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Pakistan: Why is Musharraf Smiling these Days?

Paper no. 1188            13. 12. 2004

Guest Column-by Hari Sud

(The Views expressed are his own and not of SAAG)

During his most recent visit to Washington General Musharraf, the Pakistani President, was smiling. He was well received by President Bush and a host of his advisors and cabinet members. Prior to that, Bush Administration had announced major arms re-supply to Pakistan, all free of charge. This arms supply will help Pakistan’s Navy to regain the edge at sea. Other supply of TOW missiles will give the outdated Pakistani armored columns a bit of additional firepower and restock the depleted reserves. Bush Administration very carefully left out the F-16 re-supply from its current list. Musharraf’s recent visit to Washington was to inquire about this supply gap. 

The key question arises – What has Musharraf promised the US, other than fruitless chase for Osma Bin Laden in Waziristan? Let us examine this issue in a bit of more details.


Pakistan, prior to 9/11, had turned into Jehadi state. US Administration from Bush Senior onwards had ignored Pakistan in favor of India. The re-alignment of economic and strategic policies during Prime Minister Vajpayees five years in office had pushed Pakistan further into oblivion. Its economy had crumbled and excessive defense expenditure had reduced foreign reserves to a pittance. The coup, which General Musharraf staged against the elected prime minister in 1999, had not gone well with the US liberals. The embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania had firmed up US negative views on Pakistan. President Clinton came very close to designate Pakistan as a terrorist infested state. But, then came the 9/11. US wished to apprehend Osma Bin laden and remove Taliban from power in Afghanistan. In order to get to the Taliban and then to Osma, US had to pass over Pakistani territory. Hence a call went to Pakistan to join for the hunt. Offered, no other choices, General Musharraf rightly chose US side. Then began the great game of Musharraf milking US for arms and money in lieu of effort to nab Al Qaeda and remove Taliban from power.  

What did Pakistan give to the US and what did it get in return?

Within days from switching sides in 2001, US wanted and received the exclusive use of four air bases in Pakistan. These were not be to be used for offensive purposes but to support Aircraft Carrier based offensive action from the Arabian Sea and Diego Garcia base, deep in the Indian Ocean. Within two months of 9/11, Taliban was no longer in power and Osma ran to the safety of Pakistani tribal area. With his base of operation under US occupation, Osma has been reduced to of sending Video or audiotape to continue the psychological warfare on America and the West. 

In return, benevolent and generous US showered General Musharraf with financial gifts and helicopters to locate and bring Osma back to the US. The gifts included about $600 million a year for rental of four Airbases in Pakistan and forgiving of $3.0 in loans on which Pakistan was not able to make interest payments. The US Secretary of State Colin Powell acted as the negotiator and facilitator for all the aid. 

Immediate Impact of this economic aid was that empty Pakistan treasury got a shot in the arm and business activity started to pick. Whereas the Pakistan economic performance in the last 10 years prior to 9/11 was dismal 3% GDP growth, it started to show signs of upward activity. 

Where did the Pakistanis go wrong and what did they give Away further?

Overconfident Musharraf went around the world projecting himself as moderate amongst the Jehadi culture in Pakistan. He retired a few of the pro Taliban army officers, nullified others and went about looking for Al Qaeda Arabs mixed up amongst the Jehadis in Pakistani tribal area. He wanted all the Arabs out of Pakistan. He was honest about it. The only Arab he will not look diligently was Osma Bin Laden himself. That man was always kept a safe distance away from the Americans.  

But Jehadism in Kashmir was another matter. He had not promised anything to the Americans about terrorism in Kashmir, although a round about gesture to end all Jehadism in Pakistan had been pronounced. Americans acting on self-interest had accepted all Musharraf’s promises as gospel. 

On December 13, 2001, Pakistani terrorists disguised as tourists attacked the Indian Parliament. The aim was to hold all legislatures as hostages until Pakistan has its way in Kashmir. They almost succeeded except a vigilant security guard refused to open the inner gate to the terrorist car, which was laden with explosives. In the ensuing firefight all the terrorists died. They were identified as Pakistanis recently crossed over to India and came with the express purpose to attack the Parliament. Pakistan denied any involvement. The then Prime Minister Vajpayee will have none of their denials and ordered the Indian Army to reach the India Pakistan border within two weeks and prepare to teach Pakistanis a lesson. Of more importance was the sailing of Indian Navy to the striking distance of Pakistani port of Karachi. Only a minor spark was needed to start a conflagration. The Pakistani UN representative in New York promised a nuclear war, to which India readied its own nuclear weapons. 

