N S wanted to move quickly to replace Musharraf. Musharraf got wind of the impending axe. He consulted with his confidants, and confronted N S. N S is timid. He totally denied any scheme of replacing Musharraf. To placate him further, he gave the army chief additional charge of the head of joint chiefs of service committee [lxxxii].
Musharraf was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on a good will mission. N S thought that would be a good time to replace him. He had found a general Ziauddin with impeccable antecedents. Like his own family the man was of Kashmiri descent [lxxxiii].
But Musharraf had taken precautionary measures. He had retired two Lt generals, and transferred another two suspected of being in league with the PM, to impotent desk jobs. He had also moved loyal officers to key slots, one as deputy chief of army staff and three others as corp. commanders of Karachi, Lahore and the capital area.
While Musharraf was on his way back, actually in the air en route to Karachi, N S announced his replacement by the new man on the radio and TV.
In the meanwhile the deputy chief sent troops to surround the PM house and take over all the tactically important places. N S and the new chief were unceremoniously taken in custody and for good measure were manhandled a bit too. TV station was captured, and all programs suspended.
It was given out that Musharraf’s civilian plane was not allowed permission to land in Karachi and was directed to an Indian airport not too far across the border. Musharraf said over his dead body. The plane was running low on fuel. Musharraf was worried over the lives of the dozens of innocent civilian fellow passengers. GOP ordered the pilot to proceed to an airport further inland. Not enough fuel.
The local corp. commander Lt general Usmani was waiting at the Karachi airport to receive his boss. He saw the runway blocked by trucks and got worried. He some how managed to get in touch with Musharraf’s plane, asked for latter’s instructions and ordered the pilot to keep on circling. In order to get the runway cleared and over power the air traffic handlers he needed his soldiers in a hurry. His cantonment was less than a mile away. He could not get hold of a phone, and had to drive to his base and bring his troops back with him. With the help of soldiers he threw out the personnel of control center. His soldiers cleared the runway of the trucks. Musharraf landed with only minutes to spare.
This plot has more holes than the proverbial sieve.
First, Air Force has two large runways in Karachi. Both are capable of handling planes of all sizes. In fact before the runway on the civilian airport was enlarged, big commercial airplanes had to use the facility at the Mauripur air base just out side the city. Musharraf was chairman of the joint chiefs of the staff committee, and could legally land his plane there.
Second, no Pakistani in his right mind would deny a Lt General the use of a phone. Usmani was a ferocious bearded giant and would inevitably be accompanied by an honor guard to receive the chief and could easily commandeer airport facilities with out having to go to his base.
Third, Usmani must have known of the appointment of a new chief. He was not a blithering idiot and must have come prepared. The dash to his base was obviously a subterfuge to deflect attention from a patently premeditated move.
In any event Musharraf landed safely and a few hours later he made a formula speech on the TV and the radio that safety of the country was at stake. It was his duty as an officer and a patriot to protect the nation etc.
Musharraf’s coup was in one way distinct from the previous usurpations of authority. Ayub took over when there was a real fear that the country might slide into anarchy. Ayub handed over the government to Yahya illegally and unconstitutionally but law and order situation was again fast deteriorating. Zia took over when the law and order had been subverted by the opposition and foreign agencies. It was left to Musharraf to invent a patently spurious excuse.
Musharraf appeared to be what the country had been looking for a long time. Sophisticated, well spoken and urbane he seemed to combine compassion with firmness. The enlightened progressive and educated element was happy that he was secular and invoked the name of Kamal Ata Turk the founder of modern Turkey and went around with a lap dog in his arms
Cases of nepotism, corruption, bribery, fraud and loot of national assets were filed in courts in Pakistan and abroad against the deposed Premier Nawaz Shareef and former PM Benazir. Nawaz had been arrested at the time of the coup. BB was out of the country but her much more unpopular husband was duly locked up [lxxxiv].
But Mustafa Kamal had a united people behind him. Musharraf had inherited a people disillusioned and at odds with each other. They had seen a highly venal civilian rule. They had lived under military rulers who had widened the rich-poor divide (Ayub), lost half the country (Yahya) and Zia who had empowered clerics and promoted ethnic and sectarian conflicts and left a legacy of arms and drugs. They had been let down by that false Messiah Bhutto who had only reinforced the rule of his feudal class.
Musharraf was an international pariah from the day he took over. His fortunes rose with 9/11. US were pitted against the Taliban. They needed Musharraf to keep ISI the creator of Taliban on a tight leash. Musharraf, however, in a devilishly cunning manner kept the Mullahs up his sleeve to be taken out at proper times to reinforce the view that his mentors had no other choice.
Musharraf and his minions brandished the oxy-moronic slogan of enlightened moderation [lxxxv] He was all for women’s rights and even ordered the local security agencies to register a case against the perpetrators of Punchayat-local village government- ordained gang rape of the now celebrated Mukhtaran Mai [lxxxvi]
The culprits were apprehended, jailed and let off by the provincial high court for lack of evidence. An international uproar forced the government to arrest the accused again and the case was pending in front of the Supreme Court. Mukhtaran was invited by a Human rights advocacy group in the U.S.A Asian American Network Against Abuse (ANAA) to visit the USA.
On his subsequent visit to the UN General Assembly session in N.Y. he addressed an invitations only gathering of Pakistani expatriate women in NY City. One member of the audience asked why he had tried to prevent Mukhtaran from leaving the country. That was lese majeste. Musharraf lost it completely. He had to be publicly restrained by his erstwhile boss, the then Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.
He finally took a misstep, reportedly at the advice of the PM and asked the Supreme Court CJ to resign. The CJ had blocked the sale of the steel mill at fire sale price [lxxxvii] and had asked that “disappeared’ be found and presented to the court. The man declined the suggestion that he resign. He had most likely sensed the regime’s weakness.
The CJ was kept incommunicado for several hours, and finally sent home, allegedly man handled in the process, under heavy escort to a virtual house arrest. Cases of his “corruption, nepotism and unfair use of prerogatives of office” were referred to the Supreme judicial council [lxxxviii] and he was “dysfunctionalized” whatever that meant.
Uncharacteristically the attorneys went up in arms. They had in the past acquiesced in the shabby treatment meted out by BB to the CJ of the time and the assault of Nawaz Shareef hooligans on the same person. Nawaz had managed to replace the CJ with a family retainer with ease.
The public and students disgusted and disillusioned as they were with the antics of power brokers wished pox on all houses.
A Mullah “persuaded” a Video shopkeeper to light a huge bonfire of his stock, announced the formation of a Shariah court and threatened the very “Islamic’ suicide bombings if the government dared to thwart his wishes. The prelude to all this resurgence was that women from a seminary in the capital city had “captured” a library, abducted the keeper of an alleged house of pleasure, overpowered and made hostage of the security agents sent to rescue the woman-all under Musharraf’s enlightened nose in Islamabad.
Under the same nose, a bunch of particularly virulent Mullahs had gathered a veritable mob.
Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
All religions try to take over the establishment and if they fail, they collaborate with it, be it feudal or capitalist.