Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Musharraf and the mango tree


The future of President Pervez Musharraf grows more opaque by the day. At its simplest level, it seems that while many people think he should step down, few want to see him forced out in a way that would divide and damage the country.

File photo of President Bush and President MusharrafIn the latest stories highlighting the currents and counter-currents swirling around the former army general, Musharraf lashed out at “rumour-mongers” for suggesting he planned to quit, while President George W. Bush telephoned him to pledge his continued backing.  Meanwhile disgraced scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, has begun speaking out against Musharraf by complaining he was unfairly made to take the rap for selling nuclear secrets.  That A.Q. Khan now feels safe to speak after four years under house arrest is seen as one of the most telling indications of the times turning against Musharraf.

Reading comments on an earlier blog about Musharraf’s future got me wondering whether one could predict his next move from his past. As an Urdu-speaking ”mohajir” whose family fled Delhi at partition, an outsider in Punjabi-dominated Pakistan, and also as a former commando, how would he respond to the pressure on him to quit?

There are simplistic responses to this question — my bet would be that the usual response of an outsider and a commando would be to fight it out, if needs be by adopting the riskiest course of action. But since that question seemed too simplistic, I decided to reread what Musharraf had said about himself in his autobiography “In the Line of Fire”.

Kashmir cools off, but peace still distant



With the world’s attention focused on the hunt for al Qaeda and the Taliban along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, the 19-year conflict in Kashmir to its east has slipped off the radar.
But Kashmir, which former U.S. President Bill Clinton once said was one of the most dangerous places on earth, has just crossed a milestone with the number of people dying in the fighting falling below 1,000 a year.

Seen purely in terms of fatalities, Kashmir is now classed as a “low-intensity conflict” says the New Delhi-based Institute for  Conflict Management which tracks deaths due to militant-related violence across South Asia.
Last year was a watershed for Kashmir when the number of civilians, securitymen and militants killed in the conflict fell to 777, down from a high of 4,507 in 2001. The decreasing  trend continues this year with 192 people killed until May.
Just to put things in perspective, the comparable figure for Iraq was 13,600 according to the latest U.S. State Department’s annual terrorism report released last month, about 6,000 for Afghanistan and 4,000 in Sri Lanka’s civil war according to Reuters reporters in the two countries.
So is peace at hand in Kashmir and has the  stage been set for a “grand reconciliation” that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke about after talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee in Islamabad last week ?
Not quite. The talks, resuming after a year because of political crises in Pakistan, themselves did not throw up any new ideas, much less suggest a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Indeed if anything Pakistan’s new leaders are calling a set of “out-of-the box” proposals that President Pervez Musharraf made as ‘half-baked.”"

How would Pakistan fare under Obama?


Senator Barack Obama/Steve MarcusWith Senator Barack Obama looking increasingly confident about winning the Democratic nomination, there have been a new spate of articles on what it would mean for Pakistan if he becomes president.

The most eye-catching, perhaps, was a story in The News  about how President Pervez Musharraf’s family in the United States have been giving donations to Obama’s campaign.  ”President Pervez Musharraf’s family members here are supporting and giving donations to a US presidential candidate who strongly opposes the Bush administration policy of supporting and keeping the retired general in the presidency,” it says.

from FaithWorld:

Kissinger, Iraq and India’s Muslims – a new domino theory?

Henry Kissinger at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 21 Jan 2008/Wolfgang RattayIs Henry Kissinger trying to update the domino theory to fit what he fears in 2008? He had a "Lunch with the FT" interview in Saturday's Financial Times and surprised his interviewer, historian Stephen Graubard, by linking the war in Iraq and Muslims in India. As Graubard wrote:

He believes the military “surge” is working and says the next question is when to start to move away from an exclusively military option. “This is not a war of states,” Kissinger says. “If we withdraw from Iraq, the radical elements in all the neighbouring Arab countries will be greatly encouraged.” We will, he fears, be unable to maintain ourselves in Afghanistan, or to retain our present position in Pakistan.

Showdown or climbdown in Pakistan?


This is definitely a case of “the more you know, the less you understand”. 

PPP leader Asif Ali ZardariThere has been much talk in the media about whether PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari is heading for a showdown with President Pervez Musharraf to force him out of office.

Pakistan’s peace deals with militants: the march of folly?


SwatDespite the reservations of its principal ally, the United States, Pakistan’s new civilian leaders have gone ahead and sued for peace with militants in the Swat valley this week, and by all indications are about to cut another deal, and this with the head of the Taliban in the country.

While the politicians have repeatedly emphasised their independence of action with regard to militants and vowed to pursue a different course from President Pervez Musharraf, can they really see these deals through without the Americans on board?

Pakistani rock band in Kashmir to heal wounds


j11.jpgPakistan’s hottest rock band Junoon plays in Srinagar, Kashmir on Sunday, in what must rate as the biggest music show in decades in one of the world’s most militarised regions.

Junoon, or madness in Arabic,  will play in a heavily fortified auditorium on the banks of the Dal lake, but its Sufi music and soaring guitar riffs should resonate far beyond, given that this is where Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism, struck roots in the subcontinent.

from Photographers' Blog:

Close enough…

From Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic who is near Garmser in Helmand Province, Afghanistan with the U.S. 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit come these 4 frames from a sequence taken when the unit came under fire from Taliban fighters May 18, 2008.

close call




The Marine was uninjured.

Who will be left standing when the Afghan war ends?


                                                                            U.S. marine in Afghanistan/Goran Tomasevic

“War does not determine who is right — only who is left.” (Or so said the British philosopher and anti-war activist Bertrand Russell.) So who is going to be left standing once U.S. and NATO forces have finished battling it out with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

Musharraf, “shorthand” for Pakistan?


I finally got around to reading the full text of a speech by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Pakistan Forum earlier this month and the following exchange caught my eye:

President Musharraf/file photoQuestion: “Does the Bush Administration still consider President Musharraf an indispensable ally?”