Pakistan’s Way Out of the Abyss

Pakistan has come to a point in which political half measures are no longer an option.

Its economy is in tatters, amidst a global recession that will be multi-year.  The textile industry contracted by 33% this past year.  Skilled and unskilled laborers will be returning from Dubai with little possibility of local employment. This year’s growth rate will be below 3%, which, for an impoverished country like Pakistan is effectively negative growth.

The militant threat is rising.  Meanwhile, the state security apparatus — in a fast replay of Musharraf’s downward spiral in 2007 — is presently oriented around suppressing domestic dissent, at the cost of combating takfiri terrorists.

Political reform is non-existent. State failures are mounting on top of those that have accumulated over the decades.  Pockets of the country in which the primary organs of the state — the elected leadership, bureaucracy, police, and judiciary — are non-functional have proven to be ripe for the rise of militant vigilantism.  These pockets exist not only in the Pashtun belt bordering Afghanistan, but also in no-go areas in major cities and a good number of rural districts throughout the country.

State resources must be channeled to combat these threats and seize opportunities to put Pakistan on the right course.

For that to occur, Pakistan needs detente between its two largest parties, the Peoples Party (PPP) and Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).  They must serve as anchors of stability, not agents of chaos.

There is, however, no trust between the the Peoples Party (PPP) and Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). The sole reason for the breakdown in trust is the fact that President Asif Ali Zardari made three separate agreements with former Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, only to renege on his commitments after the expiry of each deadline.

The absence of trust and the imminence of a direct confrontation between the Long Marchers and an increasingly repressive state apparatus necessitates immediate, decisive change on the part of the PPP-led federal government to restore political stability.

So how does Pakistan get there?

  1. END GOVERNOR’S RULE IN PUNJAB: Allow the PML-N to form a coalition in the province, preferably with the PPP.  Reverse bureaucratic and judicial changes made after the imposition of governor’s rule.
  2. EXPAND THE NRO: Immediately pass a new amendment that expands the National Reconciliation Ordinance to political parties left out, enables the Sharifs to run for office, and removes the two-term bar on elected officials.
  3. RESTORE CHIEF JUSTICE IFTIKHAR CHAUDHRY: Let him serve the remainder of his term with honor and respect.  A judge who stands up for the rule of law is not an enemy, but a national hero.  He is a potential asset for revitalizing civil law in Pakistan.  Western governments need to realize this.  Neither his term nor his powers should be reduced.
  4. CREATE A NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT: Invite the PML-N to rejoin the federal cabinet.  If the PML-N declines, it should become a productive policy-oriented opposition with a complete shadow cabinet.  As a sign of good faith, the PPP can vacate a National Assembly or Senate seat and offer it to Tehreek-e Insaf’s Imran Khan.
  5. COMMIT TO A NON-AGGRESSION PACT: Have all power brokers commit to letting the national and provincial assemblies complete their terms.
  6. RESTORE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF PARLIAMENT: Reduce presidential powers to their original form.  Improve the functioning of parliamentary oversight committees. Televise their proceedings on a dedicated terrestrial channel.
  7. IMPLEMENT THE CHARTER OF DEMOCRACY: The COD is one of the best political consensus documents in Pakistan since the 1973 constitution.  It is the product of the maturation of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. [Full text of COD] Start with issues such as provincial autonomy and the National Finance Commission award, which will help improve inter-provincial relations and bring the Baloch out of the periphery.

The steps above ensure the political participation of all the major players in the present political setup; they all get a piece of the pie.  Pakistan is then able to focus on pressing issues such as economic and political reform, counterterrorism, and poverty alleviation.

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Filling in the Blanks: Nat_____ Recon_________

Let’s Continue Our Conversation…in London
Shahbaz Sharif, president of the Muslim League-Nawaz, tells BBC Urdu that “If Musharraf becomes neutral and promises to hold the polls in a free and fair manner, talks can be held with him.” This is a major break with precedent. Previously the Sharif brothers have publicly ruled out any compromise with Musharraf.

It’s unclear whether Shahbaz’s statement has his brother’s endorsement, though this is highly likely. It could be that Shahbaz is playing good cop, while Nawaz plays bad cop. Additionally, Shahbaz is seen as more conciliatory than his older brother, which would provide Nawaz with some cover (i.e. creating the impression that his brother talked him down from the ledge). A less likely alternative is that Musharraf could be successfully playing one Sharif brother off of the other by offering Shahbaz, not Nawaz, a major position in the national unity government (perhaps prime minister).

Shahbaz has extended his stay in London, where he’ll meet with retired Brigadier Niaz Ahmed (they met in Islamabad over a week ago) and could meet with Pervez Musharraf, who has begun a four nation tour of Europe.

Musharraf will eventually make his way to London, but there are no meetings with government officials slated. Gordon Brown is currently in India, where he called for New Delhi’s addition to the UN Security Council. Musharraf could be avoiding Brown’s snub of Pakistan, but his trip is also designed to temper European opposition. Musharraf will also meet Niaz Ahmed. Prior to leaving Pakistan, Musharraf met with the emir of Abu Dhabi on Saturday. The emirate played host to a Bhutto-Musharraf meeting in July.

