Musharraf’s Theater of the Absurd

July 10, 2007

Posted at rediff today. I wrote it before the Lal Masjid was attacked by troops.

Actually, the copy editor messed up the structure and introduced a few errors. Here’s the original as I sent it to rediff:

Musharraf’s Theater of the Absurd: In which he sings for supper and lives to fight another day


Rajeev Srinivasan on the make-believe that is Pakistani politics


After years of observing the deft General Musharraf, I must admit a sneaking feeling of admiration for the way he has navigated the minefields of, to mix metaphors wildly, dancing with three elephants: Saudi Arabia, the United States, and China. He is simply peerless in his ability to put on diplomatic theater, and he has an unerring instinct for how to induce the willing suspension of disbelief that is the centerpiece of all theater.


Musharraf has assiduously cultivated the fiction that he is Louis XIV of France, who said in all seriousness, “After me, the deluge”. That is, the story goes, if Musharraf were to be toppled, horrors, a Mohammedan fundamentalist terrorist would control Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Terrifying prospect indeed, except a strong case could be made that this is precisely the case already today.


What Musharraf has done so well is the following:

  • Convince the Americans that he is their best and only hope
  • Nevertheless, do nothing to capture the al-Qaeda leaders living in Pakistan
  • Do whatever possible to help the Taleban in Afghanistan
  • Turn a blind eye to, if not actively encourage, the antics of fundamentalists
  • Periodically, when American pressure to do something gets to be too high, produce a low-level, low-value al-Qaeda person as a display object
  • Periodically stage an “assassination attempt” on himself


This has paid handsome dividends, indeed. For reasons best known to themselves, the Americans have played along in this charade, and have lavished goodies to the tune of several billion on Musharraf and the ISI, the spy agency that has been the recipient of American largesse for a very long time. The ISI is practically synonymous with the Taleban, which the casual observer finds hard to reconcile with declared American goals.


During the rout of the Taleban a few years ago, almost its entire leadership was trapped by Northern Alliance forces in the Afghan fortress of Kunduz. Bowing to Pakistani pressure, the Americans allowed them to airlift a large number of these people. I wrote about this baffling act then in my column “What happened in Kunduz”?


The conclusion then was that all these “Taleban” in Kunduz were in fact Pakistani army regulars, including senior brass, who had exchanged their khakhis for loose baggy pants and beards: no “madrassa students”, these. A small clue: It is hard to believe that “madrassa students” would suddenly be driving tanks and flying fighter jets.


Whatever possessed the Americans to let these dangerous people go? It was a desire to protect some “assets” in Pakistan, one could postulate. What might these “assets” be? Experts have conjectured that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal might be under de facto American control, and that is a plausible scenario. It is not clear that there are any other “assets” worth protecting in Pakistan: surely Musharraf himself is not worth that much.


There was another incident that has just come to light that shows the astonishing American penchant for doing things that are not evidently in their interest, but that would help Musharraf. The neutral observer cannot help wondering what hold Musharraf has over the Pentagon and the State Department. The International Herald Tribune had a report on July 7th, 2007 titled “US aborted raid on Qaeda chiefs in Pakistan in 2005”


Startlingly, the Americans let senior al-Qaeda people go, when they had a chance to neutralize some of them, including possible Number 2, Ayman Al-Zawahri. The reason: to avoid embarrassing the Pakistani government! I quote: “[Defense Secretary Rumsfeld] was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said.” This is absolutely amazing – does tenderness for Pakistan dictate US policy, or does the pursuit of American interests?


The most recent incident involving Musharraf’s make-believe is the current standoff at a terrorist stronghold in Islamabad. The same, mythical “madrassa students” (aka armed terrorists) have made a comeback in Islamabad’s Lal Masjid incident, which is the core of the current Act IX, Scene 23 in Musharraf’s screenplay. After having winked at their antics for quite some time, Musharraf has now made an elaborate play of disarming them.


