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Monday, October 8, 2007

Pakistan's Poll
New York Sun EditorialOctober 8, 2007

It's hard to imagine a presidential election drama in America as extraordinary as that taking place at Pakistan, where elected federal and provincial lawmakers over the weekend gave President Musharraf a resounding vote of confidence in his bid for a new five-year term. The president's victory was marred by the boycott of the vote by most of the opposition parties, who actually resigned seats so as to underscore their wholesale rejection of the process and not merely of the individual candidature. Imagine if Bush v. Gore had bothered the Democrats in Congress enough to make such a protest.
National Assembly delegates from the party led by exiled ex-prime minister
Benazir Bhutto, split over whether to resign. They compromised by keeping their seats but abstaining from the vote. This comes because of the belief that Mrs. Bhutto, scheduled to end her exile and return home on October 18, will win legislative elections to be held in early 2008. Their hope is that she will end up serving as Mr. Musharraf's prime minister. It is also the outcome favored in Washington, because it combines the appeal of Mr. Musharraf as the pro-American leader of the armed forces with Mrs. Bhutto's appeal as a relatively pro-western liberal.
Mrs. Bhutto's challenge will be to overcome the stigma attached to her for having, in effect, offered Mr. Musharraf a way out of the corner into which he had been backed. She will argue that she helped put the civilian parties back in control of the government. As part of the unfolding cooperation between the two elders, Mr. Musharraf late last week enacted a measure granting Mrs. Bhutto an amnesty on corruption charges, easing her way back from exile. But Mr. Musharraf is not home free. His win remains tentative because it is being stayed by a Supreme Court yet to rule on opposition motions that Mr. Musharraf should not have bee able to seek a third term while continuing to serve in uniform as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.
Mr. Musharraf has said that if his election holds up, he will shed the uniform before his current term expires on November 15. It is unlikely that the Court will rule against him owing to the threat of political violence and the possibility Mr. Musharraf might turn around and declare martial law. This would suspend the steps toward a democratic restoration. The Court resumes hearing on the anti-Musharraf petitions on Oct. 17 — one day before Mrs. Bhutto's scheduled return. Political drama doesn't get better outside of the Globe Theater. William Shakespeare, call your office.
* * *
All this is of great moment to Americans because of Pakistan's role in the war against Islamist extremism. Within Pakistan, the war is not going well. This is confirmed in recent reports by the Council on Foreign Relations, which found large parts of the country beyond government control as
Al Qaeda and Taliban forces have expanded their influence and operations, and by the Washington-based research institute, Terror Free Tomorrow, which released a survey showing that three quarters of Pakistanis oppose American military action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan.
Islamabad's military intelligence, the ISA, created the Taliban in the hope of getting a pro-Pakistan Sunni government in Kabul. Mr. Musharraf's alliance with America against the Taliban and Al Qaeda is not popular below the top ranks (and among retired veterans from within the top ranks). Following 9/11, Mr. Musharraf fired the ISI leadership and replaced it with loyalists, including the current chief, Lieutenant General Kayani, who has been selected to succeed Mr. Musharraf's as chief of staff should he shed the uniform.
The terror free tomorrow survey found that, in terms of popularity in Pakistan, Mr. Musharraf trails Osama bin Laden by a sizeable margin. The president has a 38% favorable rating against 53% unfavorable, while 46% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of Mr. bin Laden against only 26% unfavorable. At the same time, the leaders of the two most important civilian democratic parties, Mrs. Bhutto and another former prime minister, Mr. Nawaz Shareef, whose return from exile last month was blocked at the airport by Mr. Musharraf, have favorable ratings of 63% and 57% respectively. The right move for an American administration is to place its bet on democracy while sustaining a pro-American policy in the army barracks.
