September 18, 2007

Musharraf Will Resign From Army

Pervez Musharraf has apparently cut a deal with Benazir Bhutto for her return to Pakistan and his future in politics. His representatives told the Supreme Court that Musharraf would resign as army Chief of Staff if re-elected to the presidency and govern as a civilian. This could remove the last obstacle to ending Bhutto's exile and strengthen the Pakistani moderates:

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf will give up his post of army chief if he is re-elected president and he will be sworn in for a new term as a civilian, his lawyer told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The promise to stand down as army chief removes a major objection to Musharraf's proposed re-election by October 15. ...

Giving up the army role would undoubtedly dilute Musharraf's power in a country that has been ruled by generals for more than half the 60 years since it was founded.

But it could also help him cement a power-sharing agreement with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, that could enable him to overcome growing opposition to his continued rule.

Musharraf's resignation will come before the end of the year. According to the head of Musharraf's political party, he will take the civilian oath of office before the end of his term in mid-November. Elections will be held shortly afterward, probably in January, and Musharraf will run for re-election as a civilian.

Can he win? If he gains Bhutto's support on her return, she could help bolster his chances. Musharraf has lot the support of the radicals, and he needs Bhutto's assistance to hold onto civilian power. The moderates want to combine with the army against the radical Islamists based in Waziristan, but they will not accept a military dictatorship as a consequence.

That left Musharraf with few options. He considered a declaration of emergency, which would have put off elections for a year, but almost certainly would have ended his political career. He had another exile deported on his return, but Nawaz Sharif threatened Musharraf in a different direction. Musharraf can partner more effectively with Bhutto and work closely with her to isolate the Islamists -- or at least that's what everyone hopes.

This step takes Musharraf closer to that goal. If he surrenders military power and returns Pakistan to civilian rule, the Islamists will get marginalized once more. If Musharraf and Bhutto can effectively combine to bring the moderates behind the civilian government, we could turn an important corner on the war -- and guarantee safer control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.


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Comments (9)

Posted by Anthony (Los Angeles) | September 18, 2007 7:30 AM

The moderates want to combine with the army against the radical Islamists based in Waziristan...

That's problematic, given the Islamization of large sections of the Army and, especially, the ISI intelligence service, which has close links to the Taliban and bin Laden. That started under dictator Zia ul-Haq in the late 70s, and now it's pretty widespread. Pakistani "moderates" may be fooling themselves if they expect the military to make a strong push against them.

Posted by Ser Dumass | September 18, 2007 7:54 AM

Which is it? Will he step down as Chief of Staff "... if re-elected..." (i.e.after) or will he step down then contest the election as a civilian? You have both above...
Also since when does BB represent the moderates. She and NS alternated in power and they split the 'opposition' By choosing one of the two (presumably the one most willing to compromise) PM attempts to marginalize a good chunk of 'the moderates' and it is not at all sure that this will quieten things down...

Posted by KW64 | September 18, 2007 10:02 AM

Since Pervez needs to amend the constition to allow for a military man to serve as President in less than 2 years after he steps out of uniform or likely get his parlimentary election overturned by the Supreme Court, he needs 2/3rds majority of the Parliment. The only way was to get the PPP (Pakistan People's Party) votes that Bhutto could bring him. Thus, he had to give Bhutto most of what she wanted to get her parties agreement.

I have not heard him agree to give up his power to dismiss the Prime Minister. This is good because they need a handle on Administration corruption. While Pervez may not be much of a democrat, he has shown himself to be more resistant to corruption than the governments were under Bhutto and Sharif.

While the army may sympathize with the Islamists, they may feel loyalty to Pervez and if Hhutto's party wins a real election in January, they may feel an obligation to protect a democratically elected PM even if she is not Islamist. That with the irritation they must feel at getting killed and humiliated by the Islamist insurgents may well be enough to motivate them to do what needs to be done to corral the violence and threat to lawful government.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 18, 2007 11:07 AM

I think between announcements, real history takes place.

