(By Dr. Ghayur Ayub, London UK) These days news about a meeting between Mr Nawaz Sharif and Gen (rtd) Pervez Musharaf in Saudi Arabia has hit electronic and social media. It is not blankly denied by either party. Speaking on a TV program, Maj. Gen (rtd) Rashed Qureshi and Ahmad Raza Kasuri had neither denied nor accepted it. As NS and PM both visited Saudi Arbia in recent months the observers presume a meeting must have taken place. They support their arguments primarily on the way Pervez Musharaf spoke in his last press conference about his return to Pakistan and the way his body language reflected his decision which was contrary to similar announcements previously.
One can look at this meeting against certain perspectives;
- American perspective; Zardari who is known for pulling out gun from his hip at eleventh hour, shot the Americans in their back when he agreed to hand over Gwadar to Chinese and let Pak-Iran gas pipeline deal go through. Americans would do anything to kill these deals or at least put a break to them. Coming eighteen months are crucial for them when they leave Afghanistan. They don’t want to see Chinese holding the jugular vein of the world economy at Gwadar or let an under-sanctioned Iran supply gas to Pakistan.
- KSA perspective; Saudis are weary of creeping Iranian influence in Arab world especially after ‘Arab Spring’. With opening of Pak-Iran gas pipeline they can see Iran not only spreading its tentacles towards nuclear Pakistan but in the process losing Pakistan as its trusted friend. They want to keep Iran politically isolated from Pakistan.
- Chinese perspective; Chinese know their ability to progress economically and their policies are centred on financial viability. For them it is economically important to have access to Gwadar. If that access is prized with having physical control over the port nothing like it. Through physical presence Chinese can come out the most important player in future global power politics by gaining control over world oil pathways. In this symmetry they see Iran as their potential ally.
- Iranian perspective; Iran sees itself important player in world politics and politics of Islamic world. By signing the gas pipeline deal it sees itself becoming part of the symmetry with hope that India will join later. It also sees itself getting closer to Chinese when they take control of Gwadar.
- Indian perspective; India has already shown its resentment about the Gwadar deal calling it ‘Chinese desire to encircle India’. Earlier they withdrew from Iran Pakistan India gas pipeline deal under American pressure in which they got cosy nuclear facilitations as reward.
- Army perspective; Army is the only institution in Pakistan which makes decisions based on strategic and tactical plans in relation to country’s stability and geographical borders. They know the geographic realities well, so they are aware of importance of the surrounding countries. The recent announcement by Gen. Kayani shifting external threat from India to internal threat of terrorism was reflective of those realities. According to some, the army is in favour of the two deals despite its amicable understanding with Pentagon. They pressurized AAZ to sign the deals fearing if NS won the elections they would have problem convincing him.
- AAZ’s perspective; He realizes the poor performance of PPP government during five years. At the end of his tenure he wants to do something which will wash away his poor image, hence the deals. Also he sees poor chance of his re-election to presidency. Fearing persecution after the elections, he wants safe passage to settle in UAE or in London. With these deals the army would be willing to oblige him.
- NS’s perspective; He is entangled with; pro-Taliban and anti-Taliban groups within the party; a resentful army; intentions of having cordial relations with China; a suspicious American attitude towards him; ambiguous policy towards India with regards to Kashmir and trade openings; and unclear policy towards Iran and Afghanistan. Whatever the apparent ambiguities he is absolutely clear about friendship with Saudi Arabia which he takes very seriously. In the middle of these difficulties he is taking careful steps with apparent casualness. And that’s how he operates; mixing seriousness with casualness. This combination makes people think he is careless or even oblivious to real issues. I observed him in meetings at the Duke Street in London for over two years. In those meetings, he would quietly listen to everyone with emotionless face without interrupting communicating flow, correcting individuals in their opinions, or giving his view points. At the end of such meetings he would round them up with brief remarks or even no remarks. When it came to decision making he was firm, confident, and non-opinionated. He changed profoundly since his forceful removal in 1999 and started playing political games sometimes in his court sometimes in others. With such personality, surrounded by intriguing traps full of ambiguities, he knows he cannot ignore army’s opposition, Saudi’s annoyance and American’s distrust on expense of refusing to meet Pervez Musharaf. This apparent meeting should be taken as part of his game play in different courts. Clever people can kill two birds with one stone. With this apparent meeting he killed three which makes him statesmanly smart.
Dr Ghayur Ayub is an London-based Opinion writer for Tribune International