Safe Exit   (22 Aug 2008)

After nine years of ruling Pakistan, former president Pervez Musharraf’s finally became a victim of his own device. I had always said that he was playing too smart for his own good – on one hand, he kept fooling the US and kept collecting money in the name of fighting terrorism. On the other, he constantly wooed fundamentalists and terrorist organizations and kept them under his benevolent eye, in the hope of securing his own position. Luck did not run out on Musharraf, it gradually slipped out over the last two years.

His regime bears the dubious ignominy of allowing Al-Qaeda and Taliban to establish firm bases in border areas of Pakistan, particularly in Swat Valley. ISI has been completely hand in glove with these two outfits. Everyone knew, including Musharraf, that Osama lived in these border areas. In the last two years, Musharraf began realizing his blunder and vowed to reign in the fundamentalists and save Pakistan from terrorism.

It was too late in the day though – Pakistan’s establishment had already ceded control of border areas to Taliban. When he tried to put pressure on the terrorist organizations, they retaliated and made three attempts on Musharraf’s life. Musharraf’s army trucks are being routinely attacked in the border states and bomb explosions have become a regular feature in Pakistan’s cities. The situation kept spiraling out of control and it has to come to a stage when nobody in Pakistan feels safe from terrorism today.

Having lost control already, Musharraf gradually lost faith and confidence of his people. He finally succumbed to the immense pressure mounted by the democratic forces in Pakistan. In most likelihood, he should get a safe exit passage to settle down in a foreign country, as is the norm in such deals brokered by the US through Saudi Arabians.

For a country already on thin ice, Musharraf’s departure means a new and intense struggle for Pakistan to stay afloat. Crucially, it remains to be seen if his successors – the democratic forces – will be able to reign in the terrorist organizations. No fate could be worse for Pakistan if the terrorists are still allowed to have their way.

Rajeev Shukla