5 – 9 – 2006
The 9/11 attacks made Pakistan the frontline of the global war on terror. But it has all been downhill for Pervez Musharraf since then, writes Iftikhar H Malik.
The events of 11 September 2001 transformed the position of Pakistan in world politics, and offered its leader General Pervez Musharraf a frontline role in the “war on terror” the United States announced in their aftermath. Five years on, what has the country under Musharraf’s leadership made of the responsibility – and the opportunity – it was then presented with?
The phone call from the US’s then secretary of state Colin Powell that woke Musharraf with the news of the attacks in Washington and New York offered him a straight choice: Washington or the Taliban. For Musharraf, it was more than an easy decision – it was a godsend. Since his dismissal of an elected government in October 1999, the military ruler had become a pariah in the west, and the 9/11 attacks were a quick route to recover lost (or never gained) legitimacy, as well as a vanguard role in the unfolding war.
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Iftikhar H Malik is professor of history at Bath Spa University, England, and is also associated with Wolfson College, Oxford. His forthcoming book, Crescent between Cross and Star: Muslims and the West after 9/11 (2006) is being published by Oxford University Press.