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Musharraf  Failed in Canada

Nadeem Yousaf


Gen. Musharraf might be a personal friend of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, however, the fact is that he could not melt the ice in Canada. In Canada, he could not legitimize his rule; nor did he convince that Pakistan has genuine democratic system. Pamela Greenwell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said Pakistan has far to go to complete a transition to democracy. Government stooges may not agree but the harsh fact is that Gen. Musharraf got a cold reception and even his tour was shortened. The reports from the Canadian media shows that there were no Pakistani flags along the ceremonial motorcade routes and no black-tie state dinner at Rideau Hall was given in his honor except a smaller affair with the Prime Minister as host. Jeff Sallot mentioned in his views that even though Gen. Musharraf was a head of state, he did not get full state honors in Ottawa. Attitude of media people was also unsympathetic, for example, David Van Praagh has suggested to the Prime Minster Jean Chrétien in his views that he should not buy Musharraf’s arguments about Western mistreatment of Muslims, and should not be impressed by the idea that Pakistan does not present a big problem.

The Canadian largest daily Globe and Mail writes in its Comment section that the general has done his bit in the war of terrorism and the West could hardly close its doors to him immediately, but we should remember that he took power in a military coup d'etat in 1999, overthrowing a democratically elected government; he has made no real attempt to restore democracy despite the marvelous speeches he gives about tolerance and human rights. The newspaper was also critical to his presidential referendum 2002 and the power to dissolve the parliament that he has given to himself by changing the constitution. In a unfavorable climate, Gen. Musharraf raised a very naïve question in Canada, “What does really mean by democracy?” The immediate and accurate response of the media people was, “a government does not run by an army general. Although, Musharraf tried to put his case very effectively, the Canadian media was hardly convinced with the argument that the only military rule could ensure stability in Pakistan keeping in view the past track record of army rule in Pakistan which has not been very impressive. Jeff Sallot commentary also show that he could not persuade Canadians with his argument that democracy has restored by adding a third tier of local government and increasing women participation in politics at the local councils, provincial and national levels

As the international environment is changing and event of 9/11 is becoming history, Gen.Musharraf’s support on war of terrorism was also suspected during his visit to Ottawa. David Van Praagh has even suspected Gen Musharraf’ faithfulness to the cause of eliminating terrorism and wrote, “Gen Musharraf is clearly playing a double game”, and he might accelerate terrorism in Afghanistan and Kashmir since President Bush has refused to mediate on the Kashmir issue and to provide the F-16s and linked the economic aid to an end to terrorism.

It seems that Musharraf likes to take U-turn based on his intuition. Once, he was telling to the world that Osam bin Laden would have been dead and if alive there were no chances of his being in Pakistan. Now he suggested that Osam bin Ladan could be alive and living in one of the major cities like Rawalpindi without realizing as to how the West would interpret his suggestion. Musharraf this statement might have influenced Praagh’s views in which he suspected loyalty of Pakistan in eliminating terrorism. He alleged in his views that ISI is still supporting terrorism and Taliban. He further maintains that it is very likely that Osama bin Laden lives under ISI protection on one side or the other of the border.

Although, Gen. Musharraf has always defended Pakistan’ nuclear technology and claimed that it is in a safe hand, Canadian media is of the opposite opinion. For example, Praagh contends that Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons, has the potential of contributing destabilization in the region and Gen. Musharraf himself threatened to use nuclear-tipped missiles in 2002 against India. Moreover, he asserts that Pakistan, being a nuclear-weapons state, has illegally exported nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran.

General Musharraf casual and simple remarks at different occasions have given opportunity to raise many fingers at Pakistani Administration. For example, the family of Denial Pearl has taken a very serious notice of Gen. Musharraf remarks that Denial Pearl died because he was getting too close to Islamic extremists. In response to these comments, the Pearl family said, General Musharraf needs to answer some tough questions about possible links between the killers and Islamabad's intelligence agency and denounced the suggestion that their son shared responsibility for his own death. They argued that Gen. Musharraf was obviously "trying to exonerate himself and the people he works with, the ISI." The family has also insisted that Gen. Musharraf must tell how far it is correct that a French author Bernard-Henri Lévy has asserted in a new book that Mr. Pearl was killed because he was about to report that Pakistani authorities maintained close links with al-Qaeda terrorists. It is very likely that Gen. Musharraf has promised to build a monument in the memory of Danial Pearl to calm down the Pearl family.

Gen. Musharraf did not succeed in changing perception about Pakistan as open and progressive state. However, there is a lot of room to learn from this visit. Gen. Musharraf and his aids must accept that theirs propaganda about democracy and progress is neither working at the national nor at the international level. A few of more unsuccessful tour such as Canada will be enough to isolate Pakistan in near future. Gen. Musharraf must realize now that the current support of American administration is temporary and they will not hesitate to take u-turn as soon as it is felt that Pakistan support is no more required. Besides, sooner or later, America has to change its current aggressive foreign policy under the growing national and international pressure and it is very likely that such a change will come immediately after 2004 election in the United States of America. When this policy will change, Pakistan might lose its importance so we must get prepare ourselves for the worst scenario. Moreover, it might be a useful suggestion to Gen. Musharraf that he must thoroughly discuss with his aids before speaking on the national sensitive issues, because the same bold statements and claims might go against him and Pakistan in future.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2003.

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