Open Letter To Pervez Musharraf
Dear General Musharraf,
I am notorious for proffering unsolicited advice to politicians in India which is consistently ignored. Thereby I have acquired a thick skin. I am now proffering unsought advice to you after your arrival in Pakistan. I am writing to you because I believe that you can play a decisive role to resolve the crisis in Pakistan and thereby stabilize relations with India. Your physical courage has never been in doubt. By personally crossing the Indian border into Kargil before launching your army’s assault you displayed foolhardy courage. Your entering Pakistan despite terrorist threats is equally courageous. The question is whether you can display in the same measure intellectual and moral courage to help stabilize your country and the region. I believe you can if you only summon the vision to think big and dare to gamble big. I believe you have the potential to initiate change because your unique experience has given you insight into adversarial sides of several contentious issues.
The army and the civilian government in Pakistan often have conflict of interest. You have headed both the army and the civilian government and have seen both sides of the coin. As army chief you were a hawk against India and scuttled the peace process by launching the attack on Kargil. As President you recognized the imperative of peace and made the only tangible and constructive peace proposal to emerge from Pakistan. I believe the Indian government should have responded to your formula by making a counter proposal. As far as I know I was the only obscure unnoticed commentator to make a counter proposal. I wrote that joint management of Kashmir by the governments of India and Pakistan as you had suggested was unrealistic as long as both armies were in contention. I therefore proposed that there should first of all be agreement on establishing joint defence between both nations. Your initial formula is not dead. It can still serve as the starting point of fresh efforts to revive peace talks. But to resume peace talks Pakistan first of all must acquire stability and cohesive government. Achieving that should be your first and primary goal.
The main task facing Pakistan is fourfold. A strong cohesive government representing equally all the provinces is needed to govern effectively. A working relationship between the army and the civilian government has to be established. The rivalries between different ethnic and linguistic groups have to be defused. And a successful assault against terrorist forces has to be launched. Dare I state that you are best equipped to deliver on all these fronts? The four major groups inside Pakistan comprise the Pashtuns, Punjabis, Sindhis and Mohajirs. For the moment keep aside the Baluch people who present a case apart. The Sharif brothers represent the Punjabis; the Zardari-Bhutto family represents the Sindhis; Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Afsandyar Wali Khan represent the Pashtuns. The Mohajirs have no fixed region and are clustered mostly in Sindh. Their leader Altaf Hussain is self exiled in London. You, General Musharraf, are the tallest Mohajir leader.
To recognise the fundamental problem facing Pakistan you will need to summon great intellectual courage. You will have to accept that the Partition was avoidable and unnatural. It occurred because the leaders of India and Pakistan grievously erred. Altaf Hussain has already stated that accepting the Partition was the greatest mistake made by the Muslim community. You might recall that you once said that India was like Israel. I rebutted you by writing that I as a Lahore Punjabi was forced out of my birthplace while your family left its birthplace to move from Delhi to Lahore to help carve a new artificially created nation state. I asked that while assessing you and me who was like the Israeli and who was like the Palestinian? But now Pakistan is a fact of history with generations of loyal citizens committed to their nation. Long live Pakistan! But even as independent and sovereign nations India and Pakistan need each other. I believe you recognized this after becoming President which is why you made your peace offer. So now to stabilize Pakistan, to achieve harmony between the civil government and the army, to fight terrorism and to introduce vibrant democracy, what can you do? I suggest you take the following steps.
First, make a public declaration that you will not contest the election and not aspire for any elective post. If you jump into the electoral fray what are you likely to achieve? I think at best you may create one more party in a hung assembly and then jockey for position in coalition bargaining. That will not bring a change in the current situation. What Pakistan needs is a government with a nationwide mandate capable of delivering governance. So what should you do?
You must abjure office. You must renounce power. Sometimes the kingmaker is greater than the king! You must acquire influence. You will succeed if you establish moral authority. You must declare as your mission the unification of all the major political parties into a single national consensus alliance that may jointly fight the election and jointly govern the nation. At this point of time Pakistan needs a truly national government. You must help create that. To do that you will have to formulate a common agenda based on decentralisation that will suit all the regions and be acceptable to all the parties. You will have to create the agenda that rationalises and stabilises relationship between the army and the civilian government by addressing both systemic and security concerns. You have the moral authority to attempt that. You will have to persuade the army to accept in principle joint defence with India in order to win the war against terror. Without such an arrangement terrorists will continue to bleed both our nations.
All this you might achieve if you renounce office and cease being a contender. You must become the catalyst for change. You might consider these suggestions wildly outlandish. Most people would agree with you. But tell me, without an approach that is as radical if not more is there any hope of overcoming the present crisis? Do not for a moment think that I am proffering this unsolicited advice because I love Pakistan. I am writing this because I am concerned about India. Unlike some Indians I believe that the fate of our two nations is as inextricably linked as was between the Corsican Brothers. So think, General. Is it your ambition to find a place in power or your place in history? Do you want to serve your fledgling party or serve posterity?
By Rajinder Puri