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Pinning hope on Musharraf?

For decades, the world has struggled to create a system to deal with the worst criminal excesses by national leaders, and the creation of an 'international court of justice' with global powers, has been passionately advocated by many.

It is, however, an idea that has equally been resisted, and it is not difficult to understand why this is the case. The politicisation of such a body would be inevitable, and this is dramatically illustrated by the contrast visible in the international approach to, and treatment of, two contemporary figures: Slobodan Miloševic and General Pervez Musharraf.

Miloševic is a figure reviled by history. He died in ignominy on March 11, 2006, in a UN prison at The Hague, while being tried by the 'International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia', for 'crimes against humanity', genocide and other war crimes.

At the time of his death, his defence was still incomplete after nearly five years of trial, but there is reason to believe that the charges against him were deliberately exaggerated, that he was not, in fact, responsible for ethnic cleansing against Croat, Bosnian Muslim and ethnic Albanian minorities.

Notwithstanding the arguable truth, it is the case that the Tribunal explicitly barred crucial evidence that would demonstrate that, at worst, Miloševic's record was comparable to that of the crimes of the Croats or the Bosnian and Albanian Muslims. Further, after hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, thousands of videocassettes of 'evidence' and tens of thousands of pages of trial transcripts, the prosecution 'failed to present significant or compelling evidence of any criminal act or intention of President Miloševic'.

Indeed, the Tribunal's record of judicial bias is startling, as large bodies of evidence, for instance, regarding the NATO support to terrorists of the Kosovo Liberation Army were 'disallowed', and Miloševic was barred from questioning senior NATO officials along this crucial line, which could have exposed significant NATO and US involvement in fomenting disorders and terrorist activities, and parallel legal processes for their 'crimes against humanity'.

At the other extreme, we find Pakistan's dictator, Pervez Musharraf, with an abysmal record of support to terrorism, of widespread war crimes and atrocities in his own country and across the border, of active participation in nuclear proliferation, of the suppression of democracy and human rights among his country's citizens, being lionised by the international community, feted by the international media and hailed as a messiah of peace, while the truth is, he far more clearly deserves to be tried for 'crimes against humanity' than Miloševic possibly did.

It is useful to review the highlights of Gen Musharraf's 'career' in this regard. Gen Musharraf was 'picked up' by the then military dictator of Pakistan, Gen Zia-ul-Haq, as a young Brigadier in 1987 on strong recommendations from the Jamaat-e-Islami, in part of the Zia gameplan to 'Islamise' the Pakistani Army. Gen Musharraf - despite his more recent advocacy of 'moderate enlightenment' - was perceived as a 'devout Deobandi', who could be trusted to mobilise and train 'jihadis' for the Afghan campaigns against the Soviet Union (at that time vigorously backed by the US, in addition to a gaggle of other unlikely countries, amazingly including China and Israel).

It was during this phase that Gen Musharraf developed contacts with Osama bin Laden, and played an active role in the evolution of the Al Qaeda into an international terrorist organisation. These connections extended right up to the involvement of Pakistani agencies, at least in financial transaction, with the 9/11 conspirators, at a time when Gen Musharraf had already assumed control of Pakistan as its dictator, and a full three years after he had assumed control of the army, and consequently of its intelligence wing, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which coordinated the overwhelming proportion of terrorist activities in South Asia - including much of what the Al Qaeda did.

In 1988, as a Brigadier charged with suppressing a Shia revolt in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, Gen Musharraf used Islamist 'irregulars' from the North West Frontier Province, allegedly under the command of Osama bin Laden, to execute a campaign of pillage, arson, rape and slaughter, in which hundreds of Shia were killed.

Thereafter, Gen Musharraf was intrinsic to the 'demographic re-engineering' of the illegally occupied region, through which large numbers of Pashtun and Punjabi 'outsiders' were forcibly settled there, to alter the existing demographic balance that overwhelmingly favoured the Shias. After decades of this policy, while Shias continue to maintain a slim - though diminishing - majority, the proportions have been altered from 1:4 in their favour, to 3:4.

In 1999, with Mr Pervez Musharraf as its chief, the Pakistan army invaded the Kargil sector of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir with military formations - particularly the Gilgit Scouts - posing as 'irregulars' or 'mujahideen'. Apart from the gratuitous loss of life on both sides in this failed campaign, Pakistani forces were also guilty of a number of instances of extraordinary torture and mutilation of captured Indian officers and soldiers - offences that have gone unpunished, and must consequently be presumed to have been condoned by the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen Musharraf.

On October 12, 1999, Gen Musharraf overthrew Pakistan's elected government in a bloodless coup - an action that attracted muted international censure and sanctions. Most of these sanctions and punitive measures were withdrawn after 9/11, when Pakistan was elevated to the status of America's preferred ally and partner in the 'global war on terrorism', and Gen Musharraf was personally rehabilitate as a 'friend' of President George Bush.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Pakistani state continues to support and deploy Islamist terrorist organisations even after 9/11, and into the present, despite fitful action against certain groups perceived as threatening Pakistani or US interests, including, apparently, the Al Qaeda.

Since 1999 (Gen Musharraf took over as Army Chief in October 1998), and up to March 13, 2006, Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorists have been responsible for a total of 5,291 civilian deaths in Jammu and Kashmir, in a conflict that has inflicted a total of 19,607 fatalities over the same period. All the groups involved in the 'Kashmir jihad' are essentially sarkari (state sponsored and controlled) Islamist extremist formations working under the direct command of the ISI, and consequently of the Pakistani army and its dictator, Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Under his dictatorship, Gen Musharraf has initiated brutal campaigns of repression and indiscriminate violence against civilians in Gilgit-Baltistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas - particularly Waziristan - the North West Frontier Province, and Balochistan. Year 2005 alone saw at least 648 persons, including 430 civilians and 137 terrorists, killed in Pakistan; by March 13, year 2006 had already recorded 528 dead, including 250 civilians and 225 terrorists.

Given the Governmental efforts to suppress information flows from Pakistan's widening regions of violence, and the indiscriminate and excessive use of force, including widespread use of helicopter gunships, the total number of fatalities, and the number of civilian fatalities included in the 'terrorist' category, may be significantly higher.

Even after 9/11, it remains the case that the overwhelming proportion of international acts of terrorism, as well as the large numbers of Islamist terrorist arrests across the world, have an inevitable 'Pakistani footprint'. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly protested against continued Pakistani support to terrorist groups - including surviving elements of the Taliban - executing a relentless campaign of murder in Afghanistan that cost at least 1,500 lives in year 2005 alone, including 99 US coalition forces.

Inexplicably, this principal sponsor of international terrorism remains the 'great hope' of the war against terrorism, not only in the West in general, but in the US and, amazingly, India as well. Who, then, will vest any confidence in the collective wisdom of the fiction of an 'international community'?

(Published in The Pioneer, March 18, 2006)





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