Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Ex-Ambassador Predicts Political Turmoil in Pakistan
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Friday, Aug. 10, 2007
A prominent political commentator in Pakistan came to Washington, D.C., this week to deliver a stark message.
No matter what happens with the
much-rumored "deal" to form a civilian-military government between Gen.
Perviz Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, now living
in exile, Pakistan faces a period of extended political turmoil that
could dramatically impact the U.S.-led global war on terror, former
Pakistani Ambassador Tariq Fatemi told an audience in Washington on
News reports in recent days out of
the Pakistani capitol, Islamabad, revealed that Musharraf has asked
INTERPOL, the international criminal police organization, to withdraw
outstanding arrest warrants against Bhutto and her husband based on
indictments in Pakistani courts.
The arrest warrants are known as "red
notices." Bhutto and her husband have been accused by the government of
Pakistan of corruption.
A separate complaint against the two
on money-laundering charges by a court in Switzerland may not have been
affected by Musharraf's request.
Musharraf was forced "to eat humble pie" by meeting with Bhutto, an avowed political enemy, last week in Dubai, Fatemi said.
While Musharraf's request to INTERPOL
signaled his intent to allow Bhutto to return to Pakistan, leaders of
her People's Party now feel they have the upper hand against Musharraf
and are demanding that he give up his military commission if he wants
to stand for re-election as Pakistan's president, Fatemi added.
Under Pakistani law, Musharraf
must stand for re-election by Parliament in September or October, or
impose a state of emergency and martial law.
If he invokes emergency powers under
Pakistan's constitution, Musharraf could dissolve parliament and rule
by decree for one year.
Alternatively, he could keep the
current Parliament, which he controls, and ask them to re-elect him as
president, a scenario Fatemi felt was less likely to occur.
"The president's re-election in uniform is now out of the question," Fatemi said, "because all parties oppose it."
As Pakistan's ambassador to
Washington until the civilian government of former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif was overthrown in October 1999 in Musharraf's military coup,
Fatemi has long navigated the inner circles of successive Pakistani
He was personally present when
Sharif held a historic first meeting with his Indian counterpart, Atal
Bahaji Vajpayee, in July 1998 to discuss the decades-long conflict
between the two giants of South Asia.
Both countries had just conducted
nuclear weapons tests, and tensions between them were high. Musharraf,
who was Pakistan's army chief of staff at the time, "didn't want to be
seen" anywhere near the Indian leader, Fatemi said.
Progress in resolving Indian-Pakistan
differences came to a halt when Islamic extremists, believed to have
the support of Musharraf and the Pakistani army, seized the town of
Cargill in the Indian sector of disputed Kashmir in late 1998.
Since his military coup against
Sharif one year later, Musharraf has walked a fine line between
supporting Islamic extremists and fighting them.
After unleashing the Pakistani
security forces against extremists who had seized control of the Red
Mosque in Islamabad last month, Musharraf appears to be "lost,
confused, and unsure of himself," Fatemi said.
That uncertainty has caused him to reach out to his former political enemies.
The Pakistani Supreme Court is
expected to rule later this week in favor of allowing Sharif to return
to Pakistan. Fatemi said his return would lead to "further turmoil" in
Pakistan's troubled domestic politics.
While Fatemi and his hosts at the
Washington, D.C., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace favored a
return to civilian rule in Pakistan, he made clear that any successor
civilian government to Musharraf would make significant changes in its
handling of the war on terror.
"There is growing skepticism in Pakistan on the long-term objectives of the war on terror," he said.
Politicians see "the endless saga of American demands, and feel this is less Pakistan's war, and more America's war," he added.
Any future civilian leader who comes
to power through legitimate elections "will have to convince people
that engagement in the global war on terror is to their advantage."
Winning that support will be "the greatest challenge for the next
government," he said.
Fatemi predicted that a future
civilian government would require the Pakistani army to "abandon any
involvement in domestic politics, including counter-insurgency
operations" now underway against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Waziristan
and the NorthWest Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan.
The former ambassador tried
unsuccessfully to convince his audience that the Taliban was "not all
bad," and that some of the extremist madrassas – Islamic schools – in
the tribal areas were providing useful social services, not just
indoctrination into jihad.
"What he is saying is that the army
will abandon the NorthWest Frontier province to the Islamists,"
commented Steven Cohen, a prominent expert on SouthWest Asia with the
Brookings Institution. "The army hasn't realized how deep a problem it
has," Cohen said.
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