By Talha Mujaddidi in Pakistan. Axis of Logic Exclusive
Oct 7, 2008, 13:39
What is common between former president Musharraf and current president Asif Zardari? Musharraf was a military dictator and Zardari is becoming a civilian dictator. Zardari has kept the Seventeenth amendment in his hands so that in future he can remove the prime minister, dissolve the parliament, and remove the powerful Army Chief if it pleases him. He has installed judges of his choice in High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan. His henchmen are on the brink of making political alliance with Muslim League Q (party that was made out of thin air by Musharraf literally in few hours). This and complete support of Uncle Sam will ensure that Zardari remains a formidable civilian dictator in Pakistan.
What is wrong with Asif Zardari as President of Pakistan? Well, if the only concern was that there will be more corruption during his rule, we could have lived with that. The real irony is that there is a greater drama that is being set up behind the scene. Why is it that Zardari, Nawaz Sharif (main opposition leader), Hussain Haqqani (currently our ambassador to U.S; before that he was working for Brookings Institute in the U.S.), Rehman Malik and other individuals working at key positions are all unelected? Why is Zalmay Khalilzad calling Zardari every other day and giving him advice? I wonder what the advice might be about. Maybe they will go hunting together when Khalilzad is president of Afghanistan (something that Khalilzad wants).
Let's recall who Khalilzad is, he was former U.S ambassador to Afghanistan and also served in Iraq and is currently U.S. ambassador to U.N. - looks good so far, but now it gets ugly. He is also one of the founding members of Project for New American Century (PNAC) of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). We all know what the goals of PNAC are we have seen the results in Afghanistan, Iraq and we are seeing the results now in Pakistan. Zardari has said clearly that he will continue the American war on terror and will cooperate fully with the American military. The first stunt that was pulled was to put ISI (Pakistan premier intelligence agency) under civilian control of Interior Ministry. This midnight stunt to put ISI under control of interior ministry failed but rest-assured that the stunt will be repeated again in near future. What will the results be? Let's leave that for our imaginations to play with.
After this President Zardari invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his inauguration ceremony. What was wrong with that move? The vast majority of Afghani population and almost all Pakistanis think of Hamid Karzai as nothing more than an American stooge. A less known fact is that his younger brother is the biggest drug baron of Afghanistan but the widely known fact inside Pakistan is Karzai's hate speech against Pakistan. To invite someone like Karzai to Presidential inauguration ceremony was nothing less than outrageous.
What's with Zardari going around giving speeches with Late Benazir's picture on the podium? It's really sad that he is still using Benazir for his personal fame. If it were not for his corruption and nepotism, the two governments of Benazir during the 1990's could have been very much successful and Pakistan and the rest of the region could have been in better shape than it is now. After Zardari's recent tour to the U.S. (forget about his cameo with Sarah Palin, which was overblown in the media), a majority of people in Pakistan are seeing Zardari just as a continuation of Musharraf and his policies.
The elections which were held in February had around 40% turnout. From this the PPP got 25% of the votes. The President in Pakistan is elected indirectly by the parliament when they vote for the president; therefore, it is not direct voting. 75% of the population did not vote for PPP and their presidential nominee. This is the democracy that the U.S is supporting.
The point to keep in mind is that public opinion against the U.S. "War on Terror" is the lowest since 9/11. The people of Pakistan are now realizing that the elections provided no respite from Musharraf era policies and violence. Instead the Army operation in Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan has escalated as have the U.S missile strikes. This has led to half a million people from that area being displaced and sent to live in tents. The International Red Cross has declared Pakistan 'A War Zone Country'. There is a growing anger against this government and in turn against U.S. foreign policy. The Army is behaving neutral at the moment. At least it is neutral on the surface and in the media. This means that all U.S and internal political pressure will be directed towards Zardari and his government.
The War on Terror is not the only disturbing issue. There is a serious economic crisis that has rapidly engulfed Pakistan. The trade deficit is more than $20 billion dollars already. The foreign exchange reserves are going to be empty by the end of next month. If the Saudis don't come to rescue Pakistan's oil import bill, how will the government provide oil to 180 million people The inflation in the country has now past 35%. With all this economic chaos, war on terror, and terrorist activities in Pakistan it is only a matter of time before the Army will put their feet down and assert itself. This is what has happened in Pakistan's political past.
The army cannot remain neutral for long and when it does decide to come back into power it will be interesting to see how the U.S government deals with the Army. Previously, presidents Clinton and Carter have not enjoyed cozy relationship with Pakistan army. The Republican presidents, Bush, Bush Senior, and Reagan have all enjoyed good relationship with Pakistan Army. If Democrats come back into power and continues Bush administration's policy of air strikes and use of brute military force inside Pakistan's Tribal area, Pakistan will become a very chaotic place not only for the region but for the whole world.
Along with 180 million people, the big Pakistani army is becoming more skeptical of the success of American missile strikes, nuclear weapons. The growing resentment amongst the population against the U.S. military and its foreign policy will result in a disaster for people of Pakistan, Middle East and U.S as well. At the same time the question remains as to how long will Zardari and his government be able to hold up against public opinion in Pakistan. Musharraf lasted eight years; he had complete support of the Army. Zardari has support of the U.S. but not much support from the Army because the of the Army's neutrality for the moment. Pundits say you need three A's to be able to rule Pakistan successfully, "Allah (god), America, and Army". Zardari has the American A, can't really tell on which side of Allah he is on but the Army certainly is not with Zardari.
© Copyright 2008 by AxisofLogic.com
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Talha Mujaddidi is a writer/analyst and Axis of Logic correspondent, living in Pakistan.