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Pakistan Crisis and U.S. National Security

By       Message Brock Novak       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink

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Analyst Opening Statement: This article is written from a pure U.S. national security preservation perspective. The Analyst neither endorses nor condones any of President Musharraf's recent actions as respects the implementation of Emergency Rule, suspension of the constitution and the harsh governmental actions against the populace and/or public servants (i.e. judges, lawyers, etc,). In fact, the Analyst considers these breaches in democratic protocol disturbing and entirely unacceptable.

Acknowledging the many differences between the U.S. and Pakistan however, and factoring in the many difficult and complex realities of the situation, an optimal crisis solution for consideration and/or debate is offered in the following article.


Today, President Pervez Musharraf stepped down as Pakistan's Military Leader, clearing the way to being sworn in tomorrow as President of Pakistan for a new 5 year term. This article is timed accordingly to inject some key and unique insights into what is going on behind the scenes and what might be coming next.

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We have all watched the evolving Pakistani crisis the last month or two, one wrought with strife between the factions. Given the strength of the underlying economy and formidable and fiercely loyal military support power base of President Musharraf, perhaps the crisis is one of indefinite stalemate too. The challenge for the U.S. then is to peacefully and swiftly break that stalemate, without suffering any national security repercussions.

This difficult juggling act however seems beyond the ability of the current GOP Administration to resolve, evidence the indecision or perhaps better stated paralysis, in effectively dealing with a flurry of major recent developments and leveraging them to U.S. advantage. The recent return of former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, adds for ever increasing complexity to an already volatile mix. Making matters even more difficult, a trio of personalities neither fond of nor (seriously) willing to share power with one another.

The Bhutto and Sharif governments in the 1990's were charged with serious corruption and blamed with other breaches/negatives. Therefore, as respects Bhutto, one need justifiably question the radical transformation to Jeffersonian Democrat convert now on display. Also, it is difficult to believe the wounds between Musharraf and Sharif will heal anytime soon, if ever, evidence the extraordinary Musharraf airport landing episode in 1999 which triggered Musharraf's coup and Sharif's ouster/arrest. And even though Sharif still has 2-3 years remaining on his exile period from that event, it appears Saudi Arabia pressured Musharraf to immediately repatriate him. Saudi Arabia is Pakistan's most revered ally which means Musharraf can't just return him to Saudi exile, and must therefore now engage and deal with him.

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Analyst Note on the Musharraf/Bhutto/Sharif Dynamic:

In addition to other reasons cited below, a few brief thoughts on why Bhutto and Sharif will not succeed in terms of securing critical mass popular support, much less necessary military support to legitimately oust Musharraf in either the near or longer term. In short, they don't realize they are part of a simple, yet clever strategy to dethrone themselves within their own camps.

While Bhutto and Sharif are wallowing in their hero-like exile returns, that euphoria will fade as fast as it emerged. That is if they remain steadfast in their ego-driven "can't work, won't work with Musharraf" rhetoric. One can predict however they will not deviate and instead continue to barrel down that path, based upon their ever hardening public positions in that regard. The result being they will be left with nothing tangible as respects power for themselves and their loyalists.

Evident this arrogant self defeating attitude, a Nov. 26, 2007 CNN article noted that before departing Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Sharif said (to CNN) he has refused to discuss a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf despite overtures from the Pakistani leader. Specifically quoting Mr. Sharif as saying "Mr. Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, tried to meet me over the last two months ever since I was deported from Pakistan.....I said there is no point in talking because it would not serve any purpose because he is heading into a different direction."

Bhutto has made very similar "non-compromising" statements.

Musharraf's clever plan therefore is to leverage that "non-compromising" attitude from both opponents against them vis-à-vis what this Analyst will coin as his "Time and (Perceived) Cooperation (i.e. Niceness)" strategy.

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Interestingly, neither Bhutto nor Sharif sees it, both seduced and wound up in their own glory of the return moment. As for "time", it is on Musharraf's side. Each opponent's followers have big expectations in terms of substantive near term power gains. If they don't achieve that, the euphoria will shift quickly to disappointment and lost momentum. Musharraf astutely realizes the "hero window" for each is brief and will close quickly if they achieve nothing substantive. His strategy for them to achieve nothing and close that window, for good, is not to resist (as they strategized he would) but rather to reach out in "work together" (cooperation) fashion. Sharif's own (one might therefore argue as a thoughtless blunder comment under the circumstances) admission in the interview above, publicly confirming that Musharraf has done just that. Indeed, Musharraf could not ask for a better endorsement, from anyone.

That outward or public "Niceness" strategy achieves two Musharraf objectives – very well:

1) Catches Bhutto and Sharif completely off-guard. They planned and strategized for staunch power sharing resistance from Musharraf, resistance to leverage/fuel their own public campaign that Musharraf refuses to work together. Musharraf instead gave them just the opposite. Knowing the personalities and histories, he shrewdly knew neither would ever work with him even under the best of circumstances so at no risk to sharing his power, why not then publicly offer them what clearly he knew they would never accept – power sharing. Not much different than saying to someone "let's do lunch sometime". In doing so, Musharraf turns the tables, himself now publicly looking as taking the high road as the benevolent, compromising conciliator, with Bhutto/Sharif the low road as the demanding, non-compromising obstructionists.

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