Mr. Musharraf Goes to Washington... to Complain

This is a two-part series on Musharraf's recent U.S. speaking engagement, attended by Hughes. In Part 1, she examines Musharraf's view of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and in Part 2, will discuss Musharraf's view on the current state of India-Pakistan relations.

The ever-trustworthy former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has illuminated for us the real problems facing his country. The first is the United States. The second is India.

Did you think Pakistan itself was to blame for any of its current woes? 

Victimhood was the former president’s theme over the course of his hour-long talk at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington D.C. on July 21. By the end of his discussion, peppered with revisionist history and half-truths, anyone still hoping for a normalization of ties with our recalcitrant ally was left dismayed, and irritated.

We’ll revisit what the former president (and probable presidential candidate in 2013) had to say on India at a future date. For the purposes of this piece, let’s go over Musharraf’s gripes with the U.S. and what he knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Before offering any explanation for the embarrassing last address of bin Laden, he told his audience that Pakistan was a victim of militancy, not a perpetrator. It was in collusion with the U.S. that Pakistan armed and trained 30,000 mujahideen to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a move that introduced “terrorism” to the region. No mention of course of the billions of dollars and massive weapons shipments Saudi Arabia funneled to the eager ISI through zealous foreign fighters (including bin Laden) at the same time.

Back then, we were “strategic allies” and there was “no antipathy towards the U.S. in Pakistan.” Again, no mention of that pesky incident in 1979 when a mob of Pakistani students burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to the ground, resulting in the death of two Marines. But then came 1989 and the U.S. “ditched” the region (he has a legitimate point there) and “betrayed” Pakistan, cozying up instead to India, which, despite his belief that “in this world, one has to see diplomatic relations on a bi-lateral basis,” the U.S. was wrong to do.

Given the current diplomatic dysfunction, the Musharraf years (1999-2008) might look rosy. But Musharraf was a devil of a partner to have in the aftermath of September 11.

Despite promises to the contrary, he never demonstrated a real commitment to fighting militancy in the tribal agencies after an initial purge by the Pakistani military. Today, after the U.S. has spent over $10 billion in economic and military aid, Pakistan is the epicenter of Islamist militancy.

The former president told his audience that when he left office, “Pakistan was on a growth path,” and that whatever he did as president he would “repeat because Pakistan is headed again toward a failed […] state.” No need to mention his blatant disregard for Pakistan’s nascent democracy, the dismissal of the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, the crackdown on Pakistani lawyers, the suppression of the media and any members of the opposition. His involvement in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto remains suspicious.

And what about bin Laden? In the months since the raid in Abbottabad some are wondering how much the former president really knew as to bin Laden’s whereabouts. U.S. officials say bin Laden was living in Abbottabad for at least five years. 

Musharraf told the audience he “did not know” bin Laden was in the country and his being caught in Abbottabad was an “absolute case of negligence, not complicity,” a claim many U.S. officials consider doubtful given the seemingly omniscient power of the Pakistani military and intelligence services. Musharraf himself is a creature of the Pakistani military; he came to power in 1999 via military coup and was head of the military until his ouster in 2008. Abbottabad is home to many of Pakistan’s top military officials as well as the prestigious Kakul military academy.

But he’s already peddling the next phase of Pakistani victimhood after years of being "used, ditched and betrayed" at the hands of the U.S. Musharraf said the bin Laden raid was a direct “violation of [Pakistan’s] sovereignty.”

There is one thing in all of this the U.S. can accept blame for, Mr. Musharraf. That was aligning ourselves with you in the first place. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Laura Hughes

After graduating from Denison University in 2008 with a B.A. in Middle East Studies, Hughes moved to Cairo, Egypt to work for a financial communications agency and to continue her research on the political evolution of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. During her subsequent two-year stay in Egypt, Hughes conducted media and security analysis for US Centcom. She is currently based in London, pursuing her M.A. in Intelligence and International Security in the War Studies department at King's College London. Apart from her interest in global security and terrorism, she's a Washington Capitals fanatic.

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