US wished to diffuse the situation, as it affected its own interests on Pak-Afghan border. They also knew that Pakistan has mated its nuclear weapons and delivery via F-16 was a possibility (missile and nuclear weapons miniaturization was not ready yet). Presence of formidable Indian naval force at the mouth of Karachi harbor and armored column within two miles of Pakistani border in Rajasthan was further un-nerving to US. They concluded that this war will set back their hunt for Osma Bin Laden, hence had to be avoided at all cost. Their view was that although Pakistan will inflict a huge damage on India but retaliatory strike may wipe Pakistan out of the face of this earth. In its place a new Jehadist state may be born which will be detrimental to the whole world. US wished India to retreat a bit and withdraw its naval forces and armored columns. To this proposal, India was in agreement provided terrorists are withdrawn from India and Kashmir. To force a retreat US broke thru Indian naval Channels of communication and sent a wrong signal to the four naval ships poised for an attack at Karachi to withdraw and pressured India to withdraw armored columns from the proximity of Pakistani border. America promised that diplomacy would give India the desired result. 

Musharraf was so scared of this Indian build up that he again promised to behave a bit better and he did. 

What did US gain from this event?

This whole episode was nerve racking for the Americans. They wished to prevent it in the future. Colin Powell in his visit to Pakistan, immediately after the nuclear confrontation, asked Pakistan to tell them the location of their Nuclear weapons, ostensibly to prevent them from falling into the terrorist’s hands but more specifically to neutralize them in case of a new Indo – Pak confrontation. All future military and economic aid to Pakistan were made conditional on this information.  Pakistan very reluctantly complied. British and American companies, to prevent accidental starting of a nuclear war, were given the task of building a command and control system.  The weapons were de-mated and nuclear core removed and stored separately from the trigger mechanism. The later is the norm in India hence US did not ask India anything other than withdrawal from the forward areas. Also Indian command and control, unlike Pakistan, is spread around the civilian leadership like US and Britain hence did not require measures, which US forced Pakistan to accept. 

With nuclear confrontation receding, US asked India to make peace overtures to Pakistan. The Then Prime Minister Vajpayee duly complied.  US rewarded Pakistan with additional economic aid ($1.2 Billion) and more low-end military hardware to strengthen search for Osma in Afghan- Pak border region. 

A Q Khan and His Nuclear Terror Network

Towards the end of 1993, US started a major thrust to end spread of nuclear weapons. They were aware that Dr. A Q Khan of Pakistan was center of the network, but had no precise details. Dr. Khan and Pakistani military establishment had started to trade nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. India made US aware of this trade but US wished to wait for the right time. It arrived when the Indo –Pak confrontation took place in 2002. Dr A Q Khan, the innocent looking Pakistani scientist was unmasked and put under house arrest under US orders. Investigation began to further unmask the whole network of manufacture, shipping and assembly of nuclear materials. Pakistan government denied any knowledge in public but in private told US everything they knew.  

US was pleased with this outcome, promised not to humiliate A. Q. Khan any further. Pakistani government provided full details of his and their collaboration with Libya, Iran and North Korea. Shortly afterwards Col Gaddaffi relented and let US have the complete package which the Pakistanis had provided him for one billion dollar. Iran and North Korea are still holding out, but not for long.  

US also requested and obtained further details of Pakistani weapons grade Uranium production, location of the centrifuge and designs of their nuclear weapons. To their horror they discovered that it was an exact copy of the US weapons design in 1980s. Worried US wished to know more. Pakistan immediately pointed finger at China. Realizing that nuclear security has been compromised, US overhauled the whole security apparatus at its nuclear sites. 

Net impact of this episode was again in US favor. They have smashed the illegal nuclear trade for a long time, prevented Libya from making any progress and are pressuring Iran and North Korea heavily to stop nuclear weapons production. 

Pakistan is further ahead. They received a pat on the back for co-operation, additional economic aid has been made available and they have been allowed to keep their nuclear weapons provided US was kept informed of their location all the time. 

Pakistani Operation in Waziristan

It is joke. Pressed hard by the US Central Command to mount an operation to flush the Al Qaeda out of Waziristan. Pakistan moved 70,000 of its poorly trained troops into the mountainous territory in late 2003. They immediately met resistance. Causalities on Pakistani side were high. Reasons – Pakistan Army has trained itself for headlong fight with India in open plains. Jungle and mountain warfare are unknown to them. Al Qaeda and the locals won all skirmishes. Today, local tribal leaders have been bribed into a stalemate. Osma Bin laden has very easily escaped to another friendly location. 

US troops watching on the Afghan side of the border were appalled with lack of success. If Osma was in the area, then he had been forewarned of incoming Pakistani army and had quietly left. 

For General Musharraf, he has done what US wanted him to do and approached US for more rewards. The rewards were coming but he had to wait for the US elections. After the election, Bush Administration announced an additional $1 Billion in military aid to Pakistan in form of P3C Orion, Phalanx Gun system and 2000 TOW missiles. 

What else Musharraf did to please the US?

Two events in the south Asian politics which US has credited Musharraf are: 

·    Ensuring peace in Afghanistan for US sponsored elections 

·    Sticking to the promise he made personally to Colin Powell and Bush himself that he will prevent large-scale terrorist sneaking into Kashmir. 

