UPDATE-Will Musharraf’s resignation bring stability to Pakistan?

August 18, 2008

PPP supporters dancing in the streets/Athar HussainUPDATE – President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation has been greeted with jubilation from supporters of the ruling PML-N and PPP parties (see picture right), and sparked a rally in the stock market. But reading through the comments on this and other blogs, I can’t see any clear theme emerging, with some praising and others condemning Musharraf’s legacy, some regretting and others welcoming his departure, and many fretting about the future.

I rather liked this comment on All Things Pakistan which seemed to sum up the many contradictions of people struggling to work out how to rally around a common cause:

“We celebrate on arrival and departure of the same person.
We praise those who left the scene.
Dead become heroes and living and serving are being accused.”

India, meanwhile, has been muted in its response. But Indian analysts who once derided Musharraf as the architect of the 1999 Kargil war are now fretting that his departure could unleash fresh tensions from Kashmir to Kabul if it is allowed to create a vacuum which can be exploited by Islamist militants.

PPP supporter fires in the air to celebrate Musharraf’s resignationThere is much speculation too about what Musharraf will do next, and where he will go.  Some have read his feisty resignation speech — a long defence of his legacy — as evidence that he might eventually try to re-enter politics; others see in his final “Goodbye Pakistan” remarks , a sign he is preparing to leave the country. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Turkey have all been touted as possible destinations. (You can see some of the stories on his likely next home here, here and here.)

In the end, Musharraf has turned out to be as unpredictable in his departure as he was throughout his career both in the army and in politics. Looking through his memoirs, “In the Line of Fire”, for clues to his next move, I was struck by the following quote from another former general which Musharraf cites as a maxim in his own life:

“Napoleon said that two-thirds of decision making is based on study, analysis, calculations, facts, and figures, but the other third is always a leap in the dark, based on one’s gut.”

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President Pervez Musharraf/April file photoPresident Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation, ending months of speculation about the fate of the former army general after his political allies were trounced in an election in February.

But even before he said he would step down, analysts were already beginning to look to the challenges of a post-Musharraf era — spiralling inflation, food and fuel shortages; al Qaeda and Taliban militants on its border with Afghanistan; political in-fighting among the civilian politicians who took power in February. (You can see my last post on this here.)

So will Musharraf’s resignation help bring stability to Pakistan? Or are the problems faced by Pakistan — sandwiched between a turbulent Afghanistan and a resurgent India, both of which blame it for failing to curb Islamist militancy — too great?

How much will the three countries with the closest ties to Pakistan — China, Saudi Arabia and the United States — help or interfere? And what of the main domestic players in the unfolding drama: the judiciary, the civilian government and the Pakistan Army?

   

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