The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pervez pays hawks premium

Washington, Aug. 29: Pervez Musharraf, his back to the wall with a swirling domestic crisis, has bought an insurance on his life by loosening his grip on religious extremists, including militants active in Jammu and Kashmir, according to intelligence sources here.

Musharraf’s interview to BBC in which he says there is “no time limit” on stopping infiltration into India is seen in sections here as a signal to militants that his restraint on them is merely tactical and not a sell-out of the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir.

Musharraf has been reasonable in the interview arguing that the policy of stopping infiltration cannot be continued for ever without “some movement on Kashmir, some reciprocation from the Indian side”.

But intelligence sources here believe that the possibility of reopening the infiltration route, implicit in the offer, must be seen along with a string of other developments within Pakistan.

Musharraf has survived six attempts on his life. But what appears serious is that three of these have been very recent and in quick succession.

The latest attempt was just before Pakistan’s Independence Day and three of his bodyguards were killed at Chakala air base, according to published reports here.

Another tell-tale sign of Musharraf’s life insurance policy is his recent appointment as deputy attorney-general the father of an al Qaida member.

Lawyer Raja Irshad has been defending jihadis in court, but by making him the government’s second most important law enforcement official, the message has gone out to religious extremists that they are not totally bereft of support within the establishment as militants are increasingly hauled up before courts.

One of Irshad’s sons was not just an al Qaida supporter. He was active enough in the movement to be “martyred” in Afghanistan during the US-led operations against Osama bin Laden and Talibaan chief Mullah Omar.

When the son’s death was commemorated in Pakistan, a memorial service was conducted by none other than the notorious Hafez Saeed, head of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba which is still active in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to information reaching here, Musharraf is daily chopping and changing his itinerary as a security measure ever since the assassination attempt at Chakala air base.

He simply does not turn up at his engagements to fox would-be assassins. An example which received wide publicity was his decision not to unfurl the national flag at the Presidency on Pakistan’s independence day.

Instead, Musharraf unfurled the flag at another venue and made a brief speech.

Sources in Pakistan confirmed that Musharraf has recently cancelled visits to Karachi and Lahore abruptly, even an appearance in Rawalpindi, which is the seat of the military.

The last cancellation is worryingly reminiscent of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s fate, when he was assassinated not by any Egyptian religious extremist, but by his own soldiers.

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