Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
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 commentator on South Asian political and military affairs and author of “A History of the Pakistan Army”.
By Brian Cloughley
The trouble with the contest to become president of the United States is that it affects us all. No matter how appalled we might be about machine politics of a foreign presidential election, driven and at the mercy of money supplied by staggeringly powerful business interests, the bottom line (literally and figuratively) is that the entire world feels (and sometimes reels from) the influence of the US President. For the past seven years we have witnessed and been gravely affected by economic mismanagement; insolent and malevolent disdain for those who object to “You’re with us or against us”; and an arrogant policy of global military domination to an extent never even dreamed of by the Caesars, Genghis Khan, Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler or Stalin.
It might have been hoped that in November this year the American people would elect a man or woman for all peoples. A person with vision, compassion, a deep knowledge of the world that America dominates, and, above all, that most important of human attributes: informed Common Sense.
In Pakistan, disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan kicked up a storm by saying that the Pakistan Army under President Pervez Musharraf knew about the illegal shipment of uranium centrifuges to North Korea in 2000 — contradicting his earlier confession that he acted alone in spreading Pakistan’s nuclear arms technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Although Khan has subsequently suggested his remarks may have been overplayed, they are nonetheless likely to raise anxieties overseas about Pakistan’s nuclear programme. His statement, and partial retraction, have also spawned a range of conspiracy theories about which of Pakistan’s squabbling politicians stood to gain from it, as seen in the comments to this blog on All Things Pakistan.
The People’s Daily does not run editorials very often about Pakistan and India, so when it does, I pay attention. It just published an op-ed about the latest talks between India and Pakistan on counter-terrorism. The talks themselves appeared to yield little in actual results. Yet according to the People’s Daily, it was an “important step towards mutual political trust”.
“The efforts for peace once again prove that dialogue is the sole path to resolving differences between countries,” it says. “India and Pakistan’s steps on this road are not big yet; but they are moving, in a positive direction.”
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.
Despite 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?
“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?
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.