In an exclusive article for TheNation last week, former President Pervez Musharraf attempted to portray favourably his policies and decisions to align himself with the US in its invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 incidents. His assertion that the decision was Pakistans response, post-9/11 scenario, and was taken after a thorough, deliberate and realistic appraisal of the obtaining geostrategic realities, as well as after a thorough consultation with the Cabinet and diverse opinion-making groups in the society, is an afterthought meant to be a self-serving and convenient viewpoint in retrospection. With respect to the basic reliability of this far-reaching decision, three aspects should go a long way towards evaluating his contention. First, during the immediately preceding hours of the US-led invasion, three important core commanders were replaced and two leading senior Generals, namely, Director ISI General Mahmood and Deputy COAS General Usmani were retired. Now a dictators real and effective Cabinet comprises senior military officials. Therefore, the changes made in this vital group at the time of invasion is an evident contradiction of the assertion made later, that is, thorough appraisal and consultation prior to the decision to support the invasion. Second, in February 2002 during an interview with BBC, Musharraf maintained that he made the decision to support the US on his own, alone. And, finally, in enumerating the seven US demands communicated to him by the US Ambassador for acceptance, the last demand is of special interest from the present standpoint. It related to the evidence, and that in case it strongly implicated OBL and Al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan, Pakistan would assist the US. The issue of evidence, related to 9/11 militant episodes, is essential to the proposition upheld in his writing, that is, whether the decision could have been otherwise, as conveyed in its title. With this in perspective, two vital considerations are due here. One, the matter of evidence acquired legal significance due to the attendant circumstances relevant to the 9/11 violent episodes, and the responsibility for the terrorist incidents was to be delineated with its retributive or penal consequences. And, two, the issue of responsibility connected with these incidents was of international concern because at the time it involved the application of past and current UN resolutions on terrorism. In addition, the issue of 9/11 incidents spanned over various states where the hijackers of the aeroplanes involved in the cataclysmic attacks originated from. And, significantly, the NATO alliance was relevant to the issue, as the US was its member. The alliance centred round an attack upon a member state to involve all the other states in its defence. This evidently implied the origin of aggression or of attacks external to a member state, for the internal origination was within the domestic jurisdiction of the state alone. Interestingly, in the instance of 9/11, all the attacks arose from within the US territorial limits. On the contrary, the US adopted a course about the evidence in stark contrast to the obvious requirements outlined. For the US conducted the investigation and gathered unilateral, anecdotal and presumptive evidence versus the international, judicial and objective evidence. As an understandable act, the US presented the dossier containing evidence to individual countries, and did not divulge it at the international forum. Under Musharrafs regime, Pakistan accepted the evidence that did not involve any person from Afghanistan directly, and any evidence against OBL was anecdotal. In this regard, it is noteworthy that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, an engineer by profession, was later accused to be the mastermind of the 9/11 incidents, the planning for the attacks was done in Hamburg, Germany, whereas the training for air pilot courses was done in Florida, USA. It is well known that the commercial aeroplanes involved in the incidents were hijacked within the US and belonged to domestic airlines. China, as the reliable friend of Pakistan, advised Islamabad to exercise caution in the matter of evidence. And subsequent to the acceptance of its validity by Islamabad, the same dossier presented to China was not accepted on the ground that it did not bear an independent judicial authentication. In the opening part of his writing, Musharraf refers to the latest upsurge in terrorist activity in Pakistan that has intensified the debate on the post-9/11 response from Islamabad. As a proverbial expression, a lot of water has flowed underneath the bridge since. And for this reason alone, his attempt at justification of the decision is a facile and deceptively flawed undertaking. An inexcusable sidestepping of the issue of policy he adopted right from the time of the original post-9/11 decision to his resignation seven years later, is transparent from his approach. In an implicit way, assuming it to be not a deliberate manoeuvre, the original decision tends to justify and uphold the continuity of that policy to support the US invasion. From the perspective of his already stated observation about the latest upsurge in terrorist activity in Pakistan, it needs to be appreciated that the US-led occupation of Afghanistan was inevitable to result in a militant response from valiant Afghans for the freedom of their homeland. In order to comprehend it correctly, terrorism should be viewed as a reaction, rather than a challenge. The usurpation of vital rights of a people, such as freedom, dignity and the right to life, becomes a cause for retaliation under foreign occupation by the aggrieved side. Usurpation under force itself is terroristic; therefore, according to some authorities, it is justifiable to consider a militant response not exactly as terrorism so often dubbed, but as counter-terrorism for it is counter-violence. Must it be pointed out, the spreading menace of terrorism in Pakistan, with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and even at least two assassination attempts on Musharraf masterminded by Al-Qaeda leading figure al-Libi - are the consequences of the Generals erroneous policies. Hence, to view the original decision, related to post-9/11 - portrayed as justifiable by Musharraf - in the perspective of the US-led foreign military occupation in Afghanistan, calls for an outright censure. Reviewing the validity of post-9/11 decision by Musharraf will illustrate two vital conclusions. First, the US-led occupation has fomented the menace of terrorism throughout Pakistan. Aside from this, the far more weighty issue remains the US national policy of foreign military occupation. The US national defence budget, despite the overall budget being deficient in the amount of $1.4 trillion, is $650 billion, which in sum total at least equals the total defence expenditure for the remaining world. Like Vietnam, the US had no justification to have been in Afghanistan. This especially is relevant once the declared US objectives of Afghanistan invasion had been realised. These objectives of Taliban regime change, dismantling militant training camps, and neutralising Al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan were fully realised easily by the end of 2001, and in no small measure due to Musharrafs support. Against this background, Musarraf should have subscribed to the principle of international relations, or the doctrine of balance of power; for the reasons are not difficult to discern. And secondly, based on the doctrine of the balance of power, Islamabad should have adopted a policy of seeking US withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan after the declared war objectives had been achieved, beginning with 2002. The US intentions were evident from further strengthening the balance of power in its favour, and against Pakistan, by hastily inviting India into Afghanistan. The US patronisation of the opening of multiple Indian Consulates for the recruitment and training of insurgents against Pakistan - for acts of insurgency in FATA, Balochistan and mainland Pakistan - was an act of worsening the balance of threat against our state. The future historians are likely to conclude that the people of Pakistan possess great fortitude in braving calamities, and no less than that was the presidentship of Pervez Musharraf, and its consequences. n The writer is Chairman, Pakistan Ideological Forum.