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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Pakistan Question: Who after Musharraf?

Pak Army advises Mush to quit Friday, July 27, 2007 10:37 [IST]
Islamabad: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been advised by his top military commanders to quit in the wake of the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, a daily reported today. During his six-day long discussions with his top military aides in Rawalpindi after the reinstatement of the Chief Justice by the Supreme Court, Musharraf was advised to seek an "honourable exit".

The above news item caught my eye and concern. With its fight between progressive Muslim groups and fanatical Mullahs and terrorist groups who stay in Pakistan as their home, the lack of any visible and credible democratic leadership in Pakistan needs to worry many in India also.

Musharraf has to perhaps take the same exit as his military predecessors, that is the law of military rule, but, are we going to witness another medieval minded army man who will yet again succumb to the easy temptation of anti-Indian sloganeering to further his rule? The restoration of the Chief Justice was a message that the legal mechanism is certainly willing to flex its muscle even against a military ruler. But is this indicative of a larger political mood? If democracy is restored whom does Pakistan have to show case, the corrupt Nawaz Sherief and the equally corrupt Benazir both cooling their heels in exile.

Permitting the current development perhaps is a willing gamble on the part of Musharraf to exhibit his tolerant nature to the western powers on whose support the government of Pakistan largely relies upon. Primary to the changes in Pakistan will be to understand what are the designs on Pakistan for the existing and emerging super-powers, USA and China respectively. The US government is used to treating Pakistan as almost its own territory, they have reserved the right to strike any 'terrorist' location within Pakistan, at the same time also asking Pakistan government to ensure no support is given to the terrorist groups (“Al Qaeda remains a potent force inside Pakistan, as is the Taliban,” said Mr Burns, the State Department's point man for Pakistan and India. “And we want to see Pakistan use all tools at its disposal to choke the flow of funds to terrorist groups.”). If the US has decided to choke the fund flow, then that would be the biggest choke of all.

A stable government in Pakistan I believe is for the benefit of India. It is time that the stupid rate race of missile development, which is nothing more than crude jingoism, is stopped by both the countries and an environment is created where other issues can be resolved. The overthrow of Musharraf is only of academic interest, but, more important for us in India is who will be the new power, the military again, some conservative with a soft corner for the fanatical mullahs or someone who can set the democratic process in better condition. Keep your fingers crossed and watch the developments in Pakistan for the next few months, there is certainly a change in the offing.

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