Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Duplicity of Pakistan's "Tribal" Policy

I have come to admire the editors of The Friday Times (Pakistan) because they have continued to articulate the truth as they see it, despite the disapproval of the government, even to the point of (in more than one instance) going to jail. Because this weekly is not easily available to many people in this country I quote extensively from a recent article exposing the contradictions in Musharraf's policies: clamp down on the Baluch insurrection, give the Pushtun tribes a free reign. It is precisely the withdrawal of Pakistan's army from the Pushtun tribal area of Waziristan that Hakim Taniwal (killed a couple days ago, see my earlier entries on him) worried about: It would give the Taliban and Al Qaeda relief from military pressure so that they could concentrate on the damage they could do across the border in Afghanistan. He was right, and he was one of their targets. But as I indicated earlier, the army was not doing well in Waziristan: it is a rough place to fight a war. Baluchistan is easier and also the stakes for the Pakistan government are larger: gas well is there and the new, brand new, port at Gwadar is in place. So Musharraf had to deploy his resources where it would help him and the Pakistan government most. The result is to leave in place the Taliban-infested Pushtun areas. In the article quoted from below Sethi calls his bluff. Note that the popularity of the "mullahs" ["fundamentalists"] in the survey was no greater than 7%.

State of the Nation
Published: September 8, 2006 (The Friday Times)
What follows is a summation of the article "State of the Nation"

"The writ of the state", thunders General Pervez Musharraf, "shall be enforced at all costs in Balochistan where tribalism stands abolished". Then he blithely surrenders the same dubious writ of the state to resurgent Talibanism and entrenched tribalism in Waziristan and celebrates the retreat of the state as a "historic breakthrough". The truth is that General Musharraf is selling pure opportunism as principled constitutionalism. Â…A May 2006 public opinion survey conducted in Pakistan by the International Republican Institute, a reputable research organization of the US Republican Party of General Musharraf's best friend, President Bush, revealed that 66% percent of all Pakistanis wanted their exiled leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif back in Pakistan to contest the next general elections. Indeed, 77% thought that Pakistan needed a strong but popular leader - General Musharraf seems 'strong' by virtue of his uniform but he has admitted his popularity is waning, most respondents in the survey think he shouldn't be army chief and president at the same time, and Ms Bhutto (18%) leads the pack for primeministership. Most interestingly, 60% want a parliamentary system instead of a presidential system, a majority believes that General Musharraf's regime will not hold free and fair elections, and only 7% will want to vote for the mullahs and religious parties.Â…[H]e refuses to extricate himself from the clutches of the unpopular mullahs and embrace the popular political parties, he insists on strong presidential powers in a weak parliamentary system,Â…. The state has to sincerely enable the exiled popular political leaders to return and give them a transparent and level playing field in the next elections under a neutral caretaker government.

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