Military Retirees Demand Musharraf’s Resignation

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times
February 6, 2008 By Carlotta Gall and Salman Masood
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Several hundred retired generals, admirals and servicemen gathered Tuesday for the third time in two weeks in this military town and demanded the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf.
They had assembled for a seminar, but in an unprecedented public protest, a retired army chief, several retired generals and dozens of former servicemen came out onto the main road chanting and shouting against Mr. Musharraf.
Just two weeks after they first assembled on Jan. 22 and wrote a resolution calling on Mr. Musharraf to resign, the retired officers’ movement is starting to build momentum and appears poised to take over where the lawyers’ movement, with its main leaders under house arrest, has stalled.
The campaign was also to warn the government not to try to interfere in the parliamentary elections on Feb. 18. The retired officers met for a seminar about Kashmir, the territory that Pakistan and India claim, organized by the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen’s Society, which cares for the welfare of retired military personnel, in a hotel near the Army General Headquarters. The speeches soon turned political, taking aim at Mr. Musharraf, blaming him for abandoning Kashmir, stifling an independent judiciary and perpetuating his one-man rule.
“He has messed things up; look at the law and order,” said Lt. Gen. Jamshed Gulzar Kiani, a retiree who was the corps commander of Rawalpindi, one of the most important posts in the army, under Mr. Musharraf when he was commanding general of the armed forces.
The rash of suicide bombings and the fighting raging in two of Pakistan’s four provinces were the main concerns the former generals raised.
Mr. Kiani said that Mr. Musharraf gave an elaborate seven-point order of action when he seized power in 1999, but that after eight years he had not delivered on any of them.
“Where is the interprovincial harmony?” he asked. “Where is the law and order? Even the economy is going down with escalating food prices. The net result of the eight-year rule is a complete mess-up of the country.”
Another former general, Ali Kuli Khan, who was passed over for the top army job when Mr. Musharraf was appointed to it in 1998, expressed his frustration with a cricket term. “We are here to bring the lesson home that you have had enough of an innings,” he said, “and unless you back off it will not be possible for things to calm down.”
The outbursts, by traditionally loyal and discreet men of the armed forces, represent yet another sign of the growing resentment in Pakistan against Mr. Musharraf, whose popularity has plunged since last March, when he dismissed the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The disaffection has grown sharply since Nov. 3, when Mr. Musharraf imposed martial law to see through his own election to another presidential term and since the Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the opposition leader and former prime minister, as she campaigned.
Last month the former servicemen issued a statement urging Mr. Musharraf to resign and hand over power to Mr. Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest since Nov. 3.
Mr. Musharraf, who was in Europe at the time, attacked his detractors. “They are insignificant personalities,” The Financial Times quoted him as saying in an interview at the Davos World Economic Forum. “Most of them are ones who served under me, and I kicked them out.”
Most of the retired officers at the meeting dismissed his remarks by saying that they considered him a junior officer. Mr. Kiani, who had served under General Musharraf, said the ex-servicemen supporting the movement were now far more than the original 100 who signed a statement last month calling for him to step down.
The generals’ movement is important because Mr. Musharraf is more likely to listen to his peers, several at the meeting said.
“This development, and their involvement, is unprecedented,” said Roedad Khan, a retired senior bureaucrat who was a guest speaker at the seminar. “This is bound to change the course of events, and very soon.” As he arrived he was welcomed by one of the organizers, who exclaimed that the servicemen wanted to draw in representatives of the bureaucracy to their campaign.
Mr. Kiani urged Mr. Musharraf to “please quit” and said his policies were putting the army at the center of controversy. “We don’t want any finger pointing at Pakistan Army,” Mr. Kiani said in his speech.
Asad Durrani, another lieutenant general who led the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, said the protest voiced by the retired military officers was “long overdue.” He denied that the retired generals were being urged by some quarters in the Pakistan Army, which under the leadership of its new chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has shown signs of distancing itself from politics.
“Nobody has been told anything,” Mr. Durrani said.
But one retired general in the audience, who asked not to be identified because of the political nature of his comments, suggested that there was a similar mood among current officers. “If you are getting all of this from people who have been in uniform, it is likely that those still in uniform feel the same way,” he said.