02-02-08 - 2

Musharraf has certainly done a lot of things we should be unhappy about, but we have to remember he's in a very difficult situation. He has to contend with four very seperate and powerful forces in Pakistan. 1) The middle class and the lawyers, which wants democracy, rule of law, and stability; they would mostly vote against him if there was a good alternative. 2) The devout muslims and the tribes, which want Sharia law and independence from the government; this faction could easily become very violent if upset, and is dangerously close to a majority which means if there were true open elections they might win. 3) The military. This is Musharraf's base (remember he became president in a coup and his power is still backed by the military) - but the military is quite independent, and portions have strong ties to the tribes or the ISI; if anyone tried to curtail the power of the military they could face a coup. 4) the ISI (the intelligence service), which has strong ties with the tribes and the Taliban, and is very independent and certainly responsible for many political assasinations in Pakistan; again moving against them could easily lead to disaster.

The US official policy is that we want real democracy in Pakistan, but behind closed doors the CIA and State aren't so sure about that. An election could easily destabilize Pakistan if someone is elected that is disliked or moves too fast against the Islamic extremists, the military or the ISI. On the other hand if anyone comes to power that works too closely with any of those factions that could also be bad. Musharraf is doing a half decent job at the moment of keeping all the factions reasonably pacified.

Much like Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, pushing for elections too soon could be a disaster. First you need some level of stability and rule of law, protection against assasination, a fair election system, the confidence of the populace so that no big groups boycott the vote, etc.

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