There is little that I have left to say on The General – besides my daily pot shots. To get a sense, you can look here and here [and the ensuing discussion]. However, the summer is over and we should bring ourselves up to date on this little-country-that-can’t and the one who leads it.
This General is a bit different from other dictators. For one, he is hyper-aware of himself and his role in international media. Ergo, his biggest setbacks are of the p.r. variety and not tactical blunders. To be fair, it is hard to become a military dictator in Pakistan and not labor under the long shadows of General Ayub or General Zia who perfected the spin of international relations. Our glorious General Fathers not only had the ‚àö¬©lan of a Jefferson or a Roosevelt but they also had great ‘staches which intimidated and seduced to equal degrees. What they did not have was any sense that they ruled people who deserved freedom to make their choices – good and bad. The legacy of the General Fathers is one of “benevolent” dictatorship – the patriarch who stoops down and picks up the little child and carries her over the hill; the wise guide who patiently awaits the moment of maturity; the patient taskmaster who know what is best. That is the mantle inherited by The General and he has taken a shine to it. His Enlightened Moderation and his repeated criticisms of journalists and NGOs who speak against him as “doing the work of the enemies of Pakistan” are hallmarks of such an approach. There is nothing “there” – no policies, no laws, no results. But there is a marked attention to what the world can and should know about Pakistan. Just listen to the audio of the, now famous, WaPo interview in which he made the remark about getting raped for a canadian visa. Listen carefully, because you can actually hear his tortured psyche, and you will hear his fear of these NGOs and the media which runs with the bad news about Pakistan alone. It is all a matter of spin, he sincerely believes, because every country is just as bad as the other.
The spin, though, is unspinning. He is surrounded by and, to a large extent a hostage of, forces that appear to be on a marked path to their realization. Islamism, whether understood as a general sense of religiosity in the society or in the more extreme case of Talibanization is growing. Kashmir, the fountain of Army’s youth since 1947 is fast approaching the point of bilateral resolution – between Kashmir and India. Baluchistan and Waziristan remain unresolved and continue to ferment. AQ Khan doesn’t want to leave the newstands. And, oh, the biggest bombshell, the aformentioned interview with WaPo and the resultant backlash. As I argued earlier, the best effect of Mukhtar Mai’s case was the international attention. Kristoff led the case in NYT but it is Musharraf himself who has began the irreversible process of alienating the backlash.”>Washington wallahs.
So, what now for The General? Raven says that he is an insensitive jerk. I concur. More importantly, I think he is in serious trouble. The opposition is rallying. The Chosen One is in heaps of trouble internally to pay attention to Pakistan. The greatest sin the world community committed on Pakistan was the sin of neglect. Thanks to Whosama b. Laden, A Q Khan, the plight of various women and the forces of Islamism, that sin will not get repeated. The calls for justice, for democracy aren’t gonna get any easier. The Congress still has lots of money to approve for Pakistan and they may look askance [you know, Katrina and all] at funding Pakistan with no strings attached. The only respite is if The General can produce the ace up his sleeve: Osama himself. The problem is, once he plays that card, he will have none left and the game is far from being over.