ROOTS OF THE COUP
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was increasingly unpopular, and often accused of trying to establish a personal dictatorship: he had recently cracked down on the opposition, and made inroads on the authority of the judiciary, but the real reason for the decline of his political fortunes was his decision to withdraw support from Islamic radical rebels in Kashmir, a disputed province claimed by both Pakistan and India. For years, the Pakistani military has been encouraging Syed Salahuddin, chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the pro-Pakistani Islamic rebel organization in Kashmir, arming, supplying, and training the insurgents, who want “reunion” with Pakistan. While Sharif tried to whip up and ride the wave of Islamic radicalism that has engulfed Pakistan, the movement he helped to create quickly decided that he was not radical enough and called for his dismissal. Amid an economic downturn, and the ongoing humiliation in Kashmir – where a primarily Muslim population is governed by Hindu nationalists in New Delhi – it was only a matter of time before the Sharif government fell. The only question was: who will replace him – the Islamic radicals, who invited Osama bin Laden as the guest of honor at a gigantic rally held in Islamabad last year, or the military? The military preempted the militants – but don’t break out the champagne just yet.
General Pervaiz Musharraf, the army chief who responded to his firing by firing the Prime Minister, was widely seen as the moving force behind the most recent chapter in Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir. Under pressure from the U.S. and its allies, Sharif backed down and ordered a halt in the fighting – yet the Islamic rebels, supported by the Pakistan-backed Taleban government in Afghanistan as well as homegrown militants, showed no signs of withdrawing. Since the Mujahideen are seen as creatures of the Pakistani military, it was clear that the Islamabad regime was facing a crisis of authority – effectively resolved by the coup.
Musharraf rose through the ranks during Pakistan’s two all-out wars with India, in 1965, when he fought in the Khem Karan region, in Punjab province, where he was decorated, for bravery; and in 1971, when he joined an elite commando unit, the Special Services Group. He was appointed military chief when his predecessor was forced to step down as a result of remarks interpreted as critical of the Prime Minister. The General’s ascension to power does not bode well for the future of peace in the region. The war for the disputed province of Kashmir is likely to escalate, and this could well trigger an all-out military conflict in which the unthinkable suddenly becomes all too thinkable. Continue reading at LINK – ANTIWAR.COM