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Musharraf Resigning



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The Pakistani political class is a tiny, self-indulgent elite, addicted to plotting and anti-American conspiracy theories. Only the rare individual is capable of seeing beyond his or her own personal or sectional self-interest. This elite has hated Pervez Musharraf since long before he foolishly went after the supreme court in Pakistan, partly because he’s an ethnic outsider — a “Mohajir” born in India, arriving in Pakistan during Partition – but also because in his first years in power he broke with traditional corrupt government practice.

Once Musharraf is gone from the presidency a stabilizing factor will vanish from Pakistan.  The two rival parties that form the basis of the  coalition government — the Bhutto family’s PPP and the PML-N of Nawaz Sharif — are already at each others throats. Their rivalry (and lack of common interests or policies beyond the removal of Musharraf), may well crackle into open violence in the streets (both have quasi-militias of street fighting activists).

Moreover the city of Karachi – Pakistan’s commercial capital –  could erupt if Musharraf’s departure is handled in a humiliating way. (The PML’s Nawaz Sharif is determined to get revenge for his own overthrow by Musharraf in 1999 by impeaching the general.) Karachi’s ruling party, the MQM, and most of its citizens are Mohajirs, like Musharraf, and they rightly see his removal as a demonstration of the power of the Punjabi elite that has long dominated Pakistani politics. The MQM and its London-based leader Altaf Hussein are furious with the PPP’s Altaf Zardari for giving into Nawaz Sharif’s pressure to call for Musharraf’s impeachment.

If Musharraf leaves office but stays in Pakistan, his supporters fear that he will soon be assassinated by pro-Taliban or al-Qaeda elements — especially if, as is likely, Nawaz Sharif refuses to allow the ISI and army to protect him.

Meanwhile the army is acting in its own narrow interest — under its new head General Kiyani it seems to have made a deal with Sharif and Zardari to allow Musharraf to go in return for permission to go back to business as usual: ie concentrating its forces on the border with India while leaving the NorthWest Frontier province and Tribal Areas to police and paramilitary militia units. That basically means allowing the Taliban and al Qaeda a free hand along the border with Afghanistan and a lot more trouble first for Afghanistan, for the US-led Coalition and then, in the medium to long term, for Pakistan itself…

It’s also worth noting that the timing of this crisis — a crisis forced by Nawaz Sharif — is particularly bad given the current upheaval in Indian administered Kashmir…



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