“America is seen as arrogant. America is seen as a country that has bombed Pakistan without any consideration for the locals. America is seen as somebody who’s supporting President Musharraf, who’s becoming more and more unpopular in Pakistan.”
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: How vulnerable is Musharraf perceived to be, if at all, in terms of carrying on? How serious a crisis is it for Musharraf?
MUNIZAE JAHANGIR (JOURNALIST): I think it is the most serious crisis that Musharraf has faced in the last eight years. Certainly, when the Baloch insurgency started to take shape and there were a lot of anti-Musharraf, anti-army riots in Balochistan, that was also being quoted as one of the biggest challenges that President Musharraf has faced. But this is by far the worst challenge that Musharraf has ever faced, simply because we have seen not just opposition party workers but also lawyers, civil society people, come out on the streets and for the first time challenge the authority of the army. That has never happened in Pakistan. People have either loved the army or hated the army or defended the army, but nobody has ever challenged the authority of the army. Very harsh words, harsh slogans are being used, and the army’s rule in power has been questioned. In fact, former army chiefs have also come out in these rallies and said that we, as army members or army people, do not support the army’s role in politics. I think that dictators in our country have always toed the line of America, not the line of the Islamists. The Islamists have just been a means to get to power, to hold on to power. Zia-ul-Haq was toeing the line of the Americans. He supported the Taliban. Musharraf is toeing the line of the Americans. He has enlightened moderation on the plate. That’s what he has to offer. I do not think that any army general in Pakistan will come to power without the help of the Americans. Anything can happen in Pakistan. But having said that, the army’s interest is not to align or become all- fundamentalist and wage a holy war. The army’s interest is to protect its economic interests. The army at this time is extremely powerful economically. They have economic interests in almost all industries in Pakistan. They’re very rich. So their interest right now is to protect their economic interest and not to have another adventure. I think that would be fair to say.
JAY: Is there a way to imagine within today’s circumstances, within the foreseeable future, a real shift in Pakistan’s power structure, so that you could see the anti-American section of Islamists gain control of the state?
JAHANGIR: See, at the moment, there is a lot of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, not– like there is in the rest of the world, because America’s seen as arrogant. America is seen as a country that has bombed Pakistan without any consideration for the locals. America is seen as somebody who’s supporting Musharraf, who is becoming more and more unpopular in Pakistan. So America is seen as a state that is a bully, really. Now, whether that anti-American sentiment translates into a movement, which is inspired enough to go and take control of nuclear weapons, I’m not so sure. But what concerns a lot of people in Pakistan, lot of political thinkers in Pakistan, is that there is a very delicate balance right now that the army is walking on; they’re walking a very tight rope when it comes to their relationship with the Taliban. We have seen the Taliban take on its own form, its own nature. We have seen them attack federal ministers. How far can they go? How far will the army let them go? And will there come a time when the army is looking the other way and they go and take control of whatever they can? That is a danger that the rest of the world and Pakistan has to live with, which is why a lot of critics believe that there has to be a rollback of the army, and there have to be proper institutions in place, which keep a check and balance on extremist forces within Pakistan.
JAY: Thank you very much.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.