Scepticism in India about Musharraf’s anti-terror vow

By Manish Chand, IANS

New Delhi : Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s vow to wipe out terrorism from his country after the Lal Masjid assault is viewed with scepticism here, with most experts doubting if this will translate into a loosening of the military-mullah alliance and less cross-border terror against India.

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G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, for one is not convinced.

“Musharraf has just touched the fringes of the problem. The linkage between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and mullahs (clergy) in Pakistan continues to be strong,” Parthasarathy told IANS.

“As long as Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities in Afghanistan and India do not change, this alliance will remain more or less in place.

“The irony of Musharraf’s situation is that he has to run with the jihadis and hunt with the American hound,” said Parthasarathy.

“This is a palliative, not a solution,” the veteran diplomat opined while alluding to the storming of Lal Masjid by Pakistani troops to flush out militants from the radical mosque in the heart of Islamabad.

“He has said these things before. I hope he means business this time round,” said K. Subrahmanyam, an expert who heads the prime minister’s task force on global strategic developments.

Diplomats here who have been following the Lal Masjid developments closely are equally sceptical about Musharraf’s anti-terror claims and are not sure whether there will be any change in ground realities for India as far as cross-border terrorism is concerned.

Cross-border infiltration has escalated this year even as Pakistan continues to be in denial about its alleged role in the train blasts in Mumbai last year.

“What Musharraf says has to be taken with a large pinch of salt,” said a diplomat who did not wish to be named.

“Cross-border terror will continue but perhaps not at a level that will infuriate us because of Pakistan’s preoccupation with its internal problems,” Parthasarathy added.

“It’s a murky situation now. But all this is not going to impact on India in a big way,” said S. Nihal Singh, a former editor of The Statesman and a keen Pakistan-watcher.

“Even at the height of 9/11, when Musharraf was making a big show of taking on Al Qaeda, his policy towards India was quite different,” he said.

“He was quite nervous. I doubt if he wants to go the whole hog. Extremists are embedded in the very heart of the military-ISI establishment in Pakistan. That hasn’t changed,” Singh stressed.

S.D. Muni, an expert on South Asia, sees protracted instability in Pakistan, which should be a cause of concern for India.

“Battle lines between the military establishment led by Musharraf and extremists are now being sharpened,” said Muni. “Although the military-mullah alliance is under stress, it’s not the end of it.

“Pakistan has moved a few inches closer to being a failed state. Uncertainty continues.

“The real question is who will deliver a secular Pakistan. The military regime? Or the military in alliance with democratic forces like former prime minister Benazir Butto? We don’t know yet,” said Muni.

Writing about the state of unease in Pakistan after the Lal Masjid operation, Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times, has argued for disbanding the mullah-military alliance and underlined the need for forging “an enlightened and moderate politico-military alliance” to stem the growth of religious radicalism in the country.