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PAKISTAN - On A Razor's Edge, March 2004

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "On a Razor's Edge"

Assessing Musharraf's Predicament

The Brink of Peace

Reporting on the Nuclear Scandal

Background, Government, Issues

India/Pakistan Relations, Islamic Fundamentalism, Media Resources




VOICES FROM THE WHIRLWIND: Assessing Musharraf's Predicament

Lieutenant General Hamid Gul: Defender of Islam

Lieutenant General Hamid Gul Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, former director of Pakistan's military intelligence agency, says the United States is conspiring against Islam. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

It's been said that President Musharraf is a very secular man. A lot of people view that he is veering a little bit away from Islamic identity.

No, no. Islamic identity doesn't mean mullahism. I don't think he is secular. I don't think anybody in Pakistan can be secular, otherwise he would be violating the constitution of Pakistan, which is beholden to uphold Islam. And the very first article of the constitution, article 2a, talks about the sovereignty of Allah, which makes it a very distinct country, a very distinct nation, in the community of nations. It is very important to understand because anybody who can say that I am secular actually is violating the constitution of Pakistan.

What pressures, if any, is President Musharraf under right now?

Well, he described them in the 17th January [2004] speech to the parliament, joint house. He made it quite clear that there are four counts on which Pakistan is under pressure. That America is not able to handle Afghanistan and there are feelings that it is because Pakistan has not been able to deliver as much as they wanted on the Taliban front. Secondly, [nuclear] proliferation. Thirdly, the Kashmir [issue], that Pakistan is supposed to be sponsoring the Kashmir movement and actively helping them. And fourthly, that Pakistan is going a different fundamentalist way. I mean, Pakistan is a breeding ground for jihadis, for so-called terrorists, etc. He has come out openly about this.

Why do you think Pakistan has suddenly become a breeding ground for jihadis and for such fundamentalism, as the West calls it?

The West has got a new idea. They are using this. This is a terminology. These are semantics. They use these terms ... as a big stick to beat us with, otherwise Islam is either fundamentalist or not fundamentalist, just like Christianity. You go by the book and you are fundamentalist. So, Islamic society is essentially oriented to Koran. And if Koran is fundamentalist, then we all are fundamentalist, no exception[s], including Pervez Musharraf ... this is not correct.

But the environment, the upsurge has been because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and then the Western world needed Pakistan to stand up. It was our interest also, but it was the requirement of the Western power that we stand up as the front-line state for the free world at that time. And that was done remarkably well. It was a clandestine war in which the Islamic spirit had to be enhanced. You had to address the true Islamic feeling of the people; young people who came from all over the world participated in this.

So it was [a] turning of a new chapter and obviously now they wanted to control it. But they also want to impose imperialism and their agenda. So they have now become rebellious. They don't want to accept it. They talk of democracy, but they are not prepared to give democracies to the Islamic countries. ...

Do you think that 9/11 and events like that were a conspiracy and this new fiasco of nuclear proliferation is some part of a grander plan?

Of course. I have written articles on it ... . And I said that it is designed as a conspiracy and the Americans are fully involved, the policy planners, the hard-core cold warriors. ... They created an opportunity and then the furor that was created allowed them to do certain things. But I think that they are losing steam now. They are now coming to the fag end of it and I don't think they can get themselves involved in a long-term agenda, except through scheming -- and scheming they are doing. India and Pakistan are vital components of that scheme, the way they have to be manipulated, maneuvered and juxtaposed in their bigger game against China.

Do you think that right now Pakistan would be ready for a democracy?

Pakistan has always been ready for democracy. Pakistan was created for democracy and through its own democratic struggle ... Pakistan is a very fit country and a very fit society for accepting, assimilating and absorbing democracy. But unfortunately this has not been, because this is part of the global design of the imperialist powers that Pakistan should not be a democracy. Because whenever it becomes [a] democracy, it will be an Islamic democracy. Because it will have to reflect the will of the people.

Democracy, what is democracy? Democracy is the will of people being reflected in the policies of government, in the state system. And that is what the Americans don't like. ... They do not want Islamic values to be incorporated in the state systems, and they don't like the Islamic justice of equality, fraternity and freedom. ...

Do you think that Musharraf is losing the support that he enjoyed earlier?

Yes, he is. I'm afraid that his policies are not paying off. Because by supporting America on Afghanistan like we did after 9/11 and hurriedly joining the American camp, lock, stock and barrel -- that is not working. It has failed us once again. And American friendship is not trustworthy. Americans, they are selfish. They have their own motive, which ... run counter to the basic objectives of Pakistan. ...

There have been reports in the Western media that Osama bin Laden is on this side of the Pakistani border in Waziristan [a semiautonomous tribal area bordering Afghanistan] or that kind of place. Do you think there is some kind of great game here right now -- because just saying Osama is on the Pakistani side now puts the burden on the Pakistani government to find him.

Osama lives, and he is somewhere, and if President [Musharraf] can play a role in finding him, then President Musharraf is valuable. So I think that it's convenient for them as well as for him. It's valuable for both sides.

You were talking about a conspiracy -- how do you think it is a conspiracy? What entails a conspiracy that could be so large?

Well, I think they had to find an excuse. I mean there was no enemy after the Cold War, and they had to create an enemy. And there was a very sharp feeling in American strategist camps that ... some enemy must be created and they had to create an enemy. And I think al Qaeda was a very convenient ploy. One had not heard of al Qaeda until about 1997, and suddenly they appeared. And ... [from] then on ... the case was built up. But there had to be a practical example of what al Qaeda could do to endanger America's security. And that's why they have not held an inquiry so far.