The reaction in the Atlanticist media has been ecstatic. The BBC is delighted that “Mosque raid boosts Musharraf image” and the Economist believes it is an “effort to show the country’s moderate credentials” and waxes eloquent about “General Musharraf’s image as a bastion of ‘enlightened moderation’ in Islam.” This desire to polish Musharraf’s image is very touching.


Steve Jobs of Apple has a reputation in certain circles that he is the possessor of a “reality-distortion field” and that anyone who comes within five feet of him falls prey to its influence. Thereafter they believe in all sorts of fantasies. Musharraf clearly has the same effect: just ask the Indian editors who were practically eating out of his hand after his strutting and posing at the Agra summit a few years ago.


In addition, there is the conveniently-trotted-out “assassination attempt”. Those who keep track of these will note that there is always one when there is pressure on Musharraf. Furthermore, the would-be assassins are always incompetent, for instance setting off a bomb after Musharraf’s cavalcade has just passed by. A light anti-aircraft-gun “fired upon Musharraf’s plane” but of course our hero escaped, no doubt by the grace of God.


There is a good question as to why, after tolerating the ISI-linked Lal Masjid’s antics for quite some time, Musharraf actually moved against them now. There are elaborate explanations attempted by the media, but the simple fact is: the Chinese ordered him to. And when the Chinese say jump, Musharraf, without demur, asks “How high?”


There is clearly an “understanding” between the Chinese and Musharraf/the ISI (which, for all practical purposes, are the same). The Chinese will give Musharraf military, economic and diplomatic help, and in return, Musharraf will keep the lid on Mohammedan insurgency in China’s restive Xinjiang.


Why are there no Mohammedan terrorist incidents in China despite the brutal oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang? China executed, in 2006, for instance, three times the number of people as the rest of the world put together. Most of these were Uighurs and Tibetans. Yet, there is no trouble in Xinjiang. This is because of the “special relationship” between Pakistan and China much like that between the UK and the US: one is a client and the other is a sponsor.


China is Pakistan’s principal patron, and the US needs to understand this clearly. The US tends to treat Pakistan as the “international condom”: use and then discard. But China is the “all-weather friend”, and in effect Pakistan is a Chinese colony. There are also thousands of Chinese living in Pakistan. The burqa-clad and stave-wielding woman warriors of the Lal Masjid kidnapped five Chinese women accusing them of prostitution. This led to a Chinese demarche to Musharraf, which he accepted with alacrity.


Pakistanis clearly understand that Musharraf/ISI are clients of China: hence, as revenge for the Lal Masjid siege, terrorists shot dead three other Chinese elsewhere.


Look at the difference: when the Americans get upset, Musharraf “arrests” a low-level flunkey in their trove of terrorists, just to appease them. Then it’s back to business as usual which means quietly supporting the Al-Qaeda and Taleban. But when the Chinese get upset, Musharraf swings into action. He is obviously singing for his supper, knowing where his bread is buttered.


The Americans are being hoodwinked by the ever-resilient Musharraf, who has the legendary nine lives of a feline. Pakistan is the center of Mohammedan terrorism in the world, and it is a Chinese proxy. It is high time that the Americans internalized the idea that the true axis of evil is China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.


The alternative is that the Americans can continue to be duped by General Musharraf’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Theater of the Absurd. Or pretend to be duped.


Comments welcome at my blog at


1350 words, 10 July 2007



8 Responses to “Musharraf’s Theater of the Absurd”

  1. Ghost Writer Says:


    You are spot on – when it comes to the larger forces at play. I do agree with the Chinese factor here. B Raman has a pretty solid analysis of the same here
    Pakistan has chosen China over the US.
    Consider the case of the Gwadar warm water port – which links western China with Middle Eastern (Iranian really) energy. This is against the stated US interest in the Middle Eastern region. How come no Tom Lantos writing friendly letters to the Pakistani president about this? Simple – they know they have no leverage. It is America and not Pakistan tat is being played here. But when it comes to the Iran-Pak-India pipeline (pipedream?) they are all huff and puff.

    I also find the ‘assassination’ attempts on our hero strangely comic. It’s almost like stunts in a B-grade Bollywood thriller. You have to wonder how come ‘religious students’ give the NATO troops in Afghanistan the fight of their lives; but turn into slobbering idiots when faced with the Mushhernaut?

