Generalissimo of Pakistan
Musharraf, an intelligent, promising Pakistani army officer, rose through the ranks during the 1970s and 1980s. He was an an ethnic minority Urdu-speaker, not Punjabi, a political and social handicap. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promoted him to the head of the army over more senior officers because he thought Musharraf posed little danger of a coup. In 1999, Musharraf overthrew him anyway on the tired old pretext of corruption.
In the two decades before Musharraf’s coup, Pakistan had played an important role in the Afghan civil war. The Pakistani secret service, the ISI, distributed billions in American aid to the commanders of their choice, especially Hekmatyar. The ISI became a rogue organization, conducting one holy war in Afghanistan and a second in Kashmir, frequently outside Pakistani government supervision. In fact, Pakistan built a holy war industry directed by the ISI, with thousands of hard-line Islamic schools from which to draw teenage recruits, training camps, and a cottage industry of knock-off weapons. It was the ISI that chose Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, as their new proxy in Afghanistan, dropping Hekmatyar as a failure. And it was Pakistani aid that allowed the bumbling Taliban to conquer so much of the country. After 9-11 Musharraf tried to save the Taliban, pleading with the United States to be patient. But Omar was either too ignorant or too crazy to surrender Osama.
Today Musharraf has problems. Many Taliban commanders have fled to Quetta, a Pashtun town in southern Pakistan. Musharraf does not dare arrest them or prevent them from launching attacks across the border. Osama fled to a Pashtun tribal area near Peshawar, also in Pakistan. Musharraf is afraid that capturing Osama could spark a revolt, so he dawdles. His fears are valid. The Balooch and Pashtuns are killing Pakistani soldiers, and attempts have been made to blow up Musharraf’s motorcade.
Pakistan sponsors more terror activities than all other nations in the world combined. Paradoxically, because it is so terrifying, Pakistan manages to stay off the terrorist-state blacklist. The United States pressures Musharraf to do something, and he makes a feeble show of it, but nothing happens. We dare not push him harder because Pakistan is such a cauldron of Islamic fanaticism that we fear his fall from power; his replacement could be an anti-Western fanatic with atomic weapons.