U.S. Officials observing the portentous affairs of Pakistan Politics and its apparent dilemma for the future of U.S. and Pakistani relations are embracing for a potential setback. The current relations between Pakistan and the U.S. have been anything but favorable. On July 31st, President General Pervez Musharraf condemned a new U.S. aid package stating that “Linking aid for Pakistan to progress in cracking down on al-Qaida and other militants… could destabilize the long term strategic partnership between the two countries”.
Pakistan is already among the world’s leading recipients’ of U.S. Military Aid with Israel and Egypt. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Boucher told a congressional panel on July 12th that the United States is currently paying around $100 Million a month. He further revealed that this aid totals over $1.2 Billion a year and does not include other aid earmarked for education reform as well as social assistance. With mounting pressures by the Bush administration upon Musharraf to eradicate the growing insurgency as well as increasing pressures from within the transforming democratic Pakistani government, Musharraf seems to be playing both sides.
On one hand, Musharraf seems to be trying to appease some antagonists within the grassroots democracy efforts by portraying a hard line stance with the United States. He suggests that “the use of power is not the only way to combat terrorism” and that the U.S. “should expedite the funding of the tribal area economic development zone.” This funding is part of an additional aid package of $750 million dollars meant to win the hearts and minds of the people inside lawless northern areas. On the other hand, Musharraf has reportedly been working with the United States to ensure that he remains in power. Confirmed by the Asia Times, The U.S. and U.K. are endorsing a regime change that would potentially create a “civilian president with the power to handle national security and foreign affairs” as well as “a prime minister as chief executive”.
The theatre in Pakistan is presumed essential in fighting the war on terrorism by many high-ranking U.S. government officials. Musharraf is viewed as a coveted ally and many officials fear that without his leadership and control, Pakistan could face a very gloomy future. However, Questions are now rising as to the future of the current leaders’ role in the Pakistan government. If the U.S. and U.K. have their way, it would look something like this; General Musharraf would step down as chief of the Pakistani Army and nominate the present director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Lieutenant-General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani to replace him. This would pace the way for Musharraf declaring himself as a civilian President. According to Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistan Bureau Chief for the Asia Times, “Musharraf and (Benazir) Bhutto recently met in the United Arab Emirates, where Bhutto lives in exile.” This meeting allowed the two to agree on “the most important issues for a new political setup.” This includes potentially ’lifting a ban on a person serving a third term as premier (since Bhutto has served twice, 1988-90 and 1993-96) and allowing her to return to Pakistan without threat of legal action since she currently faces corruption charges there.”
This scenario is far from becoming concrete as there are other serious legal issues that would first have to be tackled. One such controversy would be whether or not a Musharraf is required to take the mandatory two year leave before he is allowed to participate again in politics. This all on a backdrop of a recent Pakistani Supreme Court verdict restoring Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry whom Musharraf had brought misconduct charges upon. This temperature gauging verdict displays the internal forces at play. United opposition parties have described this as a victory against dictatorship.
On July 20th, the Pakistan Muslim League Secretary General and Senator stated that this “historic verdict… is a reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary in a democratic Pakistan. He further stated that “Pakistan is undergoing a major transformation as a democratic society and the Supreme Court decision and its acceptance by all including the government, is testimony of Pakistan's coming of age both politically and institutionally.” Undoubtedly, this raises some very serious concerns for the future relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, including the partnership in confronting the war on terrorism.
On July 31st, the Bush administration sent recently confirmed Ambassador Anne Patterson to Pakistan to reaffirm the administrations promise to maintain a solid relationship as well as a strategic collaboration between the two countries. In spite of these affirmations, the true future of Pakistan remains unknown in an ever growing turbulent nation. With over $10 billion dollars of aid given to Pakistan since 2001, the United States must start recognizing the distinct possibility that Musharraf’s future ability to lead a war on terrorism could be significantly diminished.
Other considerations that must now be taken into account involve: the potential rebellion of Pakistani’s if the U.S. and U.K. help manipulate the democracy effort that is currently taking place; the possible exploitation by insurgents of any direct involvement by the United States to influence Pakistan’s political affairs; How to deal with anti-American factions within the Pakistani government who could possibly seize control; and most importantly how to motivate Pakistan to remove the al-qaida strong holds in the North-West Frontier Province as well as North Waziristan and South Waziristan.
Even if Musharraf is able to tight rope his way to becoming a civilian President there are some who feel that Musharraf would then lose his ability to command the national army. A major factor contributing to this is the resentment by a substantial segment of the Pakistani military to isolate terrorist organizations whom they previously nurtured. Retired Lieutenant-General and former director general of the ISI, Hamid Gul stated that “This idea of a civilian president coordinating with a chief of army staff is not possible. Once Musharraf steps down as military chief, no chief of army staff would listen to him."
The United States could certainly find itself in a very difficult position in deciding how to strengthen its bonds with Pakistan whose future is surely looming with questions. Foreign Policy experts may have to consider an entirely different political landscape in Pakistan and begin finding new ways to build support in the war on terrorism.