Musharraf is a very smart man. And, except for the muslims, to whom you can sell a bill of goods; most Pakistanis prefer WEALTH, to lunacy.

Ah, there are fine examples of how Gandhi cost India so much ... just by faking adherence to spinning wheels. And, scared cows.

It was here, when India finally rested control of her nation from the British; that the borders to Pakistan were created. And, guess who got the short end of the stick?

You think all the way from Saudi Arabia, on the oil profits they earn for no other reason than they were scratching around as wandering Bedouins on the desert sands; becoming beyond measure, the richest "tycoons" on the planet ...

So they go out and buy this strife. Upsetting age-old applecarts. With Wahhabism.

True, ignorant believers. No records, like the West has; where deep questions of faith got aired; asked. And, sometimes, answered.

We're to believe the Pakistanis see their advantages is doing what else?

I know. I know. We haven't turned the corner.

But it's out there.

At some point in time.

How do I know? Well, I don't know the future, but I do know hitler was a putz. Who took germany's wealth and tossed it down the toilet.

And, for good measure, Stalin came in and made a lot of former nazi's absolutely miserable. For, oh. 50 years.

Is 50 years the cap?

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 18, 2007 11:10 AM

Benazir Bhutto?

May be seen by a good part of the upper class in Pakistan, and to an extent the middle class, as the liberal Western-educated "saviour" of Pakistan, but she does carry baggage.

Inter alia, she was a prime mover in the development of Pakistan's nuclear program to include its sub rose efforts to thwart the NPT and IAEA regimes and was at the foundation of the A.Q. Khan "network" and was THE Pakistani leader who forged nuclear ties to North Korea. She was close friends with Kim Il-song and Robert Mugabe, among other "enlightened" world leaders (that old Radcliffe tradition, I suppose), and backed them all on the world stage in just about everything they did.

She is as much a Western liberal as one will find in that part of the world, probably more at home among American liberals than anywhere else. She was also quite sanguine about corruption from the technocrats and government administrators right into her own office.

As for her relations with the military, back in mid-1990, I was sharing a drink (non-alcoholic, of course) at the Sindh Club in Karachi, I asked a few questions about then Prime Minister Bhutto, of a senior Pakistani official who was in a postiino to know, just making idle conversation. Asked about her qualifications to be Prime Minister, he stated, "She went to Radcliffe, for goodness sake. Need I say more?" He then added, "She is a spoiled litle girl trying to make it in an adult world." I was then, and still am, amazed at his candor.

She was dismissed shortly after. [On my birthday, no less. Wonder if there was a connection?] She came back with a vengeance in the '93 elections, with tremendous promises of reform, and shared wealth, and a nanny-state as well, and then proceeded to court every leftist government she could traveling extensively, and either turning a blind eye toward corruption in the government, or knowingly part of it, and along the way set back Pakistani development for a decade, successfully dividing the country, driving foreign investment away in droves, and ruining Pakistan's ability to have above board financial dealings with any number of developed countries.

But, more to the point, she divided Pakistan into factions, moreso than any predecessor.

-- the traditionalist Moslems/tribalists (who are now the core of support for the Islamic fundamentalists);

-- the elitist upper class, most of whom have homes and wealth outside Pakistan, and send their kids to school in UK or the US from early childhood to afford them at least some quality education, and having ties to Pakistan by money Bhutto and her cronies in the past have been more than joyful to accept;

-- the middle class, which she courted often with promises of reform and unity, but cut them lose when it came to actually bringing Pakistan into the 20th Century;

-- government employees, a huge number of people, whose very survival required them to follow religiously every dictum and dictate Bhutto uttered, and along the way became a hyper-educated but very poor class in Pakistan for their efforts;

-- the students and youth who are among the few in that part of the world still spouting Marxism, but they have a point, all this education, and no jobs outside of government unless you want to be yet another shop keeper in the souk. They see the stellar rise of the young middle class in India, and the strides the Indians have made in the past two decades and want a piece of that dream, too. Can you blame them?;

-- and by default, the military, which rarely saw eye-to-eye with Bhutto, and she still holds a blood grudge with the military even after all these years.

