October 2, 2007

Pieces Falling Into Place In Pakistan

Earlier today, Pervez Musharraf named his successor as army chief of staff as he prepared to stand for election for the presidency he has held after a 1999 coup. Now he has apparently cinched a deal for the support of moderate Benazir Bhutto as the government officially granted the former Prime Minister amnesty against corruption allegations that Musharraf used as an excuse to grab power:

Pakistan agreed to grant former prime minister Benazir Bhutto an amnesty on corruption charges Tuesday as President Pervez Musharraf named a new army chief just days before he seeks re-election.

The day of dramatic developments came as military strongman Musharraf, a key US ally who seized power in 1999, faced growing opposition to his plan to win another five-year term in Saturday's presidential vote.

The move to drop a raft of graft charges against Bhutto, who has vowed to return to Pakistan on October 18, satisfied one of her key demands for a power-sharing deal with the embattled Musharraf.

This clears the path for an alliance between the moderates in Pakistan, the army, and Musharraf. Musharraf may not have resigned prior to the election, but he clearly anticipates winning the presidency and has made as firm a commitment as possible. Bhutto no longer has to worry about defending herself against graft charges. The only issue left open will be the constitutional impediment to her ascension as Prime Minister for a third term, an impediment that will likely get swept aside by the Parliament on her return.

Interestingly, and tellingly, the amnesty does not apply to Nawaz Sharif. The man Musharraf replaced in the coup just got unceremoniously deported last month when he attempted his own return to Pakistan. Sharif's constituency contains radical elements against which Musharraf clearly wants to operate, and he has no intention of giving Sharif a free pass to challenge the new alliance. Whether that will impact Bhutto's credibility is anyone's guess.

Musharraf appears to have made his moves carefully and successfully. Pakistan may still have some big road bumps ahead, but it seems we will still have Musharraf and his allies in charge of Pakistan's nukes, and soon a resurgent moderate class of Pakistani politicians taking the helm. So far, it's good news out of Pakistan.


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Comments (12)

Posted by davod | October 2, 2007 11:55 AM

Captain: What's this obsession with Bhutto.

Mushariff took power against Shariff not Bhutto. It is my understanding that Bhutto was removed from the Premiership twice, each time on corruption charges. You can suggest this was just politics, but I know Americans who were over there at the time and they say the corruption (money changing hands) was the worst they had seen.

I assume the amnesty will cover members of her family, otherwise her husband will not return with her.

This may be all that Pakistan has to get back on a parliamentary track, but is a pity that Bhutto is all they have.

Oh! and don't be surprised to see Bhutto move to the left pretty quickly.

Posted by Dennis | October 2, 2007 12:37 PM

I have just one small question. Why in all of the discussions of Pakistan and Musharraf is there never a reference to the horror that entered the country with the rule of Zia al-Hak. Damage accomplished under al Hak still eats away at the fiber of the Pakistani nation.

He does not deserve any credit but a lot of blame for today's problems.

We need to look at longer slices of history.

Posted by RN | October 2, 2007 12:53 PM

Not to go too far afield, I met Benazir when she was 15 y.o. and very well educated (for her age) she was indeed. Also, in the vernacular of the time she was considered a looker. Her Father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was PM until he lost his head. Not something I would wish on Benazir. On the corruption charges, Benazir was elected in a hopeful effort by the electorate to remove the status quo among male officials that exists in many governments "$$$ for power"; sadly, her handlers kept her in the spot light and out of the back rooms. She suffered in ignorance. The second time, it appears she was more in tune with her surroundings, but without the support of the military who again detected creeping corruption, put her aside. The only bright light...she didn't lose her head!

Posted by Anthony (Los Angeles) | October 2, 2007 1:19 PM

Hope is minimal in this case, I think. Islamization of the military, which began under Zia ul-Haq is widespread: the Pakistani ISI has a close relationship with the Taliban and bin Laden. And the performance of the Pakistan military so far in Waziristan can only be described as embarrassing.

There may be a class of (mostly Urdu) "moderates" rising, but I'll be surprised if they can do much to stop Pakistan's disintegration.

