Musharraf tells why he wants another five years
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: President Gen Pervez Musharraf told a US-based South Asia expert that he intended to stay in office for another five years in order to roll back religious extremism, ensure political stability and sustain economic growth.
In an interview given earlier this year, but printed on Friday, to Stratfor writer and expert Kamran Asghar Bokhari, the Pakistani military leader described the upcoming legislative polls as a pivotal contest between extremist and moderate forces. He said he wanted to see those who supported moderation prevailing at the federal and provincial levels. He stressed that a key concern was preventing the Talibanisation of his country, especially the Pashtun areas along the Afghan border.
Though he acknowledged that the Afghan Taliban were receiving support from within Pakistan, he strongly denied allegations that the country’s intelligence agency and other state institutions were aiding the Pashtun jihadist movement. He argued that it would be “ridiculous” for his government to support such forces when his goal was to transform Pakistan into a regional energy and trade corridor, which required a stable Afghanistan.
President Musharraf admitted that there were no quick solutions to the problem of Islamist extremism, but offered some insights on the efforts of his government towards tackling the menace of religious radicalism. He emphasised the need to deal with the issue politically, which would complement ongoing military operations.
Bokhari wrote that the unprecedented wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and conversations with Gen Musharraf as well as other senior military and political leaders had suggested to him that Islamabad had finally decided that it could no longer afford to avoid confronting Islamist radicalism. “It appears that the Pakistani military is in the initial stages of revising its historical relations with the mullahs. Whether this process can reach fruition remains to be seen,” he added.
According to Bokhari, “In his eighth year of rule, Musharraf remains very much secure in his position; no domestic political force has been able to oust him from power. However, Musharraf does face a grave situation regarding militant Islamists who not only utilise Pakistani soil to stage attacks in other countries, but also have begun to strike within Pakistan. The terrorism problem in Pakistan coupled with international counter-terrorism efforts could create a dynamic that could be exploited by Musharraf’s political opponents, especially since he faces a controversial re-election bid this year, which will be followed by parliamentary polls.”