Musharraf, “shorthand” for Pakistan?

May 18, 2008

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?”

Negroponte: “Well, first of all, I think what you — your first question is prompted by the fact that at times in the past, when we talked about the war on terror, particularly in the wake of 9/11, we personalized the characterization of Pakistan’s collaboration with us by saying that Mr. Musharraf was an indispensable ally in the war on terror. And I myself used that phrase on a number of occasions.

“But it really is shorthand for the nation of Pakistan and it’s a shorthand for saying that we have an — I mean, Pakistan is in an indispensable situation in terms of dealing with the threats we confront in the war on terror because of the border area, because of al Qaeda, because of the position that this whole al Qaeda threat poses to our interests, the interests of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world. So I think that’s — that would be what I’d say to that one.”

Am I alone in thinking that “shorthand” is an extraordinary word for the Americans to use about Musharraf? The reference is all the more interesting in the context of speculation on whether the rift between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party leader Asif Ali Zardari will take pressure off Musharraf to quit.  

The Washington Post, in an article headlined “Sidelined Musharraf Still Exerts Influence“, says that the former army general has continued to influence the country from the shadows, even after his political allies were trounced in elections in February.

“In the past week, the coalition’s acrimonious split — over how and when to restore judges fired by Musharraf — has dashed some of the hopes for democratic progress generated by elections in February,” it says. “Just as swiftly, it has generated talk of Musharraf as the political beneficiary, chortling at his adversaries’ failures and sensing a chance for political muscle-flexing if not rehabilitation.”

Lawyers’ protest in Multan May 12/Asim TanveerAn analysis in the Daily Times, however,  suggests the row over the judiciary could produce a backlash against Musharraf, particularly given a pledge by the lawyers’ movement to hold a major protest on June 10 to champion the restoration of the judges. The backlash would also hit Zardari, accused by some of his critics of bowing to American pressure and resisting demands by Sharif that Musharraf be forced out of office. 

“The lawyers and many civil society groups are expected to start street protests for the restoration of the judges. Several political parties are also expected to join them,” writes Hasan-Askari Rizvi in the Daily Times. “The PML-N (Sharif’s party) will certainly not hold back because such a situation would strengthen its position. The movement will target the government, especially Musharraf, and Asif Ali Zardari.”

It looks like volatile times ahead in Pakistan.


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It is time for the country to move on. If some one wants to correct the mistakes, it should start from Ayub’s Martial Law. That will eliminate Bhutto from the political scene as he was the product of Ayub’s “Revolution”. So is Altaf Hussain & Nawaz Sharif, who are the product of Zia ul Haq’s coup. Lot of the character who have influenced Pakistan Politics would not have existed without Ayub & Zia. That’s why I say, just move away from tbe politics of confrontation. How many mistakes a nation can erase from the page of the history.

Posted by amjad | Report as abusive

Can Musharaf prevail without the US ? He’s not elected. His party that he forged out of dissidents of other parties has been rejected by the people of Pakistan. Not that I have anything against the man, but it surprises me how he, without being the chief of the army and without any democratic back up, can still wield power in Pakistan ? These are the events and situations that push people into believing in conspiracy theories. There is a growing feeling that Musharaf is covertly supported by the US and that’s what Negroponte meant by ‘shorthand’. I agree with Amjad that the country should forget its past, specially the mistakes of the past and turn a new leaf. It’s a country of great potential – as shown by its soaring stock market and economic growth of 7 percent per year – its new leadership should focus on improving the economy and infrastructure – the rest of the problems will be automatically taken care of.

