This debate is going to go on for a while. Before the war in Iraq, the US had asked Pakistan for support. The General would have happily supported the US, and perhaps even sent some troops along, but it was so obvious that about 99.5% of the population was opposed that he had to declare quite a few times that Pakistan did not support the Iraq war. I wrote earlier about “Musharraf”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_08/musharraf_self_styled_saviour_stuck_in_a_rut.html, and while he’s the best leader the country has had in the past 30 years he is not as popular as he used to be.
When it comes to sending troops to Iraq, while some of the liberal intellegentsia will support it (all 10,000 of them), about a 135 million other people will not. Pakistan is a largely illiterate Muslim country. With illiteracy comes intolerance, and the abuse of religion by a powerfuly theocracy to control large numbers of the population. There might possibly be a few religous leaders who would support sending troops, but they dare not say so publicly. The religious beast has been dormant so far, but even then they’ve casued enough problems. They already want Musharraf to step down, and if he sends troops, things here are really going to go down the drain. There is so much hatred of the US amongst the talibanized Mullah’s, and Musharraf toadying up to the US even more is going to cross a line and turn them against him. While they might be warring with words right now, it could easily turn violent. We don’t need no Al-Queda here, our locals are fully capable of running bombing campaigns against soft targets just to make their displeasure known.
Musharraf has been talking about a countrywide debate about sending soldiers. He must be planning to talk to his cronies all over the country, as it’s quite obvious what the majority thinks of the whole affair. I read the top two english papers, and there are about 50 articles against sending soldiers to every one for. In the Urdu papers, I’m not sure there has been a article published which supports sending soldiers.
bq. General Pervez Musharraf says that Pakistan is agreeable in principle so long as certain conditions are met. But predictably, some ultra nationalists in Pakistan disagree. Earlier, General Musharraf’s statement had drawn two major objections. First, that by sending troops to Iraq, Pakistan would be overtly accepting the US war on Iraq as “legitimate”. But this, said the critics, was unacceptable since Pakistan had long opposed the war. Second, that this issue, given its policy dimensions and gravity, could only be decided by parliament and General Musharraf cannot take a decision without first developing a consensus through democratic procedures. Now two additional arguments have been articulated by critics. The first is accusatory: it claims that General Musharraf is primarily concerned with remaining in power and is prepared to do anything – especially US bidding – to that end. The second holds that Pakistan is an essential part of the Muslim ummah and in that capacity it cannot be seen to do something that undermines the interest of the ummah. The argument is that by sending troops for peacekeeping to Iran, Pakistan will upset and undermine the ummah.
>> “Daily Times Editorial”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_5-7-2003_pg3_1
*Update:* “Reuters”:http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DEL112365.htm: India cannot send soldiers to help U.S. forces in Iraq because it it too busy fighting Islamic rebels in Kashmir, a senior Indian defence official said on Friday, 12 September. This basically means more US pressure on Pakistan to send troops.
*Update:* “ABC Interview of Musharraf, Sept 22nd”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_09/musharraf_takes_a_stand.html. This is the diplomatic answer, and it screams no. The actual answer to for a sizable minority of the population is edging towards sure, send in the troops, long as they fight the Americans!
bq.. *JENNINGS:* If you were to decide openly to contribute troops to a peacekeeping operation in Iraq, how popular would that be in Pakistan?
*MUSHARRAF:* Unpopular, at the moment.
*JENNINGS:* And how popular ? or unpopular in the Muslim world?
*MUSHARRAF:* At the moment, unpopular.
*JENNINGS:* And does that mean you cannot do it?
*MUSHARRAF:* The environment has to be changed, and then when I say environment, there has to be a yearning by the people of Iraq, asking for Muslim troops. ? When this urge or yearning for Muslim troops, from within the Muslims, and within Iraq, comes up, that will change the environment.
*JENNINGS:* This administration badly would like to have Pakistani troops in Iraq. This would give you at the moment some considerable leverage, would it not?
*MUSHARRAF:* [It would] leverage externally, but not domestically. One has to balance both out.