As leaders of Third World despotisms go, Pervez Musharraf was not that bad. Compared with, say, Hugo Chavez, he is a statesman and a paragon of democracy. His decision to depart voluntarily rather than wait for a bullet or a bomb to end his rule puts him more in the mold of Pinochet than Stalin.
Here’s the report from The Washington Post:
Musharraf Resigns as President of Pakistan
Bowing to pressure from Pakistan’s newly-elected civilian government, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, once a top U.S. ally, said Monday that he will resign from office immediately, ending nearly nine years of largely military rule under his leadership.
Musharraf announced his decision to step down in a nationally televised address 10 days after leaders of Pakistan’s two ruling coalition parties called for his impeachment. Demand for his resignation became increasingly vocal last week after Pakistan’s four provincial assemblies voted overwhelmingly for his ouster.
In the nearly hour-long address, Musharraf struck a defiant and emotional tone, saying that his political opponents had opted for the politics of confrontation over reconciliation. But he said he is stepping down in the interest of maintaining stability in the country.
“I am leaving with the satisfaction that whatever I could do for this country I did it with integrity,” Musharraf said. “I am a human, too. I could have made mistakes, but I believe that the people will forgive me.”
He also added: “I publicly announced my support of the government and to the prime minister. I told them I am ready to offer my experience. But unfortunately the coalition took me for a problem, not a solution.”
Actually, the rumor is that the USA and its allies negotiated with the new government to save Gen. Musharraf’s skin and get him out of the country in one piece, in return for his “voluntary” resignation.
Musharraf’s resignation Monday signaled the end of a long and important relationship with the United States. Musharraf was one of the first Muslim leaders to declare allegiance to Washington after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
If I recall correctly, Gen. Musharraf “declared allegiance to Washington” after Colin Powell paid him a visit and made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Informed sources at the time said that the General was offered the choice between inviting the United States to use Pakistan as a base of operations against the Taliban, or to have the United States do exactly the same thing without an invitation.
Ever since them he has been walking a tightrope, dancing and jiggling to avoid the bombs and bullets aimed at him by Al Qaeda and his enemies in the ISI, all the while trying to cooperate at least minimally with his American protectors:
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With his support, the United States was allowed to use several military bases in Pakistan, while Pakistani army troops were deployed to pursue Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents sheltering in the country’s rugged tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.
In seven years the Pakistani army somehow managed to lose what little control it had in the North West Frontier Province. Events forced the government to make face-saving deals with the tribal areas, granting them local autonomy in return for minimal concessions and meaningless promises.
When Washington turned the screws hard enough, Pakistan contrived to hand over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Aafia Siddiqui, and several other high-level cards in the most-wanted deck. But somehow the Big Two, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain at large.
It was a tremendously risky stance for the leader of one of the world’s most populous and politically divided Muslim nations — one that provoked ire from al-Qaeda leaders in particular. But the alliance earned Pakistan important political dividends and more than $10 billion in U.S. aid, transforming the impoverished country from a political pariah to a regional economic powerhouse.
The “economic powerhouse” depends entirely on American largesse to retain its powerhouse status. Without the ten billion simoleons from Uncle Sugar, Pakistan is a backwater with nukes. Its principal exports are teenage brides and terrorists. If the nukes and the experts that support them could ever be extracted from the country, Pakistan’s economic and strategic significance would be on a par with Yemen’s.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged Monday that the United States will continue efforts to help Pakistan fight terrorism and improve its economy.
“We will continue to work with the Pakistani government and political leaders and urge them to redouble their focus on Pakistan’s future and its most urgent needs, including stemming the growth of extremism, addressing food and energy shortages and improving economic stability,” she said in a statement.
The United States has done a lot of “urging” for the past seven years with precious little to show for it. I’d like to think that some not-quite-so-polite forms of urging are going on behind the scenes, but — given the incompetence of the current administration — I have my doubts.
It may be that we have cut Gen. Musharraf loose due to his increasing inability to affect the course of events in Pakistan:
Signs appeared this spring that the strength of Musharraf’s alliance with the United States was on the wane. U.S. officials expressed increasing frustration with Pakistan’s faltering efforts to blunt the threat from Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents inside Pakistan. As progress stalled on the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, now in its seventh year, U.S. officials became more vocal about their suspicions that intelligence agencies under Musharraf’s regime had been complicit in supporting a resurgent Taliban. Last month, top CIA officials confronted the Pakistani government with evidence that Pakistani intelligence agents had assisted in a suicide bombing attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
Last week, the White House and State Department appeared to distance themselves from the Pakistani president, saying his impeachment was an internal matter for the coalition government to decide. On Sunday, Rice said the United States has no plans to offer Musharraf asylum.
