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Understanding America, Understanding Pakistan

Many spend considerable time working to understand Pakistan. So it's refreshing to read a Pakistani who so understands America. From Dr Manzur Ejaz in Pakistan's Daily Times on "The Schism" between Musharraf and Washington.

This episode indicates that the Bush Administration and Musharraf are not on the same wavelength when it comes to the political future of Pakistan. While Musharraf wants to remain president in uniform and keep the political status quo, the US seems to want a fundamental change that will allow exiled leaders, especially Benazir Bhutto, to come back and fill the vacuum that is currently occupied by religious parties and extreme conservatives of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

The Bush Administration’s desire to see a change of government in Pakistan is due to possible difficulties and questions that will arise in the Congress regarding Pak-US relations. Furthermore, in the last few months, Washington circles have reached a consensus that extremism and terrorism cannot be handled properly in the current political environment of Pakistan. US analysts also believe that status quo will only benefit the extremist elements. Hence the need to reconfigure Pakistan’s politics.

While the entire column should be read, take special note of the next paragraph, particularly the subtle warning in its final sentence.

In stopping Musharraf from imposing emergency and emphasising the need for transparent elections, the US has indicated that it cannot sacrifice its long-term interests for just one person, no matter how desirable his tenure may be. The US is using the term ‘fair elections’ to indicate to Musharraf that he needs to allow other major politicians to come and participate in the elections. Musharraf, on the contrary, wants to keep his political set up in place and get re-elected without removing his uniform. Therefore, there is a serious divide between Musharraf and the US. Such a schism may result in unpredictable events that can change the entire political discourse as it exists.

It's not the first time I have read Dr. Ejaz's columns in the Daily Times. I do, however, stumble upon him far too often and seek him out not nearly enough. That should change.