Posted by RN | October 2, 2007 1:56 PM

Over a 20 year period, my career took me back to Pakistan several times. Each was punctuated by a military takeover of the elected government, in many instances the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces perceived a fatal flaw in the popularly elected official. In the main, it was corruption that brought down the government to be replaced by a Chief Martial Law Administrator. Among these (as mentioned by Dennis) was Zia ul-Haq. There’s little doubt that the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was corrupt and rife with crony ism. The monies available for investment, the projects approved by the government, the access to higher education, thus political influence, was limited to a small percentage of the Pathan (Pashtun) population. That said, among the military there was a similar road map to success. Zia was a product of the British Raj system in India prior to partition. He understood the value of nation above politics. During his eleven year iron fisted rule Zia made the changes he believed benefited all of Pakistan, not just the centrist Pathans. Among his accomplishments:
-offering a general amnesty to those in Balochistan who gave up arms and moving for the appeasement of the tribal unrest. Zia's era is considered golden time for the non-Pathan province.
-Appointed General Rahimuddin Khan, Governor of Balochistan (and later Governor of Sindh). General Rahimuddin completely isolated feudal families from the government.
-A referendum held in 1984, with the option to elect or reject Zia as the future President. Also asked was whether the people wanted Islamic Sharia law enforced. According to the official result, more than 95% of the votes were cast in favor of Zia.
-Under Zia’s direction Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Special Service Group became actively involved successfully resisting the Soviet’s aggression in Afghanistan.
August 1988, the C-130 carrying Zia nosedived before exploding in mid-air, killing Zia and several senior army generals, as well as American Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel.
Surely not everything Zia did will satisfy the milk and cookies crowd, but he did what he thought would raise Pakistan to the level of international player, rather than just a pawn between the West on one side and the Soviet’s India to Pakistan’s East.

Posted by exDemo | October 2, 2007 2:46 PM

Throughout the Muslim World the Islamofascists are getting beaten and beaten badly.

Algeria took a civil War and 150,000 Dead Algerians to squash the GAI-Al Quedists. Morocco has defeated them as well. When Libya and Qaddafi surrendered, without a shot to Mr.Bush determination, the GAI had no external safe haven and had to throw in the towel in Algeria. The Muslim Brotherhood has been discredited and suppressed in Egypt. The "Gulf Emirates" are not supporting the Islamofascists. Kuwait has been a steady ally remembering what the US did for them.

Only in the armpit of the Sudan - Darfur have the AlQuedists succeeded, only to break into a civil internecine war over the crumbs.

the Saudi royalists finally realized that they couldn't buy off th Jihadis and the real target was them. financing of the jihadis was cut.
Iraq has had its fill of the nihilist Jihadis after their experience at close hand. even timid Lebanon has risen against its Hezb'Allah killers funded by Iran.

Syria exists as a Baathist remnant only so long as Persian money props it up

Pakistan has aided in tricking the Al Queda terrorists in Waziristan into leaving for the death trap in Afghanistan at Tora Bora. significantly Musharaff has reconciled with the moderate voices in Pakistan and they look to continue in power, especially with the Al Quedist dramatically weakened there.

Iran teeters on the edge of the precipice of economic collapse. Like the Soviet Union, it future is written in the grievous overextended foreign adventures, and militarism at home. All tied to a economic theories that don't work and drag them down.

Mr. Bush appears to have rolled successive and multiple Sevens.

Finally Afghanistan is a military success. And now Iraq is also turning into both a military and also political success. And Mr. Bush still has 16 months till he leaves office.