Read the rest of the Post article for more background on US-Pakistani relations. The key paragraphs are at the end:
[Gen. Musharraf’s] personal relationship with President Bush in many ways defined the state of diplomacy between Pakistan and the United States, said Shuja Nawaz, a Washington-based Pakistani defense analyst. The two men seemed to share a similar belief in a strong presidency and penchant for bold action, characteristics that sometimes fueled heavy criticism at home and abroad.
“The Bush-Musharraf relationship really was key to the whole history of Pakistan over the last eight or nine years,” Nawaz said. “It was very personalized diplomacy and it was buttressed by a hefty dose of backing from Vice President Cheney’s office. It created an over-reliance on one personality rather than a system.”
So the twilight of the Bush administration has its parallel in Pakistan. After Musharraf — what?
Some commentators consider this a “victory for democracy in Pakistan”, but I don’t agree. Recent events have shown that the advent of “democracy” in Muslim hellholes like Pakistan thrusts the theocrats and the mujahideen into power. When that happens, Pakistan, unlike Iraq, will have no American troops present to keep events on the ground from getting out of control.
I hope that the brain trusters in the Pentagon are dusting off their contingency plans for rescuing those nukes.
I have a tendency to look at the situation in Pakistan through the lens of a Western perspective, but it’s important to remember that the country with the greatest stake in post-Musharraf Pakistan is right next door. Al Qaeda and its friends in Pakistan are the sworn enemies of approximately 920 million Hindus who live in India, so India has every reason to be watching events in Islamabad very closely.
According to The Hindustan Times:
In the backdrop of persisting reports over the last few days that the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia were negotiating with the PPP-led government for Musharraf’s “safe exit”, speculation continued that he may leave the country to live in Jeddah or in Turkey but there was no confirmation from his side or from the ruling coalition.
Twice during his reign, Musharraf brought Pakistan to the brink of a war with India, the first when he organised the invasion of Kargil and after the Pakistan-supported attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. But he also cooperated in ensuring relative peace along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir during the last five years.
Yet, he made no mention of India or Jammu and Kashmir during his farewell address. Ironically, the separatists in Kashmir welcomed his political demise.
So this is a “victory for democracy”, yet Islamic terrorists in Kashmir are celebrating the departure of General Musharraf. Do they know something that the rest of us don’t?
The Hindu has a different take on the situation. It seems to share the standard State Department view of things, namely that stability is the most important issue. And who knows? If I were an Indian, I might be in complete agreement:
‘Musharraf’s exit will have no impact on Indo-Pak ties’
New Delhi (PTI): The resignation of Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan President will have no impact on the bilateral peace process as it has moved “beyond the establishments”, former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra said here on Monday.
Mishra said India should welcome Musharraf’s exit as he had taken the step to avoid instability in Pakistan.
“The peace process has moved beyond the establishment and Musharraf’s exit will not have an impact,” said Mishra, NSA in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government which initiated the Composite Dialogue process with Pakistan.
“We should welcome the fact that Musharraf has resigned in order not to create instability in Pakistan. The impeachment process against him would have led to instability,” he said.
Mishra said the move augurs well for Pakistan as Musharraf had accepted the verdict of the people of Pakistan who had made their disenchantment with him known in the February elections.
Mishra said the democratic forces should work together to strengthen the peace initiatives with India.
“The two main political parties must not fight amongst themselves for individual interests but work for the good of Pakistan,” he said.
In an apparent reference to the US, Mishra said those countries which had given aid to Pakistan under the Musharraf regime must now support the democratic forces.
“These countries should also respect the verdict of the people of Pakistan. It is a good opportunity for them to play an important role,” Mishra said.
Whether the verdict of the people of Pakistan has actually been heard is questionable. In any case, I still find it hard to believe that “democratic forces” will ever be ascendant in Pakistan — unless Kalashnikovs and sharia constitute the essence of Pakistani democracy.
So two new administrations are about to begin, one with “the Islamic bomb”, and the other with “hope” and “change”.
What will happen after next January 20th?