Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Musharraf's Meandering Mecca

Pakistan's voters dealt him a crushing defeat, his party is in disarray, the victorious opposition have called for his resignation, Taliban terrorists are waging war with the military in its borders with Afghanistan, his US support all but dissipated; President Pervez Musharraf can no longer see the vision and yearning he once held for Pakistan when he ousted then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999. What he sees is a blur, the result of a series of blunders and mishaps that have given his rule an image of authoritarianism and incompetence.

Estimates point to a resounding victory for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party with 92 seats so far, Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League -N Party has 67, and Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Q with only 38. A coalition between these 2 opposition groups and other minor democratic oriented parties could give them 2/3 majority, enough to oust Musharraf. The strongest voice is that of Sharif, boldly calling on the President to stand by his word on resigning should the electoral verdict be unfavorable to his regime. The verdict, coming from an unprecedented 45.69% of Pakistan's 81 million eligible voters validate Sharif's call. However, the PPP is less explicit. Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari (Benazir Bhutto's widower) wants to move slowly and transitionally to change the system from within.

Musharraf expressed willingness to work with any coalition and called for an end to "confrontationist" politics, for the benefit of Pakistan. But he speaks from a position of weakness, and the feeble plea to end confrontations is a far cry from the man whose government received billions of dollars from the US to combat Al Qaeda. The momentum created by the Taliban along Pakistan's borders and the rise of Islamic fundamentalists inside the country have raised suspicions within the US State Department of Musharraf's secret support for the terrorist groups. For his part, Musharraf may also have a lingering suspicion that the US support for the assassinated Benazir Bhutto was not meant to share power with his rule, but to eliminate him.

The elections may have succeeded in placing a secret ally (Musharraf's or the US) from among the winners. Musharraf has been accused of mishandling Bhutto's security requests leading to her death. He is suspected of being indirectly responsible, at least by his incompetence, for the successful assassination. But Bhutto may have been a sacrifice to pave the way for the secret ally. To date, none of the winners have the stature of Benazir Bhutto, but the coalition government to be formed will have a powerful democratic mandate.

The Pakistanis voted for change, with only a small interest in anti-terrorism. This will not push the war versus Al Qaeda as much as the US would like, hence they need an ally to put a stronger emphasis on this issue. Pakistan has a state of insurgency in two of the four provinces. There is discontent, and outrage. Disappointments after 6 months could lead to disintefration of the country. Rising instability persists in this nuclear-armed nation, and the people are looking to the winners to give them a fresh start. At this point, they only have hope to start with.



Blogtommy said...

It's not too surprising to see Musharraf's demise and a coalition opponent surge. Seems to be historically quite predictable in Pakistan. It's also hard to feel sorry for Musharraf. Tried too much political gamesmanship and tried to hard to appear the appeasing type while everyone and their grandma knew he had more control (at least for a while) than he let on.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tommy,

I knew upon the death of Benazir Bhutto that his time was up. I have no sympathy for people who see themselves in a messianic way. They use their power to effect decisions they feel would enhance their image, interest, and give a few bits for the country to appease everyone.

He is basically a soldier, who tried to play the international political intrigue card - way out of his league - and he lost heavily. He thought his control over the country would get him at least a tie. Well he is tied, to oblivion, that is. :-) --Durano, done!

Tapline said...

Good post. We will see how this plays out. I wouldn't place bets on which end is up....stay well....

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tapline,

Thanks. It is the continuing saga of Pakistan since after Benazir Bhutto's assassination which I posted a couple of months back.

I believe it will be Nawaz Sharif who'll sit as Prime Minister, even if he has less seats than Zardan's PPP. That is something I can bet on. :-) --Durano, done!