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'Musharraf's exit is an opportunity for India'

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Last updated on: August 20, 2008 20:15 IST
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India and Pakistan have a real opportunity to take relations forward after the exit of President Pervez Musharraf, feels Adrian Levy, co-author of Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy.

One of the finest scholars of contemporary Pakistani history, Levy spoke exclusively to from the south-west of France.

"Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari are likely to delink the issue of Kashmir from Indo-Pakistan relations," he said. Both are not in favour of creating tension on the border with India.

Levy says Musharraf's exit is a victory for democratic forces in Pakistan.

"President Musharraf was a naive leader. His war on terror was completely deceptive. He brought in far more extremism into the world, more instability in Pakistan, by manipulating his position and by double-dealing with the jihadis," Levy stated.

Justifying his view, Levy says, "His work speaks for himself. America gave just $1million when there was democracy in Pakistan. But, after 9/11 till 2006, $11 billion was given to fight terrorism. It's obvious the money has not been used as intended. You can't fight a counter-insurgency operation with F-16s. It was the naivety of the US State Department and Pentagon to think that Pakistani military is a cohesive force, which will win their war on terrorism."

"Despite spending $11 billion during Musharraf's regime, terrorism has increased, radical forces have multiplied and more than 13,000 madrasas have sprung up in Pakistan, and terrorism in the region has also increased," he added.

Levy believes that Musharraf is still involved in back-room dealings to get legal indemnity for his actions as president.

According to Levy's assessment, Musharraf is most likely to settle down in Turkey, a country with which he has deep military relations and close contacts with the establishment.

He says if one closely analyses Musharraf's role vis-à-vis India, he didn't help India.

"He planned to capture Kargil since 1993 but Benazir Bhutto didn't allow him. When he saw that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is weak he saw his chance and attacked Indian territory. He also objected to India's closeness to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and to Indian presence in that country," Levy said.

He thinks a section of the Pakistani military is behind the recent violations of ceasefire agreement on the India-Pakistan border. "The democratisation of Pakistan will help India," he said.

While talking about Pakistan after Musharraf, he expressed fears over uncertainty about civilian control over the intelligence forces and nuclear establishment.

"I am not clear how much leverage the new democratic forces will have over the Inter Services Intelligence and control over the country's nuclear infrastructure. Pakistan's military is waiting to understand the current process. It is highly desirable that the civilian leadership should take control of it."

According to Levy, in the current situation, it is important to see how much and how fast Sharif brings in support from a break-away faction of his party. If Shujat Hussain Chaudhary's Pakistan Muslim League-Q joins Sharif, then the numbers will favour him in parliament.

He observed that in the interest of the delicate situation in Pakistan, the Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-N should select the president and reinstate the judges amicably and fast.

Levy also said there was a possibility that if an agreement on the next president cannot be finalised soon, both sides can think of elevating Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as president while Zaradari or Sharif can become prime minister depending on the balance of power in the evolving situation.

Levy says the PML-N-PPP relations now are better than before. He says there are serious issues and differences between two parties and their leaders, but there is communication and debate going on. He says he sees the tension between political leaders as "reorganisation of democratic forces". The sticking points between the two leaders are on counter-terrorism policy, issue of judges, Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan and India, he says.

"We will have to wait and see how these two leaders sort out the issues," Levy says, adding that Bilawal Bhutto is also in the fray and his political rise is expected. Zardari has so far handled the situation well by not allowing horse-trading and by agreeing on a strategy to oust Musharraf.

Levy says, "Zardari has even impressed Sharif! I hope both of them will now settle down to do real business for Pakistan."

On the war on terror, Levy strongly argues that democracy is a messy business and America should not take any shortcut in implementing its plan in Pakistan. According to Levy, the Bush administration may like to capture Osama bin Laden or his deputy Aiman al-Zawahiri. But to capture them before Bush's term ends in November, they would need to land American troops in Pakistan. Levy argues against it.

He says, "America should work with the democratic forces of Pakistan. The civilian leadership in Pakistan should in their own way take their own counter-insurgency measures. Negotiations with the tribal leaders and not a military solution will work here. This is not time to destablise Pakistan further."

"America made the biggest mistake by investing in one man," Levy added.

When asked if history will judge Musharraf kindly, Levy said, "No. He manipulated the ISI and military to wrest more power for himself. After 2001, he brought in instability in his country. In his time terrorism grew and he created tensions in Afghanistan and added to the instability of the Karzai government."

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi