Monday, February 25, 2008

Surgeon General's Warning for Pakistan...

Today the NY Times reported that a top Pakistani general was killed by a suicide bomber on Monday in Rawalpindi. The bomber was linked to militants in the tribal areas. Sharif has called for the resignation of Musharraf as well as negotiations with the militants, citing the negotiations between the IRA and British government as a template for ending the ongoing conflict between the Pakistani government and militants in the tribal areas.

While the assassination of top officials has been par for the course as of late in Pakistan, the clamoring for the resignation of Musharraf make these developments particularly disturbing. Now to be fair, Musharraf has not been an ideal democrat and has perpetrated inhuman acts such as the sacking of supreme court officials (oh the horror...). But in these turbulent times in Pakistan, it is important to remember his potential as a transitional figure and his cooperation with the US still make him an asset for US policy makers. Musharraf's successor may not be as cooperative.

Musharraf's administration/dictatorship has also, on the whole, been good for the country. Musharraf has presided over a booming Pakistani economy and has improved Indo-Pakistani relations. This is far more than Sharif any of the other clowns likely to replace Musharraf will accomplish.

Negotiations are likely to prove fruitless, given the fact that Islamic militants have intangible goals, such as the recreation of the Caliphate of Islam's golden age and seek a complete societal revolution.

While the elections in Pakistan may be hailed as the beginning of the new era for Pakistan, they will most likely pave the way for the return of the incompetence of the administrations that preceded Musharraf.
Pakistan is starting to look like the Middle East, a place where when things can't get any worse, they do.

1 comment:

Montey Bukler said...

This is an awesome move for the Taliban in Pakistan. They are attacking the military - Rawalpindi, the site of the attack, houses Pakistan's military headquarters, so it's not exactly a soft target - while making peace overtures to the politicians.

Baitullah Mahsud, recognized as the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, has already reached out to the PPP and Sharif's party, denying any involvement in Bhutto's assassination. At the same time, he is calling for a ceasefire in the areas bordering Afghanistan - the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

If the Taliban can provoke violent retaliations from the military while prompting the new government to seek a more peaceful resolution, it can buy time for the Taliban in Pakistan to consolidate and plan, impede anti-Al-Qaeda and anti-Taliban operations in the mountainous border with Afghanistan.

Compare this to what's happening in Afghanistan - a possible weakening of NATO and US allies to stay the course - and you have a perfect opportunity for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to strengthen their positions. This works out great for the Taliban, since as an insurgency, all they have to do is outlast the occupiers.

Still, the person to watch, much more than Musharaff, is General Ashfaq Kiyani, former head of the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency, that was the conduit for US support for the Mujahudeen during the Afghan-Soviet war)appointed the head of Pakistan's military after Musharaff stepped down in November. Mush is still the lightening rod for criticism, but if there is any hope for containing the Taliban and preventing total collapse in Pakistan, this is going to be the guy who'll be calling the shots.

It'll be interesting to watch how the military reacts to this high-level assassination and how it affects relations between the military and the new government.