Sunday, September 02, 2007

Islamabad News For Musharraf

Developments in Pakistan keep one wondering how much longer Bush will wait to step in:
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says negotiations with the country's leadership have broken down and that she will announce the day she is coming home on 14 September.

Nawaz Sharif, another exiled former PM, has already fixed a date for his return - 10 September - and he will head a procession through Punjab province, the country's political heartland, to his home city of Lahore.
In case you're keeping score, that's three people with legitimate claim to lead Pakistan.

Bhutto and Musharraf had been negotiating, at first secretly then not-so-secretly, over a power sharing scheme. Musharraf is under pressure from the Pakistani judiciary, since the law states clearly that no one can be head of the state and head of the army at the same time.

It didn't help matters much that Musharraf has had run-ins with the Pakistani courts, trying to fire the equivalent of a SCOTUS judge earlier this year.

Too, Bhutto herself is under some heat, as she has corruption charges pending against her, from two separate administrations (no wonder Condi Rice likes her!)

Clearly, Sharif don't like it (sorry), this pending coalition. A Bhutto-Musharraf power sharing scheme would see a coalition of moderate Pakistani (mostly Muslim) created, although not without some major rifts to be patched over among followers.

Sharif was deposed by Musharraf, so a deal between those two factions would be even more unlikely than a Bhutto/Musharraf alliance.

Sharif is no picnic either. Although he was successful in passing a constitutional amendment that essentially put an end to the process that has seen ten prime ministers since 1990 (the president of Pakistan, the position Musharraf holds, could remove the prime minister, the more powerful post, by declaration), he also passed some pretty nasty legislation with regards to the legislative process, in that the parliament could not declare a vote of no confidence and all party members had to vote along party lines.

Kinda negates the whole democratic process, don't you think?

We're not talking about the lesser of three evils, in other words: on the one hand, in Musharraf you have a military leader, a dictator, who's loyalties lie with an army that has been notorious for aiding the Taliban and Al Qaeda. On the other hand, you have a deposed prime minister who has long-standing (and likely true) corruption charges hanging over her head, and on the other other hand, you have a deposed prime minister who's a bit tyrranical in his own right.

All this unfolds against the backdrop of a deadline of November for new elections, and a growing-but-small number of radical Islamists likely following the Hezbollah and Hamas models for gaining entree into the mainstream political process in order to co-opt a moderate Muslim nation (and for a very good explanation of this crisis, I recommend you pick up this month's National Geographic magazine).

This election in Pakistan could be the single most important development in the United States 2008 Presidential election.