Benazir Bhutto obviously knows that she and her party have no chance whatsoever of unseating General Musharraf by a purely internal struggle. Her only chance is to influence American opinion and thus influence the White House to influence the Pakistani dictator. It should be obvious how many miscalculations she has made there - the American people don't really care, the White House doesn't intend listening even if they did and even if by some miracle it decided the people knew best Mushie would thumb his nose at the lot because he knows he has everyone over a barrel. As The Guardian today puts it:
Gen Musharraf has called Washington and London's bluff, knowing they have no option but to back him. In launching what is, in effect, his second military coup in eight years, the general has exposed the impotence of the US and Britain to control a key ally with nuclear weapons. With troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and the military situation in Nato's war against the Taliban and al-Qaida delicately poised, the US cannot make more than faint bleating noises when its key ally across the border buries democracy for the foreseeable future. Condoleezza Rice said last night that Washington was reviewing the aid package to Pakistan, but the options of the US secretary of state are limited - if, that is, she wants Pakistan's army to continue its costly campaign in Waziristan. The American empire, if there is such a thing, is only just coming to terms with the fact that one of its pro-consuls has gone awol.Still, Bhutto hits the facts well enough in her op-ed for CNN today, a plea aimed at America-at-large in which she implicitly accuses Musharraf's regime of being behind the recent attempt to kill her.
I have long claimed that the rise of extremism and militancy in Pakistan could not happen without support from elements within the current administration. My return to my country poses a threat to the forces of extremism that have thrived under a dictatorship. They want to stop the restoration of democracy at any price. They have exploited a poor, desperate, and powerless people and allowed extremists the right environment in which to flourish.All this really is the heart of the con game Musharraf has been playing all these years - his own regime is the direction and funding force behind the very terrorists he's meant to be fighting. The only "terrorists" he ever rounds up are those who got too big for their britches and decided to assert some self-control. As long as the extremists do his regime's bidding, they are safe, coddled and protected. The Bush administration can hardly be unaware of this - after all, they've been told it often enough by the Afghani government, Indian intelligence and their own NATO allies. But a seeming ally plays better, and creates more opportunity for fear-mongering rather than actual real and present danger - all to the domestic political good.
The ruling party is an artificial, political party created in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA) during the General Elections of 2002. Its core support comes from the political partners of the military dictator of the '80s, General Zia al-Haq, who empowered the most radical elements within the Afghan Mujahedeen who went on to morph into al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani militants of today.
Which, of course, begs the question of why Bhutto was ever negotiating with Musharraf in the first place. Former UK ambassador Craig Murray provides a concise answer:
It has to be said that, with very few exceptions, Pakistan's leading democratic politicians are, and always have been, a venal shower. But being clear eyed about that in no way justifies Musharraf's desperate attempt to extend his power.An attempt that will succeeed. Speculation about any possible replacement for Musharraf ignores the obvious - he isn't going to be replaced. The heir-apparent appears to be General Musharraf's appointee as his second-in-command of the military. He's a Musharraf loyalist who was formerly head of the ISI. The simple truth here is that Musharraf cannot be toppled except by the army, and he has ensured the army will not do so.
Update No, I don't believe today's statement from Pakistan that the January elections will go ahead as planned, after yesterday's announcement that they would be indefinitely delayed. General Musharraf was meant to be out of uniform by now - another broken promise. The man's word is worth nothing.
Update 2 Musharaff has had arrested at least 2,000 - quite possibly as many as 3,500 - political dissidents, mostly middle-class lawyers and mostly using brutal methods already. He's being quite clear about his aims and they have nothing to do with fighting Islamic extremists.
Under intense pressure from the United States and other Western allies to hold elections as scheduled in January, Musharraf said Monday he would relinquish control of the military and return the country to ``the same track as we were moving'' but he gave no indication when the vote would take place.Congratulations to the Dutch, who are the first nation to declare they will cut off aid to the Pakistani dictator.
``I am determined to remove my uniform once we correct these pillars - the judiciary, the executive, and the parliament,'' Musharraf was quoted by state-run Pakistan Television as telling foreign ambassadors Monday.
``I can assure you there will be harmony ... confidence will come back into the government, into law enforcement agencies and Pakistan will start moving again on the same track as we were moving.''
Public anger was mounting in the nation of 160 million people, which has been under military rule for much of its 60-year history, but demonstrations so far have been limited largely to activists, rights workers and lawyers - angered by his attacks on the judiciary. All have been quickly and sometimes brutally stamped out.
...Even lawyers who were not involved in protests appeared to be targeted.
One, Imran Qadi Khan, said police pulled him off a bus near Musharraf's army office in Rawalpindi, just south of the capital, as he was heading to work. ``We have been sitting here since morning,'' he said from prison. ``The police are not telling us anything about what they plan to do with us.''
Another, Mohammad Khan Zaman, said he evaded capture by running to his nearby office. ``The police arrested anyone wearing the lawyer's uniform,'' he said, referring to the profession's trademark black suits.
Musharraf has also moved quickly to control the media, which he said was partly to blame for the current crisis.
Police raided and briefly sealed a printing press belonging to Pakistan's largest media group on Monday. They also tried to storm a press club in Karachi. Broadcasts by independent news networks remained blocked, and domestic transmissions of the BBC and CNN were off the air.
In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds of police and paramilitary troops lined roads and rolled out barbed-wire barricades on Monday to seal off the Supreme Court.
Rana Bhagwandas, a Supreme Court judge who refused to take oath under Musharraf's proclamation of emergency orders, said that he has been locked inside his official residence in Islamabad and that other judges were being pressured to support the government.