Storm clouds over Pakistan
October 8, 2007 President Pervez Musharraf's landslide victory in Saturday's election should also remind Americans of the difficult political predicament faced by the general — a relatively moderate, pro-U.S. authoritarian attempting to lead a nation that is an international nerve center of al Qaeda activity. Gen. Musharraf's win resulted in part from the unexpected boycott of the vote by politicians loyal to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Although Gen. Musharraf on Friday signed an amnesty agreement permitting her to return to Pakistan without facing corruption charges, Mrs. Bhutto failed to win her other demands, including her insistence that the general resign as army chief before the vote. (Gen. Musharraf has pledged to retire from the army by Nov. 15 if he is sworn in as president.) The election results will not become official until Pakistan's Supreme Court issues its ruling on challenges to the balloting, which is expected to happen Oct. 17. While attention has been focused on the election and Mrs. Bhutto's expected return to Pakistan next week, the security situation remains extremely grave, particularly in tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. As Willis Witter of The Washington Times reported yesterday from Islamabad: "Daily attacks on Pakistani troops deployed to tribal areas have led to hundreds of soldiers being taken captive. Several of them have been executed in recent days. Suicide attacks and roadside bombs have become common. For the United States and other nations targeted by al Qaeda, the tribal areas have become an expanded sanctuary for Osama bin Laden to train and deploy terrorists beyond the reach of U.S. and NATO troops on the other side of the border." Today, more than six years after September 11, a large part of the problem continues to stem from the fact that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency remains infested with al Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers who believe that the United States is the enemy. These people work actively to thwart any effort by Gen. Musharraf to take concrete steps to cooperate with Washington against the jihadists who operate from Pakistani territory — especially North Waziristan and South Waziristan. Gen. Musharraf, under intense pressure from much of his own people and security establishment, has undertaken a conciliatory approach to radical Islamists who have been operating from Waziristan that has proven to be an abject failure — one that has dramatically increased the danger to American and NATO forces fighting against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. The challenge for Gen. Musharraf, Mrs. Bhutto and any leader worthy of the name will be to stand up to those dark forces within Pakistan who want to perpetuate their country's role as a haven for gangsters who want to kill Americans and Afghans and promote international jihad.
Monday, October 8, 2007

Al Qaeda’s challenge and national politics
Baitullah Mehsud, who pretends to run a Taliban government in South Waziristan but is actually a warlord serving Al Qaeda, has executed three soldiers of the Pakistan army and has vowed to kill more of the 250 he took hostage in September in South Waziristan. The corpses were found with a letter pinned to them saying, “We will gift three bodies every day”. Mehsud has more troops in his custody, including eight officers who might be likewise executed in the days to come.The Pakistan army is fighting a very difficult battle in Waziristan. It is difficult not only because of the terrain and the hostile tribes involved, but because it is backed by dwindling political support in the country. Apart from Ms Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), political leaders have avoided a verbal confrontation with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas. Their line of argument is that trouble among the tribes is linked to Pakistan’s strategic slavery of the United States, and that trouble will cease once Islamabad’s link with Washington is broken.Not surprisingly, Baitullah Mehsud has threatened suicide attacks against Ms Bhutto, the PPP chairperson, and said that his suicide-bombers are waiting in the wings to “welcome” her when she returns to Pakistan. He said: “We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses. They’re only acceptable if they wear Pakistani glasses”. He is said to have 35,000 armed men under him and, if he is a Pushtun and an Al Qaeda lieutenant, he will not settle for anything less than capitulation from Islamabad.Most people opposed to the PPP look at Ms Bhutto as a protégée of the United States. Typically in Pakistani politics, public debates are inclined to take no account of the temperament of a political party. This fudging of the ideological distinction is so widespread that many PPP rank and file in Punjab want their leader to switch off the “liberal” character of the party and focus on the illegitimacy of General Musharraf. Yet, if you look at the PPP’s voting pattern on human rights bills in parliament, its liberal credentials seem to outshine the reluctant PMLQ’s performance. Even during its participation at the APDM summit, it accepted reversion to the 1999 version of the Constitution only if the women’s reserved seats and joint electorates were retained.Is Ms Bhutto’s stance fashioned under American diktat and under pressure from General Musharraf who “will save her from going to prison” if she supports him? Most commentators in a highly emotive Pakistani environment will “simplify” the argument by saying she is being led by the nose by US