Now [the] intelligence in Iraq is being blamed. But why has not [the] intelligence [been] taken to task in relation to 9/11? Have they reported? Why did they fail? No heads have rolled. The air traffic controller has not been taken to task. And the U.S. Air Force which refused to take to [the] air for 112 minutes -- it's unprecedented; it's incredible. There have not been questions. So there are all the signs, all the evidence that this was made up, this was created. The only thing is that the towers were not supposed to fall down. But they did fall down, so it became a much larger, bigger-than-life event which created so much of a disturbance and a sense of alarm. But imagine if the towers had not fallen down. Then the effects would have been the same and yet they could have gone on doing this, and wherever they are, let's go and bash them. But who is al Qaeda? What is al Qaeda? No definition has been given.

Pakistan has rounded up hundreds of al Qaeda --

More than 500, yes!

And also rounded up religious organizations -- and this is the first time a president has made such strong moves to round up the so-called ... religious elements in society. What kind of repercussions might there be, if any at all?

Well, it depends when America turns weak and turns back from the world scene ... . Once it begins to back off, then there will be a lot of problems, a lot of turmoil in a lot of societies, particularly the Islamic societies -- in the Middle East, in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and elsewhere. A lot of ... upheavals will take place.

But why Islamic societies? Why is it always that when there is a flashpoint it has to do with Islamic societies?

Because they are targeting Islam. Islam is their new enemy ... because Islam talks of a system of egalitarianism, and they are capitalists. We may not be practicing this, but inherently the desire is in the Islamic societies to achieve that, as it was in the society of Medina: equality for everybody, respect for all human beings irrespective of caste, color, creed or religion. So that is the ideal. And as long as Islam pursues those ideals and there is a target in front of the Muslim people, then Islam is the enemy. And Islam is always resisting ... whether it's Iraq or the Taliban or al Qaeda. They are the ones who are resisting this -- nobody else is. Among the 200 countries, who is resisting? Nobody is resisting. So obviously they are the target. Islam is the target; Islam is the new enemy; Islam is the challenge.

Do you think that the rise of the MMA party [Muttahida Majlis-e-Ama, otherwise known as the United Action Front, a coalition of religious parties that have gained unprecedented victories in 2003 fall elections] is a sign that people in Pakistan are turning toward Islam? They have established sharia laws in the northwest provinces, they are getting the Hisbah Act [legislation proposed by the MMA as part of a larger bill to enact sharia law] passed.

Sharia is a good thing. Sharia is not your law, not my law ... . Sharia is Koranic law. And the benefits -- in Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban imposed sharia and remarkable results: peace and tranquility despite the fact that they were under sanctions from all over the world. They stopped [the] weaponization of the society. They stopped poppy cultivation. They brought centralization to Afghanistan, which was the dire need. And they brought peace throughout the society. It was remarkable.

So one can see, empirically, sharia can really bring a lot of relief to all of the people to begin with. ... The issue is that sharia cannot be imposed in one area, one province, one small territorial precinct. It has to be for the whole society. ...

Do you think if the Muslim countries of the world --

They must unite! In fact I have been a proponent of the idea that all the Muslim countries, which are an endangered species, they must get together and sign a defense pact, a treaty that an attack on one is an attack on the others. And then we will see how they can indulge in these excesses. I know them -- they have certain weaknesses inside them. There are cavities within the American system, and those cavities need to be exploited. And I don't think America is as powerful as it appears. They are essentially fighting against Muslims a proxy war for Israel. And that is their greatest weakness.

But can we ever unite?

It is possible, but it requires leadership. Our problem is that at the moment in all these 57 Muslim nations there is no leader who is prepared to take the cudgel and stand up full length and say, "We are one nation ... ."

So do you think if the Muslims united together, that they will be capable of defeating the West?

We don't have to defeat them; we have to deter them. We are not fighting a war with them. We have the oil. The Muslim world together has 75 percent of the oil with us, and even the future resources are in Central Asia, which are Muslim, largely Muslim. Forty-five percent of the world area can be described as Muslim land. So we have tremendous potential. But we have to understand that we are different in the definition of a nation than the other nations of the world. And this is called pan-Islamism. And people are afraid, the West is afraid of this spirit of pan-Islamism.

What would you like for the future of Pakistan?

Same as Jinnah [Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the architect of the Pakistani nation and its first leader]. I think he wanted an egalitarian Islamic country, a new model in contemporary times of the state of Medina. A reincarnation of that original dream on which Islam is based and Islamic society, culture and civilization was based.

Do you think Pakistan is getting closer to that dream or falling farther behind right now?

Pakistan is getting closer right now but in a negative sense -- negative in the sense ... that everything is false. We are coming to the conclusion that this doesn't work -- socialism doesn't work. ... And ... the kind of Western-controlled democracy, this kind of democracy -- it doesn't work. So [the] Pakistani nation is at least getting closer, at least in that sense that as [the Koran] said: La Ilaha Illallah -- there is no God but Allah.

Ahmed Rashid: Critical Journalist
Jugnu Mohsin: Newspaper Editor
"Shahzad": An Underground Militant
• Lieutenant General Hamid Gul: Defender of Islam
General Mirza Aslam Beg: Former Army Foe of Musharraf
Sherry Rehman: Opposition Parliamentarian
Sami ul-Haq: Powerful Religious Leader

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