An editorial in Pakistan’s Daily Times acknowledges that since 9/11, Pakistan has had to make an about-face in its support for jihad — and that the process is still incomplete, even within the heart and mind of Pervez Musharraf:
The opposition in Pakistan says Islamabad is bending too far backward to obey the election-related fiats coming from the United States. They accuse President Pervez Musharraf of making war against his own people on the orders of George Bush. No one believes the government’s version of the Wana Operation and everyone tends to ignore the latest flurry of arrests of the so-called Al Qaeda agents in the country. The government says that the Jamaat-e-Islami, the party of the chief of the religious alliance MMA, has been found sheltering the terrorists, which hardly anyone believes because of the general impression that everything Islamabad says is usually dictated by the United States. What is the truth?
The fact of relentless American pressure is difficult to deny. Pakistan’s great volte-face against the Taliban and jihad after 9/11 took place because of the extraordinary pressure applied directly by Washington on the military rulers of Pakistan. Indeed the coercive change has been so sudden that most Pakistanis simply cannot understand it….
After General Musharraf turned on a dime in 2001, there was political dislocation in Pakistan. The following year an entire swath of its population in the NWFP and Balochistan voted against the big change. The jury is still out on whether the election was rigged in favour of the MMA but a strong impression remains that General Musharraf did not exactly anticipate the electoral backlash against the big change in the army’s Taliban policy. There is evidence also that the 2002 election saw the playing field fixed against the two parties that General Musharraf wanted to splinter and render ineffectual. But by far the bigger challenge emerged in the shape of an aggressive clerical opposition with which he finally negotiated himself into some sort of political legitimacy through the 17th Amendment of the Constitution….
Such American and personal “compulsions” apart, there is a purely Pakistani perspective to consider too. As a consequence of the “strategic depth” policy followed by the army with the Taliban after 1996, Pakistan’s internal sovereignty had been all but bartered away. The jihadi organisations virtually ruled the big cities while the law enforcement agencies worked slavishly as their handmaidens. Then the pressures emanating from 9/11 began the process of rolling back the jihad, something on which President Musharraf may have the support of the vast silent majority of Pakistan. Would he have done it without the American pressure? Would he have done it if there hadn’t been assassination attempts on his life? Those who say that the sincerity of his commitment against Islamic extremism should be assumed after the attempts on his life by the erstwhile jihadis should remember that he also repeated his commitment to jihad in Kashmir in a recent interview to a Pakistani English daily.