In Afghanistan, credibility of Hamid Karzai depended upon his election. This is possible only if remnants of Taliban are kept under check. US asked Pakistan to ensure this and he dutifully complied. Since Taliban officers are mainly ex Pakistani officer of Pashtun decent, this task was not difficult. Elections were held in the fall of 2004 and the process was largely peaceful. Hamid karzai has been elected as president.  

The promise of peace in Kashmir has been partially kept. Musharraf has held back the Jehadis in Pakistan hence violence is confined to small incidents of encounters in cities and rural areas. The electrified fence separating the Indian Kashmir from Pakistani occupied Kashmir has also proved effective. US credits Musharraf for this effort. They have given Musharraf a front row seat in mounting a diplomatic offensive on India thru the American media. 

Hence, What has Musharraf Done to become a favored son of US?

Musharraf’s achievements for his country in last three years are from his point of view-great. Starting immediately after 9/11, he has done wonders to Pakistani army by getting free weapons supply and huge amount of economic aid to pump up the economy. He has served both his and US interests. In summary: 

  1. He walked into the US camp and abandoned Taliban and Al Qaeda
  2. He has partially relinquished the control of nuclear weapons.
  3. He has in private made full disclosure of Pakistani game plan of trading nuclear technology for money and missiles.
  4. Conducted anti terrorist operation for US in Pakistani territory of Waziristan.
  5. Pressured Taliban to allow peaceful elections in Afghanistan
  6. Withheld terrorist from crossing over into Indian side of Kashmir.
  7. Transferred or retired all Jehadi generals from the army.

As a matter of fact, he has fulfilled his end of the bargain. Musharraf’s rewards from US. 

Musharraf’s Rewards from 2001 to 2004

In these circumstances, Musharraf has come out ahead. Personally, he has been bestowed with numerous Whitehouse and Camp David meetings and lunches.  Financially, Pakistan is way ahead today than it was three years back. On the matters of national security, Pakistan’s security has been guaranteed with the bestowing of MNNA status. Now in any Indo – Pak hostility, there is no need to order, “tilt” in favor of Pakistan as President Nixon ordered in 1971, it is automatic. 

To summarize, Musharraf’s benefits in last three years are: 


1.      $3 Billion cash support the Pakistani economy since 2001 already handed over, more coming.

2.      $ 3 Billion previous loans forgiven. Interest on these loans would have been $200 million a year.

3.    IMF monitoring of Pakistani economy has been withdrawn. 

4.     US has underwritten the 70,000 Pakistani soldier operation in Waziristan. (In fact this has turned into a financial boon to the local economy in the area). 

Strategic & Diplomatic

5.   A terrorist infested state in just three years is being dubbed as enlightened democracy 

6.   US media is falling over each other to court General Musharraf. 

7.   President Bush is courting Musharraf like no other president has ever done it before. 

8.   Pressler Amendment has been revoked allowing Pakistan to receive sensitive and offensive military hardware. All remaining sanctions will go in next two years 

Military Benefits

9.   Pakistan has received free of charge military helicopters, surveillance hardware to look for Al Qaeda in the Pak – Afghan border. Total value $300 million. 

10.  A military package of P3C Orion, Phalanx system and 2000 TOW missile will be delivered to Pakistan in about two years. The P3C Orion will give Pakistani Navy advanced surveillance capability to prevent Indian Navy surprise attack like the one in 1971 and threatened attack in 2002. The Phalanx gun system will neutralize the Indian BRAHMO missile attack on Pakistani ships. The TOW missiles will blunt the Indian T-90 Tank advantage. 

A lot more supply like F-16 will be coming provided Pakistan becomes a US client state further and US negotiations with India on military purchases makes a headway. 

Net Impact on India

India has rightly maintained silence or sent only a low-key protest. Reasons: First, with all the above supplies no strategic advantage has been gained by Pakistan. Second, India’s wish list at the moment consists of IT and BPO followed by increase in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). India’s business in IT and BPO has touched $11 Billion in 2004 fiscal year and likely to rise to $30 Billion in next three years. The FDI, which has been stuck at about 2 Billion for the last 10 years, has increased to $5 Billion in the current fiscal year. This is likely to increase to10 Billion with additional signal from Bush Administration to US businesses to consider India as an alternative destination as compared to China. A few structural changes in the Indian economy are also overdue. Some are already on the cards others may follow, as India becomes a favored destination for FDI. India should stay its course. It is possible that current negotiations may also be fruitful and enhance India-US strategic partnership in military hardware supply. 


Hence, if Musharraf is smiling then he has his both hands in the cookie jar. The current situation is much better than during the Eisenhower era when General Ayub Khan was wined and dined and supplied with F-86 planes and Patton Tanks to allow U-2 flights from Pakistan. 

(The author is a retired Vice President from C-I-L Inc. and has lived in Canada for the past 34 years. A graduate of Punjab University and University of Missouri; Rolla, USA, the author is a former investment strategies analyst and international relations manager. email-