Manipal, India — Although it would be a tad unfair to compare him to a confidence trickster, Pakistan's army-appointed President Pervez Musharraf has survived by convincing a series of patrons to back him, only to let them down later.
After the dour but straightforward Jehangir Karamat was sacked as the army's chief of staff by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for publicly asserting that the military had the decisive say in matters of national security, Musharraf' convinced Sharif that he would be a pliant replacement for the sacked general. This was an important consideration at a time when both Sharif and his brother Shahbaz were reported to be examining the military's links to the immensely lucrative narcotics trade.
For decades, ever since the Afghan jihad began in 1980, opium and its derivatives have been leveraged by elements in uniform in Pakistan to generate cash, not just to send their children abroad to study, but also to fund such "black" operations as the jihad against Indian rule in Kashmir. Politicians in Pakistan, not known for abstemious behavior, watched with envy the flow of profits from the illegal trade -- the primary reason the military wanted to retain control of Afghanistan through the Taliban -- and looked for an opportunity to muscle in.
With the assumption of office by the "spineless" Musharraf, that moment appeared to have arrived. It vanished in a cloud of dust, however, when U.S.-supplied tanks buttressed a coup in 1999 that once again put the military in the driver's seat. Less than a year later, the four army generals who had launched the coup that placed Musharraf in power were themselves edged out by a "chief executive" (later president) of Pakistan eager to show who was boss.
Since then, Musharraf has placed no fewer than 37 presumed loyalists into top command positions within the military. He has given their men -- being a Wahabbi state, the women of Pakistan are not considered good enough to command -- hundreds of well-paying (in both salary and bribes) jobs in the Pakistan state sector.