam state with sharia law; and then Musharraf representing the interests of the army, the elite, its alliance with the Americans, its interest in Afghanistan. Is this more or less the way one should understand it? And how does this play out as we head towards the elections?
JAHANGIR: More or less. But as you said, Pakistan is a very complicated country.
JAY: But you said it wasn’t.
JAHANGIR: Well, in this sense. Let me put it simply to you now. Let me make it less complex. The army has always had interests in Islamic jihadi movements. Why the army is in power in Pakistan today is on the pretext of Kashmir. On the pretext of Kashmir, the army bags in a large part of the budget of Pakistan. That is why the army is considered irreplaceable, irremovable, something that we will have to live with the might of the army, simply because there is that Kashmir hanging over Pakistan’s head, that threat. President Musharraf has always been very dedicated to the cause of Kashmir, right from the very beginning. Whether the Americans can now envisage a Pakistan without Musharraf or not is something that they have to be asked. I certainly do not know the answer to that. But what is very clear is that the Americans will not leave Pakistan. They have a long-term interest in Pakistan. As Richard Boucher said, that we do not want to just make friends with one person, we want to make friends with the people, which is why he met the opposition party workers. They seemed to be very interested in free and fair elections. So it seems that the U.S. is losing its patience with Musharraf.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.