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Farewell Musharraf, Farewell Pakistan?

At FrontPage Magazine today, they have chosen to run Farewell Musharraf, Farewell Pakistan? as their feature article. It’s a look at the current difficulties for both the United States and Pakistan as the new government seeks to impeach president Pervez Musharraf. If he is impeached or steps down beforehand - and the latter now appears probable - the United States will see much of the current Pakistani cooperation evaporate.

The government of Pakistan is in far more disarray now than before Musharraf’s PML-Q party was unceremoniously given the electoral boot. Power struggles continue to play out with an ebb and flow that tear at fought-over institutions and in ways the very writ of government. Pakistan lacks a strong central figure that, for all his flaws (and they are many), it at least had in Musharraf. Pakistan has always been infamous in its corruption, and the battle lines only magnify that now, with instability growing and encroaching on American strategy against terror like gathering storm clouds on the too-near horizon.

For there are two central tenets that the ruling PPP/PML-N coalition agree on; distancing themselves from the United States as an ally in the war on terror and the ouster of Pervez Musharraf, America’s most vital connection. Both of these tenets are aims shared by both al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who have made numerous assassination attempts on Musharraf and are currently executing a very patient insurgency inside Pakistan. This is not to say that the Pakistani ruling coalition and the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance are partners by any means – and certainly not the PPP, whose leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by the latter.

But it is worth noting that the head of the PML-N, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was reported by the Pakistani press at the time to have received billions of rupees as a campaign donation by Usama bin Laden in his first failed run at the premiership in the late 1980’s. He also has a close relationship with Hamid Gul, the former ISI director said to be good friends with bin Laden and often referred to as the father of the Taliban, which he had a significant hand in creating and supporting.

This is the new government of Pakistan, which seeks the end of Musharraf’s days and the end of Pakistan’s days as anything more than a nominal American ally. And there appears little in the way to prevent that. The future for us thus becomes much more difficult in our drive to liquidate al-Qaeda and the Taliban, still with sound sanctuary in the parts of Pakistan where the government has little if any writ. And the level of that writ decreases daily in more and more areas.

Musharraf’s resignation appears imminent as India’s The Hindu reports today that Musharraf’s own PML-Q party has abandoned him and voted in Sindh province for his impeachment to proceed.

Speculation that President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation may be imminent heightened after his political isolation became apparent when even the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, until now a trusted ally, deserted him on Wednesday in Pakistan’s Sindh provincial assembly.
The Sindh Assembly was following the Punjab and the North West Frontier Province assemblies in passing a resolution demanding that the retired General Musharraf step down or seek a vote of confidence.

This will have two affects, generally. First, it will drive the United States ever closer to India, whom many - including this writer - have long seen as a natural ally for the United States, complications of the Cold War notwithstanding, of course.

Second, it will put the new Pakistani government in a challenging position of balancing the appearance of just enough cooperation to maintain the billions in aid now coming from America with the distancing from America that they desire.

At the end of the day, they cannot have it both ways. And the closer the United States’ relationship grows with India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, the more distant the United States and its aid will drift (via its own inertia) from a very needy Pakistan. In short, they will get that which they desire.

And as damaging as it may be for US interests, it will ultimately be exponentially more damaging for Pakistan herself, struggling with a slow motion insurgency from the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, patiently and effectively executing its strategy of ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts.’ Musharraf’s exit will be an amputation among hundreds of cuts thus far.

When a domestic party’s interests intersect with that of their nation’s own internal (or external) enemies, the results are always ugly - a fact not exclusive to Pakistan.