(by Benny Avni, NYSun.com) – America and Pakistan’s neighbors are being forced to re-evaluate their strategy in the war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the resignation yesterday of President Musharraf, whose nine-year reign included a decision after September 11, 2001, to cooperate closely with America in the fight against international terrorism.
Officials in Washington yesterday were careful to balance statements of praise for Mr. Musharraf with expressions of confidence that his successors would do just as well. But in New Delhi, where Mr. Musharraf’s recent misfortunes are seen as a probable cause for the renewal of Pakistani-Indian hostilities in the disputed region of Kashmir and elsewhere, officials were almost openly ruing his departure.
A Pakistani-born diplomat yesterday said it is ironical that Mr. Musharraf, after long being maligned as a ruthless dictator, could end up ushering in a new, more democratically oriented government in Islamabad. “He left like Nixon did, under pressure of probable impeachment,” the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “Then again, he is also the first Pakistani leader to leave on his own, without being hanged, assassinated, or deposed by the military. For Pakistan, that is a certain step forward.”
But it was unclear yesterday whether Mr. Musharraf would stay in Pakistan, where some are calling for him to be put on trial, or be forced to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the West. Asylum in America “is not on the table,” Secretary of State Rice said yesterday. According to reports from the region, a Saudi plane departed Pakistan yesterday without picking up Mr. Musharraf, after sitting on the tarmac for hours. A leader of the ruling coalition in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, spent years in Saudi exile after he was deposed as prime minister in a 1999 military coup by Mr. Musharraf, who was then chief of the army.
“President Musharraf has been a friend to the United States and one of the world’s most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism,” Ms. Rice said in a statement.
“President Bush appreciates President Musharraf’s efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and extremist groups,” a White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said. He added: “We’re confident that we will maintain a good relationship with the government of Pakistan.”
American officials said they were confident that the uneasy ruling coalition of the moderately Islamic party led by Mr. Sharif and the Western-oriented party that was led by Benazir Bhutto until her assassination and is now led by her widower, Asif Ali Zardari; son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Prime Minister Gilani, would cooperate with America on the war on terror as closely as Mr. Musharraf did. “The war against extremism is bigger than one man,” a State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, said.
Mr. Musharraf’s “departure is a loss for the U.S. because the civilian government will not do as good a job against terrorism,” a former American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told The New York Sun.
In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, “What we needed in Pakistan is someone to stand with us, and Musharraf did just that,” a Bush administration official said yesterday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. America reciprocated to the tune of $10 billion in military support for the Pakistani government after Mr. Musharraf promised to dedicate his army and intelligence services to the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Now, according to some in Washington, the best remaining Pakistani partner in the war on terror is the current army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who has yet to express a preference for any party. Meanwhile, the partnership between the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the secular Pakistan Peoples Party is fragile and unlikely to maintain Mr. Musharraf’s tight grip over the army and the country’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI].
India is specifically concerned that a resurgent ISI could shift Pakistan’s attention to Kashmir and hostilities with New Delhi from the war on terror and the Afghan border. As speculation about Mr. Musharraf’s departure increased in recent weeks, India’s national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan, told a Singaporean newspaper, the Straits Times, that the president’s absence would leave “a big vacuum.” India is “deeply concerned about this vacuum because it leaves the radical extremist outfits with freedom to do what they like, not merely on Pak-Afghan border but clearly our side of the border too,” Mr. Narayanan told the paper.
In recent years, the long-standing tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad have eased under Mr. Musharraf. The two countries established commercial ties, while the situation in Kashmir grew calmer. During the last few weeks, however, cross-border attacks have increased, Pakistani-backed pro-independence Kashmiri fighters have intensified their activities, and diplomatic talks have slowed. Additionally, both India and Afghanistan blamed the ISI for the bombing in July of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. a) For how many years was Pervez Musharraf president of Pakistan?
b) How did Mr. Musharraf become president?
2. What type of relationship did President Musharraf have with the U.S.?
3. What is significant about President Musharraf’s peaceful departure from office?
4. Why does former U.N. ambassador John Bolton say that Mr. Musharraf’s “departure is a loss for the U.S.”?
5. a) What type of relationship had President Musharraf established with India?
b) How are Indian officials reacting to President Musharraf’s resignation? (see paragraphs 2, 11-12)
6. Challenge Question: Read the editorial “After Musharraf” from the Wall Street Journal at
What do the editors think might happen to the government of Pakistan without Mr. Musharraf? What do the editors say the U.S. needs to do now? What do they say the new government in Pakistan needs to understand?
THE GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN: (from wikipedia.org)
- Pakistan is a federal democratic republic with Islam as the state religion.
- The Constitution of Pakistan provides for a Federal Parliamentary System of government, with a President as the Head of State and an indirectly-elected Prime Minister as the chief executive.
- The bicameral legislature (similar to our Congress) is made up of a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly.
- The President is the Head of State and [until November 2007 was the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces] and is elected by an electoral college composed of the Senate, the National Assembly, and the four Provincial Assemblies.
- The President’s appointment and term are constitutionally independent of the Prime Minister’s term. President Pervez Musharraf came to power after a military coup on October 12, 1999. He was chief of the army at that time.
- The Prime Minister of Pakistan is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly.
- If no party wins a majority of the National Assembly, two or more parties may pool their seats and form a coalition to rule the Assembly.
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