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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pakistan Emergency: Desperate attempt to sustain control by a losing General

I had earlier blogged that there is a change in the offing in Pakistan. Since then things have changed rather rapidly. The orchestrated returns of Nawaz and Benazir and its political implications and currently the declaration of emergency is certainly a cause for concern for us in India. That the General after making repeated promises of shedding his uniform after the Presidential elections dons it immediately only indicates his desperation to sustain his position. Indeed there is no further confirmation required on his situation than his statement yesterday to the nation. He is losing and well aware of it and this move is to sustain himself before he takes personal measures to negotiate his safe exile and political measures to ensure his safe exit from the country.

What India needs to worry about is what after Musharaf? Who will come to power? The army has been ruled by the General carefully enough to ensure there are no more of his own likes in their ranks. There are a few old ISI bosses who perhaps may be powerful, but, they may not be good enough to run the government. I suspect that the support of the Chief Justice may not run beyond the cities. The political parties may have some popular support, particularly the PPP if one goes by the crowds that welcomed Benazir home. But, who will become the most important political player after Musharaf in Pakistan?

My gut feel is we are seeing a micro clash of civilizations in Pakistan. The clash will be between the pursuit of American strategic interest by the government of USA (and increasingly maybe China) against the creation (or sustenance) and expansion of the militant Islamic power that the larger global terrorist outfits will like to see. Whomsoever will rule will have to balance both elements as the pressure from both sides may be significant. Perhaps not that insignificant will be to win the mandate from the people in the pursuit of either of the above agenda or for balancing both. Pakistan has been always ruled by strong individual egos or global political power priorities. I see fighting India as an expression of the ego and the supply of weapons to fight India as someone else's global necessity. The wounds of partition need not last beyond a generation and there is no need to carry it for so long.

The worry for India will be if Pakistan powers gets to continue with an appeasement of the militant Islam outfits and / or US interests. With the Nuclear deal bringing a new found thrust into missile development in India, in a matter of years similar privileges will be extended to Pakistan by the government of USA (or by China even earlier) and if there is no leadership that can assert itself as a people representative in Pakistan, then Pakistani people are in for even more tough times. Their acceptance of the situation is reflected in a recent news that caught my eye.

"A poll in August conducted for the Washington-based nonprofit group Terror Free Tomorrow found that 19 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States, down from 26 percent the previous year. Osama bin Laden had a far higher approval rating, at 46 percent, than either Musharraf (38 percent) or President Bush (9 percent)."

Our MEA office has been strangely rather guarded in its response to the emergency. I think India should at this point in time look at Pakistan more than ever as a rogue state. While the General is negotiating his way out, India should play an active role in promoting democracy, if need be even appealing the new friends in the USA for democratic process be established there. This is not the time for 'this is their internal issue' kind of statements is my reading.

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