Posted by RN | October 2, 2007 3:30 PM

Anthony, India has long sought influence in Afghanistan, especially in competition with Pakistan and to guarantee easy access to oil and natural gas reserves. In keeping with its Cold War military-defense alliance with the Soviet Union, India supported the various Moscow-backed regimes in Kabul from the late 1970s through the 1992 to US- and Pakistani-sponsored Islamic militia. Later, India favored the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, but in 1996, the Pakistan-backed Taliban routed the Northern Alliance.
The close relations between Pakistan’s ISI and the Taliban were problematic to India. Pakistan openly boasted that Afghanistan gave it “strategic depth” in any future conflict with Indian and the Taliban regime lent support to anti-Indian Islamacist groups in Kashmir-Jammu.
Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, India’s coalition government rallied to support the US invasion of Afghanistan. India viewed this support as a means of cementing the new partnership developed with the USA following the collapse of its sugar daddy relationship with Russia.
As to the situation in the Frontier Independent Territories (FIT). It’s true that, among these tribal throwbacks to a time 2000 years distant or more, Pakistan hasn’t cleared out the Taliban nor unearthed Bin Laden . Pakistan’s military has been no more successful than Alexander, the British in their hay day nor the Indian military under the Raj, and where a claim of true dominance may have been desired only genocide could guarantee success.
Blood ties and marriage are the currency in the FIT and outside influence is minimal. It’s said that there are but three ways for an outsider to exist in the FIT, marriage,gold or weapons; and only the first guarantees longevity…maybe.
During the Afghan War captured Soviet soldiers were reportedly given two choices, convert to Islam or die! Conversion also carried with it the honor of marriage into the tribe. There’s little choice now for the Pakistani military in rounding up the Taliban and capturing Bin Laden…all out war or the politically incorrect genocide. Which do you support Anthony?

Posted by KW64 | October 2, 2007 3:47 PM

Amen exDemo go tell it on the Mountain

BTW to RN -- Zia ul-Haq made a bad error in supporting Golbidin Hekmetyar instead of Ahmed Shah Massoud. Massoud would have taken the military aid Hekmetyar got and accomplished a lot more against the Russians. Another error was made by supporting the Taliban and creating an unpopular unstable government instead of fostering stability there that would have allowed the Afghan refugees in Pakistan to go home years sooner.

Posted by Nathan | October 2, 2007 4:13 PM

I posted this here last week. I still stand by it. [A few additional sentences are in what's below, responding to RN]

The last time there were "free and fair" elections, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were swept into power. While the ideals of democracy are great, Pakistan's civillian rulers have proven they're NOT up to it.

Both Bhutto and Sharif were corrupt as all get-out, taking bribes out the wazoo, and enriching their personal bank accounts to the tune of about a billion dollars each. Neither of them did anything substantial for the country as a whole, or even their home districts. [Larkana, Bhutto's hometown, is rotting fiefdom.] I don't believe for a second that Benazir Bhutto was an innocent player in these operations. I don't believe that she actually cares for anyone but her family and the attempted dynasty they're trying to get started.

Bhutto and Sharif went into exile after their rules. The only way they should be let back into the country is to face a fair & open trial for their misdeeds while in power. The instinct for justice needs to come first. Without it, "democracy" can't exist.

I think that in the ideal situation, democracy is great. But, in Pakistan's case, the military's done a better job at running the country and making the best of a really lousy situation. Pakistan is a country only because a bunch of people were "united" on the basis of religion, and just about nothing else. As above, justice -- and doing the right thing -- needs to be ingrained in people before democracy will be successful. I don't think that's present, due to a lot of cultural and religious factors.

Posted by RN | October 2, 2007 6:17 PM

To KW64 and Nathan. Agree with the GH comment 100%, but he was close in the border area and the ISI was well disposed toward him and had a strong following which received a large share of US and Saudi $$$ while Massoud was fighting in the Panshir and, after the War was supported by India. Hekmetyar was self serving in the grandest traditions of a warlord and had no desire to be part of a coalition government sharing power.

The courts in Pakistan run the gambit from mildly corrupt to totally corrupt. Provincial judges dance to the tune of the most powerful, be it a tribal chief (Asif Zardari comes to mind) or a military governor. The key is to remain in power. There's a saying that: No politician ever leaves office poorer than he entered!

Posted by patrick neid | October 2, 2007 8:19 PM

On the bright side Bhutto said the magic words---she would let the U.S. operate inside Pakistan to kill Bin Laden if she were unsuccessful with her own attempts!

She's a brave lady or an idiot to make a statement like that.

Posted by davod | October 3, 2007 3:08 AM

Bhutto will say and do anything to get back into power. Then look at what she does.

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