Monday, July 23, 2007

Insight with Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan on the Brink

Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, is saying that she may return to the country to contest the fall elections.

Bhutto had been excluded from the country by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who threatened to have her arrested and tried on corruption charges if she returned. (Her husband, Asif Zardari, faced even more serious such charges, having been known while first husband as "Mr. 10%" because of the cut he took on foreign contracts.)

Musharraf, however, has now been much weakened. His failure to deal effectively with militants in the northern areas, his invasion of the Red Mosque and seminary, and the recent slap in his face when the Supreme Court reinstated chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry-- all these events have left him reeling. As a military dictator, Musharraf lacks grass roots.

Under attack from the Muslim religious Right, he may seek the support of the secular, left of center Pakistan People's Party and allow Ms. Bhutto to return. She has now said she is coming back, even without such a deal. She says that her return is necessary to forestall a take-over of Pakistan by Muslim extremists sometime during the next 5 years. See the video below:


eurofrank said...

Dear Professor Cole

M K Bhadrakumar has an interesting take on Pakistan

Thus Washington suddenly finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. It is no longer a matter of a "moderate center" accruing in Pakistani politics and providing "a basis for the whole society to fight terrorism", to quote Boucher. The immediate concern is, short of an outright army coup, Washington has to figure out how Musharraf's continuance in office can be ensured.

In the present supercharged political climate in Pakistan, the probability is high that a civilian government that takes over power in Islamabad will be highly sensitive about the public attitude with regard to the United States' blatant interference in Pakistan and its perceived hostility toward Muslims worldwide. In short, any abdication by Musharraf or the Pakistan Army from the political scene becomes simply inconceivable for Washington at this juncture.

The stakes are very high for US regional policies. Under a representative government formed on the basis of civilian supremacy, US intelligence agencies wouldn't be able to have a free run within Pakistan as they can under Musharraf's acquiescent regime. It is also a virtual certainty that the Pakistani courts would begin to look into the horrific cases of the "disappearance" of hundreds of Pakistanis in security operations involving US intelligence agencies during the course of the "war on terror".

Most critically, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations in Afghanistan may be seriously jeopardized. Boucher virtually told US Congress members on July 12 not to fiddle with Musharraf's regime. He warned: "Much less frequently mentioned is Pakistani cooperation in facilitating the logistical support of the United States and NATO forces deployed in neighboring Afghanistan. Most of our support for coalition forces in Afghanistan passes through Pakistan."

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