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Why did Musharraf do it? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Those who criticize the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, never questioned his integrity or his austerity with which he implemented a successful administrational regime. Musharraf”s regime was preceded by corrupt governments defamed for their maladministration and for pulling the country into a vicious circle of poverty and regression.

Instead, the president”s critics ignore the benefits that he has brought to the country and instead focus on the fact that he seized power in a coup d”etat and that he practices political oppression against his opponents. However, his declaration on 1 September 2005 that his government will be establishing ties with Israel was surprising to many. This is because he has now set himself as a target for those who seek to decrease the public and military support that he once enjoyed. By declaring this empty relationship from which Pakistan will gain nothing, he has given his enemies live ammunition that will further strengthen their position against him.

One cannot deny that there has always been a discreet relationship between Islamabad and Tel Aviv, even during the rule of Zia Ul-Haq. This relationship was and still is imposed by international coalitions. The United States has been the main ally of Pakistan for more than 40 years and has supported the latter against its neighbor, India that was equally supported by two superpowers, namely the communists of China and the Soviet Union. Israel has played a continuous role in this coalition against India in which Pakistan has found itself cornered by the technological developments and economies of India on one hand, and Israel and the United States on the other.

The development of nuclear weapons has been the chief cause behind its alliance with the United States. Some Pakistanis justify their reluctant relationship with Israel by claiming that in return for establishing ties, Israel would withdraw from Gaza. These very people remind their critics that a similar deal took place when Qatar, Morocco and Tunisia established ties with Israel. Such relationships were only established after the Palestinian party itself blessed deliberations. Pakistan further claims that its newfound ties with Israel have also been blessed by the Palestinian presidency.

From my perspective, Musharraf has made a fatal mistake this time despite the justifications that he has given that the move has been in the interest of the Palestinians, that the move has come about due to pressures to counterbalance India or that the move will relieve Pakistan of the severe poverty that it is experiencing.

Pakistan is a strategic country and its internal stability is of great importance to the Arab and Islamic worlds, even more so than its ties with marginalized Israel. Musharraf”s relationship with Israel has provided his opponents, including oppositional groups that had previously established ties with Israel such as that of Sherif and Bhutto, with an extremely hazardous weapon. Musharraf will now have to confront a brutal internal political war due to the drastic increase in oil prices, of which most oil-producing countries are experiencing. More than ever before, both armed and peaceful opposition groups will use their power and all available means to overthrow Musharraf.

At present, Musharraf has weakened the Arab Endeavour for peace, which stemmed from the Saudi peace initiative that many countries pledged to adopt at the Beirut summit. Pakistan was once the hope that could have been used to exert pressure and establish peace in the Arab struggle. Musharraf could have established ties with Israel at a more appropriate time when the dream of establishing a Palestinian state is realized, rather than simply after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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