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    South Asia
     Dec 6, 2007
Page 1 of 3
SPEAKING FREELY
The plan to topple Pakistan's military
By Ahmed Quraishi

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

ISLAMABAD - On the evening of September 26, 2006, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president



anywhere to dare do this political satire show.

Stewart offered his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking, "Is it good?" before springing a surprise: "Where's Osama bin Laden?"

"I don't know," Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight of a strong leader apparently cornered. "You know where he is?" Musharraf snapped back, "You lead on, we'll follow you."

What General Musharraf didn't know then is that he really was being cornered. Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no hint of the betrayal that awaited him.

As he completed the remaining part of his US visit, his allies in Washington and elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall. They had decided to take a page from the book of successful "color revolutions" where Western governments covertly used money, private media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups, basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington's agenda.

This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

In Pakistan, the target is a president who refuses to play ball with the US on Afghanistan, China and Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway:
  • A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role in Washington's "war on terror" and predicting his downfall.
  • Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.
  • Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.
  • A campaign waged on the Internet where tens of mailing lists and "news agencies" have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the Pakistani military.
  • European- and American-funded Pakistani NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real work to serve as a makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.
  • US government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding inflation and corruption.

    Some of Musharraf's shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.

    All this groundwork completed and chips were in place when the judicial crisis broke out in March. Even Pakistani politicians were surprised at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers' campaign, complete with flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media outreach.

    Currently, students are being recruited and organized into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web sites and "online hangouts". The people behind this effort are mostly unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners, placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No major student association has announced yet that it is behind these student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most journalists covering the story.

    Only a few students from affluent schools have responded so far, and it's not because the Pakistani government's countermeasures are effective. They're not. The reason is that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local non-governmental organizations are mostly founded and run by rich, Westernized Pakistanis.

    All of this may appear to be spur-of-the-moment and Musharraf-specific. But it all really began almost three years ago, when, out of the blue and recycling old political arguments, Akbar Bugti launched an armed rebellion against the Pakistani state, surprising security analysts by using rockets and other military equipment that shouldn't normally be available to a smalltime village thug. Since then, Islamabad has sat on a pile of evidence that links Bugti's campaign to money and ammunition and logistical support from Afghanistan, directly aided by the Karzai administration and India, with the US turning a blind eye.

    For reasons not clear to our analysts yet, Islamabad has kept quiet on Washington's involvement with anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. But Pakistan did send an indirect public message to America recently.

    "We have indications of Indian involvement with anti-state elements in Pakistan," declared the spokesman of the Pakistan Foreign Office in a regular briefing in October. The statement was terse and direct, and the spokesman, Tasnim Aslam, quickly moved on to other issues.

    This is how a Pakistani official explained Aslam's statement: "What she was really saying is this: We know what the Indians are doing. They've sold the Americans on the idea that [the Indians] are an authority on Pakistan and can be helpful in Afghanistan. The Americans have bought the idea and are in on the plan, giving the Indians a free hand in Afghanistan. What the Americans don't know is that we, too, know the Indians very well. Better still, we know Afghanistan very well. You can't beat us at our own game."

    Bugti's armed rebellion coincided with the Gwadar project entering its final stages. No coincidence here. Bugti's real job was to scare the Chinese away and scuttle Chinese President Hu Jintao's planned visit to Gwadar a few months later to formally launch the port city.

    Gwadar is the pinnacle of Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation. It's a modern city that is supposed to link Pakistan, Central Asia, western China with markets in Mideast and Africa. It's supposed to have roads stretching all the way to China. It's no coincidence that that country has also earmarked millions of dollars to renovate the Karakoram Highway linking northern Pakistan to western China.

    Some reports in the US media, however, have accused Pakistan and China of building a naval base in the guise of a commercial seaport directly overlooking international oil-shipping lanes. The Indians and some other regional actors are also not comfortable with this project because they see it as commercial competition.

    What Bugti's regional and international supporters never expected is Pakistan moving firmly and strongly to nip his rebellion in the bud. Even Bugti himself probably never expected the Pakistani state to react in the way it did to his betrayal of the homeland. He was killed in a military operation where scores of his mercenaries surrendered to Pakistan army soldiers.

    United States intelligence and their Indian advisors could not cultivate an immediate replacement for Bugti. So they moved to Plan B. They supported Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban fighter held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, and then handed him over back to the Afghan government, only to return to his homeland, Pakistan, to kidnap two Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, one of whom was eventually killed during a rescue operation by the Pakistani government.

    Islamabad could not tolerate this shadowy figure, who was creating a following among ordinary Pakistanis masquerading as a Taliban while in reality towing a vague agenda. He was eliminated earlier this year by Pakistani security forces while secretly returning from Afghanistan after meeting his handlers there. Again, no surprises here.

    Smelling a rat
    This is where Pakistani political and military officials finally started smelling a rat. All of this was an indication of a bigger problem. There were growing indications that, ever since Islamabad joined

  • Continued 1 2


    US on Pakistan's campaign trail (Dec 5, '07)


    1. US spies concoct a potent Iran brew

    2. India flies the red flag

    3. The coming China crash

    4.  The cost of politicians 

    5. Hirsi Ali, atheism and Islam

    6. Leave, or we will behead you 
    7. US on Pakistan's campaign trail

    8. China casts wary eye on North Korea

    9. PATHOLOGY OF DEBT
    PART 5: Off-balance-sheet debt


    10. Traumatized by inflationary gunfire

    (24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, Dec 4, 2007)

     
     



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