    I don’t think that it is just the nukes that America owns. I have also come to the perhaps cynical confusion that the Yanks are o.k. with a militarised, ISI-driven, Talibanistan in South Asia – as long as it is not directed against America. They have no problems if that keeps India tied down locally. Look at the events in the last few years – really since Sep 11. The reality of major terror attempts in the past few years is that they were conducted by ‘local terror cells’ – nearly all in Europe; nearly all directed against European targets. How come? Is it harder to build ‘local terror cells’ in the US than it is in Dhimmiland Europe? Why are European Islamists more given to ‘terrorism’ than the ‘integrated’ Muslims of America? It is as I have said – the Yanks do not care who gets hurt as long as it is not them. Of course – long term its not as if the Yanks are immune, but in the long term we are all dead anyway

  2. aka19 Says:

    This issue of China’s all weather friend and the loyalty of Pakistan to China has always intrigued me. What is it that Pakistan did to involve China deeply. Did it help China in its nuclear or missile program by getting parts, which China could not get? Did it help by providing a peek into the US war technology? or the only thing that China gets is a neighbour of India, which can be manipulated by China to keep India down. the relationship between the Pak army and China requires to be studied and probed carefully and it may bring some unexpected insights.

  3. […] Musharraf’s Theater of the Absurd Posted at rediff today. I wrote it before the Lal Masjid was attacked by […] […]

  4. shaunak Says:

    Pakistan is China’s fixing manoeuvre on India. For more about a fixing manoeuvre …

  5. skorpio16 Says:

    Paksitan- A Terrorist State

    Pakistan is a unique country in the fact that it has a monopoly in the commodity that it exports round the world, i.e terrorism. Anywhere in the world wherever there is a terrorist strike, you can be assured that there will be a Pakistan connection. This nation is now like a cancerous tumour which threatens the peace & stability of the entire world. If the US govt. under President Bush is serious about winning the war on terror, then they need to consider doing what Richard Armitage had threatened Musharraf with on the evening of 9/11/2001, i.e bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age. Only when this is done will terrorist strikes acroos the world cease. Else many more Westerners & Western cities are destined to be hit in terrorist attacks inspired, instigated & financed by Pakistan. The Pakistan govt., Army & ISI are in league with the terrorist holding company Al Qaida, which is actually a fully owned & operated subsidiary of the ISI. The Indian govt. needs to adopt Chanakya neeti and seize the golden opportunity & initiate active steps for the breakup of Pakistan. The govt. keeps saying a strong & stable Pakistan is in India’s interest. Thats crap. Our interests will only be served once we breakup Pakistan. This will also remove a major Chinese proxy from South Asia. As rightly pointed out in the article the true axis of evil is China, Saudi Arabia & Pakistan. They need to be eradicated & annhilated like Nazism & Fascism were in WW II.

  6. anurag1 Says:


    I really appreciate your writings. I especially liked your blog about CPI aiding the British during quit India movement at the following address:

    I noticed you quoted the Free Press Journal as your source. I was wondering if you could give me a link to the Free Press Journal establishing that.

    Also I wonder if those documents exist in the National Archives. Maybe microfilms do. Could you give me any information of that?

    My e mail address is


  7. rajeev2007 Says:

    Anurag, Since I wrote that several years ago, I’m afraid I do not have the link. However, it is widely known that the Communists allied with the British and actively opposed the freedom movement. This you can find via a concerted Google search on the net. The evidence is compelling, and indeed the Communists have ceased to deny it.

  8. zalym Says:

    Dear Rajeev,

    I love your posts and your analysis, but I have a small request. Please refrain from using words like Mohmedan terrorism and jihadi terrorists. As a practicing muslim, I take offense to it. It hurts to see idiots like Osama spoiling the name of Islam and now to see learned people like you do the same, is very disturbing. Trust me, read about Islam with an open mind, and see if you think the terms jihadi terrorists and mohameddan terrorism applies.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: