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i Pakistan Musharraf's Challenge 3

or ISI. Mehmood had just completed an official visit to Washington but September, he called a meeting of his corps commanders in the
his return to Pakistan had been delayed because, following the attacks, ligh command's nuclear bunker in Chaklala where the top brass
all the airspace around New York had been closed. The State Department they could talk without the risk of American surveillance^. He told
called the embassy at 5.00 p.m. Lodhi and Mehmood were asked to colleagues that Pakistan faced a choice. It could either align itself
attend a meeting with senior US officials the next morning. the United States or be isolated as a terrorist state. For Musharraf
At 8.00 a.m. on 12 September the US deputy secretary of state, Jjsue was never in doubt but many of his senior commanders, such
Richard Armitage, told the two Pakistanis that their country had to the deputy chief of army staff Lt. General Usmani, were reluctant to
make a choice. Islamabad could align itself with the Taliban regime in 'gWrturn Pakistan's long-standing Afghan policy. They argued that Pak-
Afghanistan or with Washington. 'You are either 100 per cent with us jttan should wait to see exactly what Washington would offer in return
or 100 per cent against us,' he said. 'There is no grey area.' 1 Straight for Islamabad's co-operation. But Musharraf insisted there could be no
after the meeting Mehmood called Islamabad and spoke to General v delay. It took six hours for Pakistan's president to get his way. He
Musharraf. Pakistan's military leader made a snap decision. He told ;^i clinched the argument by pointing out that any Pakistani prevarication
Mehmood that Washington would get what it wanted. At 3.00 p.m. "•'" would present India with an opportunity to curry favour with the US.
Armitage held a second meeting with Lodhi and Mehmood. This time The corps commanders duly fell into line.
he had more specific demands. The US would need basic logistical sup- Musharraf's decision brought immediate financial benefits to Pakistan.
port and a high degree of intelligence co-operation. Mehmood assured By January 2002 Pakistan had secured US $3 billion worth of external
Armitage that Pakistan would co-operate. assistance in the form of debt relief and the rescheduling of interest pay- f
Musharraf may have taken his decision quickly but he abandoned the ments.2 Anld while the decision helped Pakistan's balance sheet it also
Taliban with some reluctance. Before n September he had consistently benefited Musharraf's international political standing. Before n Septem-
supported Mullah Mohammed Omar's Kandahar regime. This was not ber he was-perceived as a military dictator who should announce, and
because he sympathised with the Taliban's interpretation of Islam (on abide by, a road map for the restoration of democracy. After 11 September
the contrary, he clearly rejected their obscurantist outlook) but because his status was transformed: the Western world had a stake in his survival.
he believed the Taliban served Pakistan's regional interests. For Mushar- General Musharraf may have won friends in the West but within
raf the Taliban had two main advantages. First, since most of the Taliban Pakistan he had made enemies. Thousands of Islamic radicals, swearing
were ethnic Pukhtoons, they had a natural affinity with Pakistan which loyalty to their Islamic brethren in Afghanistan took to the streets in the
also has a significant Pukhtoon community. Islamabad, Musharraf cities of Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad. One of the demon-
argued, had always backed Pukhtoon regimes in Kabul: the alternative strators was a 25-year-old from Peshawar, Mohammed Ali. A student in
was to have a hostile Afghan administration filled with Tajiks and a local madrasa, or religious school, Ali was typical of those who
Uzbeks. Second, since the Taliban had been created largely in and by decided to protest. The attack on the United States, he believed, was a
Pakistan, the leadership in Kandahar was relatively sensitive to Pakistan's Jewish plot. He had heard that thousands of Jewish employees at the
interests. With Mullah Omar in charge, Musharraf believed, Pakistan had World Trade Center had not reported for work on n September. 'It was
strategic depth. His army could concentrate on guarding the border with obviously planned by the Jews,' he said. 'Why else would there have
India and had no reason to fear an attack from the northwest. been a camera there, ready to film it all? 1 '
Musharraf realised that once the US had made up its mind to topple It was hardly surprising that Ali had a somewhat unrealistic view of
the Taliban there was no point in Pakistan continuing to support them. the world. He had started his religious education when he was six years
But he had not yet sold the decision to the rest of the army leadership. old. His parents, landless farmers who could- not afford to send him to