Gen Musharraf has been on yet another whirlwind media tour trying to impress the Americans. It doesn’t seem to be working. His appearance on the Jon Stewart show earlier this week found him staring while the anchor termed him a liar to his face. Yesterday he arrived at ‘Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’, an American think tank to present his show to Washington officials. Whether he realised it or not, however, the think tank presented the speech on a live broadcast and a video of the speech can be streamed from their website.
Musharraf started his speech with a history lesson, and it is one that we can learn a lot from. Not because what he said was true, but because what he said was a warped telling of history that reveals much about the way these old men view the world. For example, did you know that “the situation in Pakistan was perfectly normal until 1979”?
This is important because to Musharraf, religious militancy did not exist until it was introduced during the jihad against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The General knows better. He knows that religious sentiment was whipped against Bengalis as kaffirs in order to get troops to fight against their Muslim brothers. He knows that the 1974 proceedings against Ahmadis were a direct result of religious unrest.
When the original constitution was written in 1956 reflected the vision of Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah expressed in his address of 11 August 1947 when he stated that, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
Such religious tolerance did not sit well with groups like Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam and Jamaat-i-Islami and these groups demonstrated against minorities. Articles 260(3)(a) and (b) were introduced in 1974 – well before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
And this is not the only historical amnesia that was revealed during the General’s speech. According to Musharraf, in the 1990s dozens of mujahideen groups sprouted from the ground due to popular support and public sympathy for the liberation of Kashmir. Once again, the role of military in organising, training, and arming these groups was conveniently left out of the discussion.
Similarly, the General claims that it was not until the Americans pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989 that any anti-American sentiments existed in Pakistan. Really! And so to General Musharraf, the US Embassy in Islamabad was not attacked and burned in 1979. And this attack that never took place certainly had nothing to do with the fact that US cut military aid in April 1979 for the third time under the 1977 Symington Amendment due to concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Perhaps it is because Musharraf has such a poor grasp on history that he has taken to announcing from American microphones that he will return to Pakistan on 23 March 2012 to stand for elections. He says if he is elected he will do everything the same as he did before. Asked if he could do anything over from the past what would it be, Musharraf could not remember Kargil. He had forgotten how he sacked the judiciary. He said that before he left office his popularity was 84 per cent so he does not have to reinvent the wheel! His historical amnesia has wiped out the uncomfortable images of people celebrating in the streets and distributing sweets when he left. Gen Musharraf may have forgotten the past, but we remember.
Nobody wants to go back to the way things were in the past. We’re looking to go forward. Musharraf can’t understand this because he is from the past, and his view of the world is warped by historical amnesia.