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Can Pakistan turn over a new leaf?

mushakiss1.jpgWith the once-postponed elections almost upon us, the PPP [1] is still riding on the crest of a sympathy wave and will most likely come out on top and reach an agreement with Sharif’s party. However, the United States continues to support Musharraf. The author argues that if this misguided trend continues, Islamic radicals could gain a stronger foothold in the region, which would certainly not aid the American-led global war on terror.

 

(From Islamabad) THE GENERAL ELECTIONS IN PAKISTAN were postponed as a result of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto [2]. Ironically, her party will end up benefiting from the killing because the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP [1]) is poised to win the elections, mainly because it is now riding a sympathy wave. “The U.S. maintains a very blinkered policy towards Pakistan. Its strategy in this election is to remain silent with respect to the rigging and manipulation that is currently taking place”

The chances of a second postponement are now nil, and elections will be held as scheduled on February 18. Nawaz Sharif [3]’s party has played a positive role in this electoral process, and his party will most likely come in second to the PPP.

The question is whether the PPP leaders and Sharif will be able to reach an agreement and select a new primer minister. The answer, as now indicated by the leaders of these two parties, is yes. They have realized that they need to cooperate like never before in order to get rid of their mutual enemy: Musharraf [4].

A BLEAK FUTURE FOR MUSHARRAF

“the world’s superpower now has the opportunity to forge a more stable relationship with Pakistan, one built upon common values” In view of this agreement, Musharraf’s future looks bleak. Regardless, the more important question is actually whether or not the Army will allow this cooperative agreement to eventually lead to the establishment of a new civilian government. It is difficult to say how it will react, but my hunch is that right now the Army wants to leave politics, and that it has had its full of Musharraf’s misrule.

Nonetheless, Musharraf wants to remain in power. That much is obvious. But in all likelihood, his days are numbered. Much to his displeasure, the recent events will simply prove to be too overwhelming.

“The Pakistani nation is already up in arms against American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the continued support given to Musharraf will get the people even more riled up” With the assassination of Bhutto, the United States government lost the possibility of promoting an agreement between her and Musharraf, which would have allowed the Pakistani government to initiate a transitional process to a form of democracy.

The U.S. maintains a very blinkered policy towards Pakistan. Its strategy in this election is to remain silent with respect to the rigging and manipulation that is currently taking place. It has apparently decided to back the ruling PML (Q) [5], which supports Musharraf and is also the King’s party, and as such cannot do without him. However, Musharraf’s power will unquestionably be threatened when the elections are over.

WASHINGTON’S MISTAKES

In the past, the United States’ relationship with Pakistan has been driven by expediency and uncertainty, resulting in military rule. “The United States has got it wrong here. Are they even listening? We wish they were, but we doubt it” Nonetheless, the world’s superpower now has the opportunity to forge a more stable relationship with Pakistan, one built upon common values.

Unfortunately, much to the ire of the Pakistani nation, the Bush administration is so naïve that it prefers to deal with Musharraf, albeit in a more civilianized manner than before. When will the United States learn from its mistakes? Supporting a dictator at the expense of democratic values and the people’s will is a folly for which Washington will eventually have to pay.

The Pakistani nation is already up in arms against American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the continued support given to Musharraf will get the people even more riled up. This will eventually spur them to sympathize with Washington’s sworn enemies: the Islamic radicals, who are in such a position where they can feed off of this short-sighted American policy.

The United States has got it wrong here. Are they even listening? We wish they were, but we doubt it. Too bad for Pakistan, the global war on terror, and the region as a whole.