President Bush who wants to save his client in power, General Musharraf, from going under. In this perspective, Ms Bhutto is supposed to have spoken out about the threat of Talibanisation and Al Qaeda, and supported General Musharraf’s action against Lal Masjid, only to earn the pleasure of the United States. But the truth is otherwise.The history of Ms Bhutto’s relationship with Al Qaeda is not new. She has written about it in her book and it is known outside Pakistan that she was an early target of Al Qaeda simply because, being a woman leader, she violated the “Islamic” edict subscribed to by Al Qaeda. Indeed, she revealed some years ago that Osama Bin Laden “contributed” $10 million to the IJI campaign against her. One should also recall that it was during the Afghan jihad and, through it, the rise of Al Qaeda and its creed, that Pakistani clergy reached the dubious consensus that a woman could neither be leader of Muslim men nor a Muslim country’s prime minister. Ms Bhutto was therefore not wrong in assuming that her party as a liberal force in Pakistan did not stand a chance in the midst of this point of view. America or no America, her enemy number one was Al Qaeda and, linked to it, terrorism in general.Baitullah Mehsud and many in Pakistan are perhaps greatly put off by the fact that she has played her cards deftly with President Musharraf, who will now need support from liberal quarters if he has to prevent the Pakistan army from retreating from its job of re-establishing the writ of the state in the Tribal Areas. The PMLQ is not willing to go beyond a certain level of pragmatism to support a campaign against anything that smells of religion. The PPP had the option of joining the rightwing religious consensus in the opposition and then hope to survive after the triumph of Talibanisation. But Ms Bhutto did not take that option and finessed most of the national and international power-brokers into backing her strategy. Therefore, the frightened and confused Pakistani liberal should take heart from her success; so should the myriad PPP rank and file who do not understand the real political contest in Pakistan.
Washington may regret for pushing civilian rule in Pakistan
Washington, Oct 7 (ANI): Stating that the General Pervez Musharraf led military regime in Pakistan took the fight against the al-Qaeda in a much stronger way, a media report has claimed that Washington may regret pushing for civilian rule in that country.
Musharraf has delivered stellar economic growth, less corruption and a series of liberalising reforms, reported The Scotsman.
For all the opprobrium heaped on President General Pervez Musharraf now, Pakistanis will come to miss the all-powerful commando ruling over them, it added.
Pakistanis are desperate to go at Musharraf&#39s throat right now. But they&#39ll remember him very quickly when former premiers Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif are back in charge, the report further said.
According to the daily, His administration pushed through a women&#39s rights bill against stiff opposition from the country&#39s powerful mullahs. In the 1990s, the Pakistan Government had backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, a regime that gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
It was Musharraf who turned on the Taliban, albeit under massive American pressure. He made himself so indispensable to Washington that nuclear-related sanctions were lifted and billions of dollars of debt relief and aid flowed. Between 2001-6, economic growth was around seven percent a year, leading a consumer, stock market and property boom. Following the devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan in 2005, homes, schools, hospitals and lives have been rebuilt to an extent that would put the US government&#39s response to hurricane Katrina to shame, it added. (ANI)
Washington may regret for pushing civilian rule in Pakistan
Washington, Oct 7 (ANI): Stating that the General Pervez Musharraf led military regime in Pakistan took the fight against the al-Qaeda in a much stronger way, a media report has claimed that Washington may regret pushing for civilian rule in that country.
Musharraf has delivered stellar economic growth, less corruption and a series of liberalising reforms, reported The Scotsman.
For all the opprobrium heaped on President General Pervez Musharraf now, Pakistanis will come to miss the all-powerful commando ruling over them, it added.
Pakistanis are desperate to go at Musharraf&#39s throat right now. But they&#39ll remember him very quickly when former premiers Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif are back in charge, the report further said.
According to the daily, His administration pushed through a women&#39s rights bill against stiff opposition from the country&#39s powerful mullahs. In the 1990s, the Pakistan Government had backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, a regime that gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
It was Musharraf who turned on the Taliban, albeit under massive American pressure. He made himself so indispensable to Washington that nuclear-related sanctions were lifted and billions of dollars of debt relief and aid flowed. Between 2001-6, economic growth was around seven percent a year, leading a consumer, stock market and property boom. Following the devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan in 2005, homes, schools, hospitals and lives have been rebuilt to an extent that would put the US government&#39s response to hurricane Katrina to shame, it added. (ANI)

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