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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#2511, 8 March 2008
Musharraf and the 'TINA' Factor Firdaus
Even to democracy enthusiasts, a post-Musharraf Pakistan, visualized as a democratic ideal, lies in the fairly distant future. A reading of the General's bestselling autobiography informs that although many want the General to fade away, he is likely to be on the scene for some time longer albeit in a more appealing civilian attire.
While conceding that the military keeps political evolution on hold and that the return of the military to the barracks is the solution to the travails of democracy in praetorian states; whether Pakistan should, or can, become a beacon of democracy in the Islamic world is worth reflecting upon. The General's place is assured by the elections being held in a fair manner. This opportunity requires Musharraf to stay the course in his emulation of his idol, Kemal Ataturk. As with Turkey, a period of 'guided democracy' is desirable as it is inevitable.
The earlier record of civilians at the helm has not been edifying. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's role after the elections in 1970 was partly responsible for the breakup of Pakistan. Both the two-term Prime Ministers of the 1990s were both deposed for corruption and mismanagement of national affairs. The current state of the premier political party, the PPP, is clear from its inability to select a credible leader. This contributes to the uncertainty prevailing over the complexion of the government and will hover over the new government well into the middle of its term.
This is also a crucial juncture for the GWOT threatening to envelop Pakistan, compelling continuity. President Musharraf, by handing over the baton to Gen. Kiyani, has strategically positioned himself to support the new army chief, who has distanced the Army from the administration, no doubt to implement Musharraf's grand design. Thus, the present situation that will see an untested civilian as head of state does not lend itself to acceleration in Pakistan's political development. Current optimism should not obscure the fact that, only by the turn of the year will it be clear whether Pakistan has weathered the threat of a civil war in the country.
That this threat exists is evident from a Lieutenant General falling victim to a suicide attack right in the middle of Rawalpindi. So far Pakistan has participated in the GWOT, to the extent of incurring over 1,000 casualties; it has shown restraint in these operations in accordance with its definition of the national interest - this explains its attempting the now-redundant self-policing agreement with the tribal leadership in Waziristan. That external pressures for military action have a potential backlash is apparent from the resignation of Gen. Aurakzai, the architect of the Waziristan agreement, as Governor of the NWFP. Musharraf has therefore, been proven right in adopting a restrained approach, privileging internal stability in the heartland with a discriminating approach in the hinterland.
This measured approach adds to the problems faced by NATO and the 50,000 US troops in Aghanistan, which accords with the history of interventions there. The Bush administration may mount pressure to achieve its global war aims in the lame-duck year of the presidency. That Musharraf is cognizant of these dangers is evident from his earlier warning to the US that Pakistan would resist any unilateral military action in its tribal regions on the Afghan border. Thus, Musharraf remains Pakistan's best bet to withstand pressures even while going the distance, in a 'Pakistan first' strategy.
Though this may seem to compromise his utility for the purposes of the GWOT, he has been publicly backed by the US Secretary of State in the teeth of democratic over-enthusiasm. The recent election, in defusing much of the anti-hegemony angst in Pakistan, has drawn it away from the brink. With civil society cauterized from further fundamentalist pressures through the anti-fundamentalist mandate, the military has been politically empowered to approach anti-extremist operations with greater single-mindedness.
Asif Ali Zardari has provided the first signals of the future direction in remaking Indo-Pakistani relations by indicating that these would not be held hostage to the Kashmir issue. Thus, what has been described as the 'common threat' by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is concurred with across the border. India's National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, in an interview,, has recorded India's 'grudging respect' for Musharraf as a 'credible interlocutor,' with whom India could 'continue doing business with.' This has positive portents for the security scene with the elections in J&K soon approaching. India would need to get the Hurriyat and - political sagacity permitting - the Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen on board. To the extent this initiative succeeds it will enable Pakistan to cease its support for militancy in J&K.
Thus, the continuation of President Musharraf at the helm has advantages not only for Pakistan but also for the US and India into the middle term - not least because of the 'TINA factor.'

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