Archive for January 26th, 2008

Pakistan is Turning on Musharraf

The title of today’s post was the header of a pertinent Wall Street Journal commentary by Hussain Haqqani, a former adviser to Benazir Bhutto who is currently a professor of International Relations at Boston University. Haqqani wrote, “Pakistan’s embattled President Pervez Musharraf is touring European capitals to try and convince Western governments of the country’s stability, and his own good intentions. He should instead face the evaporation of support for his authoritarian regime at home.” The author cited several reasons to bolster this statement- including the fact that 68% of Pakistanis want the President to “step down immediately,” and that 100 retired military officers recently signed a statement in Pakistan “describing him as an embarrassment to the powerful military that has so far been his power base.” According to Haqqani, “Western governments should no longer accept Mr. Musharraf’s sales pitch that he is a valuable ally in the war against terrorism. A ruler widely hated by his own people is unlikely to be effective in defeating the expanding insurgency waged by al Qaeda’s Taliban allies.”The author asserted that Pakistanis are increasingly united in their disapproval for Musharraf, “and of the civil-military oligarchy he represents.” In a piece by NPR, entitled, “Imran Khan Brings Anti-Musharraf Effort to U.S.,” Pakistani politician and former cricket star Imran Khan criticized U.S. support for the President. He told NPR’s Steve Inskeep, “Gen. Musharraf has done a brilliant PR job here where he has convinced the people that he is one man holding these hordes of terrorists, the bastion against these extremists….” This week, Imran reportedly met with U.S. Congressional leaders and spoke at several engagements in the U.S. in an effort to change the image of the Pakistani President. In the interview with NPR, he asserted, “across the spectrum, from the right to the left, [Pakistanis] want Musharraf to go …. The U.S. administration must be getting this information. In Pakistan, according to all the polls, [U.S. officials] are backing someone who is deeply unpopular in the country.” When asked whether U.S. influence could cause or prevent a change in Pakistan’s government, Imran responded, “Well, at the moment, the only backer of Gen. Musharraf is the U.S. government. The army is only backing him now because they think that the U.S. government backs Musharraf.”

However, Musharraf seems to be defending himself abroad and at home. During his Europe tour this week, the President addressed London’s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), where he called for support, not “criticisms and insinuations.” According to an editorial in today’s Daily Times, Musharraf, in an interview with the BBC, also insisted he was still popular in Pakistan on the basis of his numerous “reliable sources of information” and would “willingly leave if he became unpopular.” Although these statements are interesting in light of the vocalized opposition to his rule, the Times editorial conceded, “The truth is that he is the only leader in Pakistan who at least verbalizes against terrorism and its origins. Not even the leaders of his own party, the PMLQ, are willing to speak on the subject. The opposition parties fear retaliation — even more so after the assassination of Ms. Benazir Bhutto — and seldom say anything on the subject. Keen to avoid being targeted, the media too is far more cautious to report against it than against the government and its glaring inefficiencies.” At this point, are we capable of crediting the Pakistani President with anything positive? Or are we so jaded that we refuse to see any action in a positive light?

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