Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Pakistan’s fractious coalition has agreed to begin impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf but can it really pull it off ? Do they have the numbers — the two-thirds majority required from the National Assembly and Senate combined? Impeachement is like a trial, so what charges will they bring against him?
And then there is the army, still arguably the most powerful institution in a country of 160 million people battling Islamist extremism, tension on its borders with India and Afghanistan where U.S. led coalition forces are hunkered down, and facing an economic meltdown.
Do Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have the consent of the army to go after one of its own in such humiliating fashion?
The questions are jumping off the pages as Pakistanis debate the latest twist in a political drama playing out against the backdrop of a country increasingly restless with the heavy weight of its ally the United States on the one hand, and the rising power of Islamist forces on the other.
This is definitely a case of “the more you know, the less you understand”.
There 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.
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:
The split in Pakistan’s ruling coalition could provide a lifeline for President Pervez Musharraf that the Pakistani people believed they’d yanked away in an election three months ago.
After the Feb.18 poll demolished Musharraf’s parliamentary support, predictions abounded that the politically isolated U.S. ally would be forced from power within weeks or months. Politicians had even talked about impeaching him.
U.S. ambassador Anne W. Patterson, in a speech reported by the Pakistan press, said last week that the depth of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, especially among the middle-class, had surprised her. Pakistan’s long-term interests were aligned with those of the United States, and those opposing U.S. engagement in the country had a limited understanding of how the partnership based on economic assistance had changed the lives of Pakistanis, she told a meeting in Karachi. For added measure, she said that the “ïncreasingly prosperous middle class” would be the first to suffer if hardliners gained ground.
She needn’t have looked further than to events last week to see why America sits rather uneasily on the Pakistani mind, a heavy hand of friendship that Pakistanis are increasingly chafing against.
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is a former High Commissioner of Pakistan and advisor to the late Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan.
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
In his historic play Julius Caesar Shakespeare uses Ides of March to warn the Roman Emperor the tragic fate that was in store for him. And ever since ides of March is used as an appropriate phrase as a precursor to events of far-reaching consequences. In case of Pakistan’s history too this month has great significance on various counts. First and foremost, the Muslims in the sub-continent decided to seek and establish a separate independent homeland through a resolution adopted by All-India Muslim League on March 23, 1940 under the dynamic leadership of its leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. And it was an astounding achievement-entirely to the credit of Mr Jinnah-that within the short span of seven years Pakistan was carved out of the Indian sub-continent to be a secular Muslim state to ensure freedom and equality to all its citizens-irrespective of their caste, creed or colour.
Earlier this month, Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, said relations between India and Pakistan should not be held hostage to Kashmir. The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone.
The writer is Vice Chancellor of the Islamic University of Science & Technology, Kashmir. The views expressed in this article, however, are those of a private citizen.