Posted by Safdar Jafri | Report as abusive

Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are the corrupt leaders.
They have side tracked the poor pakistani to the judges issue.
they are worried about thye judges who have minted money by making money for working of these corrupt parties.
An average pakistani need Food, water, electricity, roof over their heads. These judges have houses like palaces and have money to burn.
They just need chair by hook or by crrok.
Bhutto’s govvt and sharif’s Govts were most corrupt and they are just for power and money. they both do not Even live in pakistan.
Bhutto’s son does nt want even to live ib pakistan. He lives in england and is the President Of the PPP the ruling party of Pakistan. Pakistanis are blind and can not see the game of these rich polticians.- This Govt is Govt by the Rich, For the Rich and to the Rich.
god help pakistan.
PPP prime minister is smart But they will not make him work for the Poor.
No one in pakistan is seeing through the dirty Game. They are using Judges issue to Fool the public. a ppor pakistani is an issue and not the filthy rich Judges.
Best of luck to the Poor in Pakistan

Posted by jazz dhariwal | Report as abusive

People out to blame Pakistan, or the Parties incharge alone for the negative situations in Pakistan that has burned the whole nation. But, I think the real player behind all of this is America. For example, the current situation, when Nawaz and Zardari agreed on the most pointed issue-restoration of Judges. However, Nawaz being a conservative Muslim, decline to side with US, and we all saw what happened? I personally think Nawaz has made mistakes, and he agree with that, but now he has changed. Watching his video coming back to Pakistan on Youtube, you out to see it in his eyes that he wants to do all he could, to join back, or pay back Pakistan. We have a problem, and that problem is used by the West to take advantages of it. That problem is that we vote for a party not for the person behind the party. Why vote PPP if Butto is dead, and you know that her husband would be incharge of the party after all?

Posted by Waqar Khan | Report as abusive

The Western press remains critically obsessed with Pervez Musharraf. There is a new government in charge in Pakistan, please talk about them and leave Mr Musharraf, the old soldier alone.

Posted by Bangash | Report as abusive

[…] you agree with such an assessment? A Reuters blog on Sunday highlighted an analysis in the Daily Times by Hasan Askari-Rizvi, who suggested a split […]

Posted by And What About Musharraf? « CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan | Report as abusive

Finally, the game is on. Both Nawaz and Zardari, leaders of the elected coalition government, are on a collision course with Musharaf. A powerful Musharaf will not leave easily of course. Almost everyone, or at least those with some background on Pakistani politics, know that Mushraf is vested with some very radical powers including the powers to dissolve the elected assemblies and even send the country’s most powerful man, its army chief, home by replacing him with someone more likeable or trustworthy. The key determinant of this row will be as to who strikes first. If the coalition moves faster, then Musharaf has had it. But if Musharaf, smelling an imminent danger of his own overthrow, moves first by dissolving the assemblies, then he can certainly avert his own fall by some period, if not for a long time. What he does about the army chief position is also quite important because if he dismisses the government and a choatic situation follows, then it can be a very good reason for the army to step in and stage a coup, removing everyone including Musharaf from power. So, if Musharaf is to take on the elected coalition by dissolving the assemblies, then must also ensure that no coup takes place once the country’s plunged in a crisis. For this he will need a confidante and highly trustworthy army chief. In this regard, there are rumours that he wants to replace his own appointee General Kiani with General Nadim Taj who has all the qualities of being Urdu-speaking like him, a relative to his wife Sehba and above all, a track record of utmost loyalty to Musharaf in his over a decade of rule. Whatever happens and unfolds in the coming days in Pakistani politics will be therefore a very charged and highly interesting in that it will determine the orientation of the country’s future political system. With the economy in a free fall, rise in militancy and US concerns and of course, nuclear weapons, any instability will certainly have far reaching impact on not only Pakistan but the entire region of South and West Asia.

Posted by Safdar Jafri | Report as abusive

Descending into chaos is the title of a new book by Ahmad Rashid and one wonders how precisely this title describes the present-day Pakistan. It is probably the only country that the western countries unanimously regard as the most dangerous place on earth. It has had elections after a decade of chanting for restoration of democracy but democracy has also seem to have gone haywire in the wild landscape of the country. Starting from poverty, disunity, chaos, insecurty and extremism, the country has turned into a nightmare for its own people, the region and the international community. What should be done to fix it or at least give it some semblance of order, no one has a clue.

Posted by Safdar Jafri | Report as abusive