Can Musharraf and Bhutto rule as co-regents?

Bhutto needs the military to stay alive AND to hold Pakistan together. Bhutto is no real friend of the military, and most of the current military can see this. After all her fasther was apparently killed by Zia al-Hug, and she spent 6 years in a military jail, and she was dismissed from government in '90 by one of al-Huq's protegees, and was replaced by the military the last time around. Strange marriage of convenience to say the least, this Bhutto-Musharaff thing.

Bhutto needs the loyalty of the military, One cannot emphasize this enough. The military is the only thing holding Pakistan together at this point. Musharraf needs someone like Bhutto to calm down the youth and upper and middle class, quell the technocrats, especially after his foulded up dismissal of the Supreme Court judge earlier this years. Neither Musharraf nor Bhutto are friends with the Islamic fundamentalists, presently the biggest internal threat to Pakistan.

A few hours ago, Bhutto's Party stated they plan to walk out on the government because of the proposed arrangement between Bhutto and Musharraf. Seems a shaky start for the promise of a Bhutto deliverance.

On this side of the world, what can we do to make this work?

Not cutting Musharraf off at the knees for one. Not parsing every detail of Musharraf's attempts to stay alive, keep Paklistan from descending into utter chaos, and being able to go after the Islamists one by one until the traditionalists tribal leaders in Waziristan, Baluchistan and elsewhere can see their last best hope is to support the Islamabad government and not the Islamists in their midst. [Being traditionalists, the very idea of a woman leading the government is already a major speedbump for Bhutto in this effort.]

As for Bhutto? She needs to be reminded that she is not the Queen, and that we will hold her accountable for real reforms, and no toleration of corruption, and no interference with the belongs to Pakistan, not her.

And both need to be told, by our actions, that a free and prosperous democratic Pakistan is the ONLY route we are willing to get behind.

The rest? A crap shoot.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 18, 2007 11:50 AM

After re-reading the above post, I cannot help but think of Hillary. I apologize for being so partisan, but the similarities are striking.

Posted by Carol Herman | September 18, 2007 2:42 PM

First, I'd like to see Larry Craig resign.

I'm sick and tired of word games our press falls for, all the time.

In other words? There's a big distance, still, between Musharraf being in power; and then, not. "Nature hasn't called," yet. By my book.

Coldwarrior 415. Hillary's negatives are still high.

She's not "in." She's just shreiking. And, from a piece I've read, her husband hasn't recovered, yet, from his departure from the Oval Office. Man's very depressed.

Worth considering the whole picture, sometimes. At least as much of it as appears on the screen. As big as IMAX.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 18, 2007 3:02 PM

I'd not think for a moment that Musharraf is holding on to power by a wide margin. Quite the contrary, hence the overture to Bhutto, and the immediate deportation of another prominent leader (the name escapes me) who arrived in Karachi last week, who would have really fouled up the works by placing a third player in motion in Pakistani politics. Musharraf is in power by the grace of God (Allah, if you prefer) and has come dangerously close to losing power, and his life, several times in the past few years.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 18, 2007 10:42 PM

Well, earlier this morning, Pakistan's election commission authorized Musharraf to seek election and waive the not-while-in-the-military rule. The Pakistan Supreme Court has agreed to hear a number of challenges to this ruling. If Musharaff finds the Supreme Court ruling against his plan, and there being opposition within Parliament to his being head of state and head of the Army, the possiblity of Musharraf declaring an emergency and invoking martial law looms large. A bold step perhaps, but there is a growing block of Pakistani's who are not accepting his promise to get elected first, and resign from the Army second, even if it is to take place on the same day. He may be hanging on by his fingernails by tomorrow morning.

Martial law will play into the hands of the Islamists AND into the hands of the opposition if Musharraf cannot obtain support from among a wide range of Pakistanis, with or without Bhutto.

Going to be wild night in Islamabad...

Funny, it seems that things Pakistani don't interest Americans very much. Such a vital area of the world, too. Such dynamics as well. Guess O.J. is of greater importance.

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