Musharraf has misspoken again

Gulf News, December 13, 2006

Pakistan government spokesmen have made it clear that General Pervez Musharraf was not making a unilateral offer when he told NDTV that Pakistan would give up its claim on Kashmir if India also agreed to self-governance.

“The president at no point said that Pakistan is unilaterally ready to give up its stance on Kashmir,” Major-General Shaukat Sultan said.

An interview to an Indian television channel would have been the wrong venue for announcing the most significant shift in Pakistani foreign policy in 58 years. More significant, Pakistan does not have “a claim” on Jammu and Kashmir that can be unilaterally given up by a Pakistani ruler.

In its recent review of Musharraf’s book In the Line of Fire, the Wall Street Journal described him as a person “accountable to no one, elected by no one and trusted by no one”.

Musharraf’s many interviews with the media that generate controversy ranging from comments that “a lot of people say that if you want to go abroad and get a visa from Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped” to his latest remarks on being willing to give up the claim on Kashmir confirm that Pakistan’s all powerful ruler sometimes tends to talk without thinking through the consequences of his words.

Musharraf also justified the killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in his NDTV interview, implicitly acknowledging that Bugti was deliberately targeted a position at variance with the previous official version that the Baloch Nawab was killed unintentionally.
He also compared his action against Bugti with India’s actions against militants in Kashmir and elsewhere. He appears to have forgotten that Pakistan has consistently maintained that India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir constitute “massive human rights violations”.

Since 2001, Musharraf has “misspoken” far too many times. He has given divergent and confusing statements about where Osama Bin Laden might be after becoming the toast of the international circuit as the man who might deliver Bin Laden for the US in the aftermath of 9/11.

Lack of legitimacy

An entire book can be compiled on the basis of Musharraf’s contradictory statements on domestic issues.

Like his predecessor as Pakistan’s military ruler, General Zia ul Haq, Musharraf seems to think that charming foreign journalists with frequently given interviews might somehow make up for the lack of legitimacy that haunts a coupmaker, notwithstanding how long they manage to hold on to power.

On more than one occasion, Musharraf has described Kashmir as the most important issue for Pakistan. Considering that he attaches greater importance to Kashmir than to internal consolidation, democracy or human development, one expects Musharraf to at least know Pakistan’s position on Kashmir well.

By saying what he said to NDTV, Musharraf seems to be suggesting that the Kashmir dispute is now a matter to be resolved between India and Pakistan, and for his part Musharraf is willing to “give up” the Pakistani “claim”.

The international community has no role in resolving the Kashmir issue, if it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan, and as far as the Kashmiri people are concerned, they can negotiate their future with India. That is what India has argued for years.

That runs contrary to Pakistan’s official position on Kashmir that it is the unfinished business of partition. Pakistan’s entire stand has been based on the argument that the Kashmiri people have not yet exercised their right of self determination in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

Pakistan has consistently questioned the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India “unlawful”.

If the issue is the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination, Pakistan has no claim to give up. If, on the other hand, the UN resolutions are no longer relevant then India can negotiate self-determination with the Kashmiri people in territories under its control and Pakistan ought to do the same.

There is no locus standi left for Pakistan in the matter in relation to Indian controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which are the State of Jammu and Kashmir for the Indians under India’s constitution.

India has hinted at solving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute by accepting the Line of Control as the international boundary since the 1960s but Musharraf has also said repeatedly that this is not the solution he has in mind.

The latest Musharraf comments, which outright reject Kashmiri independence, are close to accepting the de facto division of Kashmir but falls short of accepting the LoC as the border between Pakistan and India.

The problem is, Musharraf lacks the authority to solve the Kashmir question but insists on continuously talking about Kashmir, as if to justify his status as army chief and absolute ruler.

Kashmir is too important an issue to be left to verbal sophistry of a man untrained in the craft of a wordsmith but insisting on acting like one.