Without the Pakistani secret services, the West would be ‘brought to its knees’ by Islamists, says military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.
He was responding to criticisms that Pakistan’s SIS was responsible for funding the Taliban in Afghanistan, and most recently for bombing Mumbai. The first allegation was made in an in-house British defence intelligence report, the second by the Indian government.
Musharraf has led a charmed life since 11 September 2001. In his first US election campaign, current incumbent George W Bush was caught out by an interviewer who asked him the name of Pakistan’s president. Since then, Musharraf has become central to US policy in the region as a bulwark against ‘extremism’. That was something of a turnaround, because the preceding US administration, cosying up to India, was putting pressure on Pakistan’s autocratic rule.
Musharraf’s democratic credentials are weak, having overthrown the elected government in 1999 and then secured a mandate through a plebiscite in 2002. Still, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, ‘he may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch’. Bush has backed him in recent visits to the region – even though the US-imposed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai also accuses the SIS of supporting the Taliban.
Musharraf’s authority, though, is tendentious. This latest veiled threat of bringing the West to its knees is a sign. The general relies on fear of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to command Western support.