In the Line of Fire- Book review

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In the Line of Fire

In the memoir, In the Line of Fire, Pervaiz Musharraf; the former President of Pakistan, discusses the political, societal, and economic condition of Pakistan. He also discussed Islam, al-Qaeda, and the threat of terrorism along with its repercussions on Pakistan’s domestic and international face. He briefed his stages of life, including childhood, adulthood, life at the Pakistan military academy, his career in the army, and the courses of events that led him as the Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan.

In the first chapter, he started by mentioning his birth, childhood, and academic life along with his family background who were migrants from India. He revered the Turkish people because of his childhood memories because his father was promoted to Foreign Office in Ankara, Turkey. He had an inbuilt passion for the military. After being trained in PMA, Kakul, his leadership, and endurance increased. Because of his chivalry in the 1965 war, he was promoted to captain. His leadership skills helped him earn unquestionable obedience from his subordinates.

Discussing the dismemberment of East Pakistan, Musharraf blames the inept political handling of East Pakistan since independence, and incompetent military leadership that led this debacle to occur. He conformed to the political leadership of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto but his nationalization drive under the slogan of Islamic nationalism to appease religious wing antagonized him. The author became familiar with politics when he got a chance to work under martial law headquarters as Colonel Martial Law. There he witnessed the Siachen incident leading to the Kargil war.

From 1985 to 1988, his army career took a route toward Chief of Army Staff, when the dreadful decade of democracy commenced. Democracy was rolling like a ball in the courts of PPP and PML-N. However, the army always played a reconciliatory role and avoided the military takeover, but the country’s situation was near bankruptcy because of a volatile government. On the incident of the resignation of General Jehangir Karamat, Musharraf writes in his book that General Jehangir gave his opinion on good governance to the government which led to his resignation under pressure from Nawaz Sharif.

Musharraf was appointed Chief of Army Staff just a year before the army deposed Nawaz Sharif’s government. His professional relationship was good initially with Nawaz Sharif except for some minor disagreements over the sacking off, and appointment of some army personnel, and his request for the Court martial of a journalist. This relationship went sour on the Kargil incident, which was the first clash between both countries after they detonated nuclear weapons. This incident was projected as a misadventure of the army, domestically and it distorted its image nationally and internationally. So Pervaiz Musharraf cleared some myths about the Kargil war in his book.

Under the title of the hijacking drama, Musharraf writes about the incident of his plane hijacking. On October 12, 1999, his flight was denied to land in Karachi, and he was ordered to leave Pakistan air space and land somewhere else outside Pakistan when the flight had just an hour’s worth of fuel. Meanwhile, it was aired that Lieutenant General Ziauddin Butt has become Chief of Army Staff. Later when the army took over the rule in resentment, it made the smooth landing of his flight. Nawaz wanted to sack the Chief of Army Staff to assume full power, but his coup met with the army’s countercoup that was already resented over the forced resignation of General Jehangir Karamat. Moreover, the army’s reaction was also a response to the deteriorating economic, social, and political conditions in Pakistan.

Assuming the position of Chief Martial Law Administrator, Musharraf’s strategy was to place the army alongside the civilian bureaucracy to monitor their performance and to guide them. He also kept the constitution working and became chief executive and head of government. At this point in the book, he gives an explanation and justification for all his measures depicting his sincere intentions and patriotism towards the country and nation.

Therefore, he elucidated that the foremost things on his agenda were: to strengthen federation and remove provincial disparity, revive the economy, ensure law and order, depoliticize state institutions, and decentralization of power and accountability setup. So, Musharraf established the institution of NAB, National Reconstruction Bureau, but he stayed in power after the allocated time granted to him by the court elapsed because he thought this time was not enough to steer the system on the right track.

He established a new political party PLM-Q under the pretext that the nation needs an efficient and transparent political party. He allocated seats for women in the National Assembly as a step towards women’s empowerment. He gave a joint electorate to minorities and established the rule that no one could be Pakistan’s President or Prime Minister more than twice. To ensure a foolproof institutional system of checks and balances, he established the National Security Council. He introduced the local system of governance by the Local Government Ordinance of 2000. Economic stability was the main goal of Musharraf. He strived for structural reforms for macroeconomic stability. He made a team of experts to kick-start Pakistan’s economy. He cut down the defense budget and narrowed down expenses instead of levying taxes, and consequently, Pakistan joined the international capital markets for the first time.

In the next part, Musharraf explained the era of the War on Terror, when Pakistan was threatened to join America and Musharraf rationally thought that Pakistan could not afford the animosity of a superpower. Moreover, the benefits of joining it would be the eradication of religious terrorism with American aid, the lifting of economic sanctions and loosening of debt, and being outcast after the nuclear test we would become the center stage internationally. He also wrote about how Pakistan was affected by the war on terror in the form of Afghan refugees and rampant terrorist attacks. He also elucidated the pivotal role of Pakistan in eradicating it and gave a details description of the manhunt of the core leadership of terrorists including Abu Zubaida, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Ammar al Balochi, Khalid bin Attash, Salahuddin, Abu Faraj al Libbi along with the biography of masterminds of 9/11, Mullah Omer and Osama bin Laden, their aims and goals, and their operational tactics.

In the last chapter, Pakistan at home and abroad, he first discusses nuclear proliferation. He condemns the hypocrisy of world powers to accept the nuclearization of India under the guise of peaceful detonation which increased the arms race in South Asia and their criticism of Pakistan for its nuclear power acquisition. He states that it was a requirement of deterrence stability for Pakistan to acquire nuclear capability.

International diplomacy was very important for Musharraf to establish bilateral trade relations with other countries. He gave the idea of enlightened moderation, which was the rejection of terrorism and focus on internal socioeconomic development by the whole Muslim world. It could be achieved by resolving Kashmir and Palestine issues. So, he initiated good terms with India for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue and visited India. Because he believed that international relations are geoeconomic instead of geostrategic.

In the social sector, he took a holistic approach to education, improving educational standards by allocating more funds and scholarships. He also took measures for the emancipation of women in the political domain. As Pakistan was projected as an extremist country internationally at that time, to portray a soft image of Pakistan he promoted tourism, sports cultural art, and harmony.

Musharraf concludes the book by stating that no policy is one hundred percent successful or perfect but still by his diligence, patriotic spirit, and sincerity, Pakistan was steered on the path of progress and prosperity by stability in NWFP and defeating al-Qaida. Pakistan now has suppressed extremism and has sustained economic growth through better agriculture, increased FDI, industries, and exports. In the end, he recommends that more is needed to be done in these sectors along with poverty alleviation, increasing human development resources, consolidation of democracy, and rule of law along with maintaining an upright international stature.

Afiya Shafaqat
+ posts
The writer is Undertaking graduation in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam, University.
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