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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Terror War Re-Evaluated as Musharraf Steps Down.
By BENNY AVNI, Staff Reporter of the Sun | August 19, 2008

America and Pakistan’s neighbors are being forced to re-evaluate their strategy in the war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the resignation yesterday of President Musharraf, whose nine-year reign included a decision after September 11, 2001, to cooperate closely with America in the fight against international terrorism.

President Musharraf of Pakistan responds to people gathered after the farewell ceremony in Islamabad yesterday. Officials in Washington yesterday were careful to balance statements of praise for Mr. Musharraf with expressions of confidence that his successors would do just as well. But in New Delhi, where Mr. Musharraf’s recent misfortunes are seen as a probable cause for the renewal of Pakistani-Indian hostilities in the disputed region of Kashmir and elsewhere, officials were almost openly ruing his departure.

A Pakistani-born diplomat yesterday said it is ironical that Mr. Musharraf, after long being maligned as a ruthless dictator, could end up ushering in a new, more democratically oriented government in Islamabad. “He left like Nixon did, under pressure of probable impeachment,” the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “Then again, he is also the first Pakistani leader to leave on his own, without being hanged, assassinated, or deposed by the military. For Pakistan, that is a certain step forward.”

But it was unclear yesterday whether Mr. Musharraf would stay in Pakistan, where some are calling for him to be put on trial, or be forced to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the West. Asylum in America “is not on the table,” Secretary of State Rice said yesterday. According to reports from the region, a Saudi plane departed Pakistan yesterday without picking up Mr. Musharraf, after sitting on the tarmac for hours. A leader of the ruling coalition in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, spent years in Saudi exile after he was deposed as prime minister in a 1999 military coup by Mr. Musharraf, who was then chief of the army.

“President Musharraf has been a friend to the United States and one of the world’s most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism,” Ms. Rice said in a statement.

“President Bush appreciates President Musharraf’s efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and extremist groups,” a White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said. He added: “We’re confident that we will maintain a good relationship with the government of Pakistan.”

American officials said they were confident that the uneasy ruling coalition of the moderately Islamic party led by Mr. Sharif and the Western-oriented party that was led by Benazir Bhutto until her assassination and is now led by her widower, Asif Ali Zardari; son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Prime Minister Gilani, would cooperate with America on the war on terror as closely as Mr. Musharraf did. “The war against extremism is bigger than one man,” a State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, said.

Mr. Musharraf’s “departure is a loss for the U.S. because the civilian government will not do as good a job against terrorism,” a former American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told The New York Sun.

In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, “What we needed in Pakistan is someone to stand with us, and Musharraf did just that,” a Bush administration official said yesterday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. America reciprocated to the tune of $10 billion in military support for the Pakistani government after Mr. Musharraf promised to dedicate his army and intelligence services to the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Now, according to some in Washington, the best remaining Pakistani partner in the war on terror is the current army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who has yet to express a preference for any party. Meanwhile, the partnership between the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the secular Pakistan Peoples Party is fragile and unlikely to maintain Mr. Musharraf’s tight grip over the army and the country’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence.

India is specifically concerned that a resurgent ISI could shift Pakistan’s attention to Kashmir and hostilities with New Delhi from the war on terror and the Afghan border. As speculation about Mr. Musharraf’s departure increased in recent weeks, India’s national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan, told a Singaporean newspaper, the Straits Times, that the president’s absence would leave “a big vacuum.” India is “deeply concerned about this vacuum because it leaves the radical extremist outfits with freedom to do what they like, not merely on Pak-Afghan border but clearly our side of the border too,” Mr. Narayanan told the paper.

In recent years, the long-standing tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad have eased under Mr. Musharraf. The two countries established commercial ties, while the situation in Kashmir grew calmer. During the last few weeks, however, cross-border attacks have increased, Pakistani-backed pro-independence Kashmiri fighters have intensified their activities, and diplomatic talks have slowed. Additionally, both India and Afghanistan blamed the ISI for the bombing in July of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

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So, all acknowledge that the real power in Pakistan – military dictatorship or not – is in the hands of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and who rules over them? Quite clearly, there never was a Pakistani Ataturk – and what do these generals want? Whatever it is – it is not democracy.

What does Military Nationalism mean in a Pakistani context? Where is their loyalty when it comes to the Taliban, and even Al-Qaeda? What was their historic relationship to the Saudi Arabian money pipeline, or to the US involvement in the Cold War heating-up proxy-stage in Afghanistan with the introduction of religious extremism well funded via the Saudis? Will someone start using this Sunni potential as an antidote to the Iranian Shia element in the larger Islamic World? Historically, it was just only Pakistan, who besides the Saudi monarchy, recognized the annexation of Jerusalem by Jordan. Without a military hand ruling in Islamabad – this being replaced by a politically broad, but weak, alliance – will the ISI, and everybody else, find it more convenient to spend the ISI time now in playing the fields outside Pakistan, rather then trying to muddle the waters at home? Will anyone look under the rug of the old nuclear materials, and know-how sales, and will there be a second round of this sort of sales – specially as they have more to offer then Iran or North Korea?

Musharraf or not, the incomming US President will have to worry about what goes on inside the nominal borders of Pakistan much more then the stated preocupation with Afghanistan.

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