Zardari and Malik Qayyum Meet in Dubai
National reconciliation talks must, apparently, occur outside of Pakistan, and so Attorney General Malik Qayyum met with Asif Ali Zardari in Dubai on Saturday. Both left Pakistan in a curiously furtive fashion. The PPP has publicly remained open to dealing with Musharraf after the elections and strongly resist the idea of a national reconciliation government prior to the elections, as they’d delay the polls.

It’s a positive development if Musharraf is negotiating with both the Sharifs and Zardari in earnest. If he’s playing them off of each other, then Musharraf is playing with fire.

Opposition Tours the U.S.
Several opposition figures are on a tour of the United States. Sherry Rehman and Javaid Laghari, both of the People’s Party, will be speaking at the Brookings Institution tomorrow. Imran Khan will be on a multi-city tour, speaking at organizations such as Amnesty International and CSIS and in Pakistani community events, which seem to be fund raisers for his Tehreek-e Insaaf Party.

Fazlur Rahman: Saudi Challo
Maulana Fazlur Rahman was noticeably absent from the public since the news reporting serious threats against him. And he’s done what he seems to do often in challenging moments, go to Saudi Arabia.

Geo Back
Earlier last week, Talat Hussain returned to AAJ television to host his weeknightly public affairs program. In his first show back on air, Talat said he’s back with no strings attached. But it seems as if the show (Live with Talat) is now taped, not live (in accordance with the new media control rules). There is also little mention of the judiciary issue. Nonetheless, the show remains engaging and informative.

GEO News also returned to the air waves today sans their most popular political talk show hosts, Hamid Mir and Shahid Masood. Kashif Abbasi, another prominent television journalist, remains off of ARY One World.

Back to the Barracks
Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani has recalled a number of active military officers from cushy positions within the civilian bureaucracy. This follows his earlier move barring senior officers from meeting with politicians.

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Thursday Round-Up: National Reconciliation; Splitting the Taliban; Army Defends Atta; Aitzaz’s Back

Pakistan continues along a mixed, though largely negative trajectory as the spate of urban suicide bombing continues and insurgents make bold moves in South Waziristan, while the army strengthens its control over Swat and leaders flinch toward national reconciliation. The army’s immediate workload increases, but Gen. Ashfaq Kayani takes clear steps to depoliticize the institution. In both Pakistan and Afghanistan, efforts toward dividing and containing the Taliban continue. Election campaigning proceeds, though in a less spirited fashion prior to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

Terrorist Strikes Shi’a Gathering in Peshawar
A teenage suicide bomber clad in black struck an imambargah, a site for ritualistic mourning for Shi’a Muslims, in Peshawar today, the seventh day of the month of Muharram. This month is significant for all Muslims, but it holds a particular importance for the Shi’a. Their commemoration crescendos on the tenth day, Ash’ura, as they mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Ash’ura falls on Sunday; the army, local police, and private mosque security squads are under high alert. However, that will not preclude attacks such as today’s from occurring. The bomber that struck the imambargah today detonated his device after being stopped by police, killing ten individuals. Targeting the Shi’a is a major point of convergence for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and various southern Punjabi Sunni militant groups.

Swat and Getting Swatted
Pakistan’s army continues to make gains in Swat, a settled, scenic valley in the North-West Frontier Province. According to Director General Military Operations Maj. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Operation Rah-e Haq has been successfully completed. The army, he says, established its hold over the area in late December, killing or apprehending major militants associated with Maulana Fazlullah, who remains holed up in a mountainous area packed in by recent heavy snowfall. It is now making steps toward issuing a compensation and development package for the area and has replaced Fazlullah’s FM radio station with several of its own. The speed and effectiveness of the government’s resettlement of internally displaced people and restoring the civil administration and political parties remains significant. Half-hearted measures will only result in local discontent that Fazlullah or a subsequent variant can feed off of.

In a marked contrast to the government’s military success in Swat, it continues to struggle in South Waziristan. This week, two forts were taken over by insurgents, who had little trouble combating the undertrained and ill-equipped paramilitary Frontier Corps. Their Wednesday night attack on a fort, which they held and then withdrew from, was made by a group of 200-1,000 men, overwhelming the 40 FC troops stationed there.

This large scale attack by neo-Taliban affiliated with Baitullah Mehsud is the first of its kind as guerrilla tactics are normally used. If this marks a strategic shift for Mehsud, it is both an alarming development for Pakistan’s military as well as a potential source of opportunity. Its success in Swat was partially precipitated by the overstretching of Maulana Fazlullah’s forces, though Fazlullah’s group is vastly smaller and less sophisticated and armed than Mehsud’s. And so if Mehsud’s forces press toward Pakistani military installations in large numbers, they provide an opportunity to be eliminated in larger numbers of them in a short amount of time with an aerial assault. That is why Mehsud group did not hold on to the fort in Wednesday night’s attack.

U.S. Special Forces’ counterinsurgency training of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps accelerates this year, but there’s no indication that any substantive progress will be achieved before the spring. In the interim, Pakistan could benefit by goading Mehsud into adopting more conventional and exposing tactics.

Tea with the Taliban
As the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan sat and drank chai with former Taliban leader and now Musa Qala governor Abdul Salaam, the strategy of dividing and containing (or incorporating) the Taliban continues in Pakistan. The federal government is exploiting the traditional and on-going rivalries between the Ahmedzai Wazirs and the Mehsuds in Southern Waziristan. It could be imposing a blockade of sorts on the Mehsuds, to the advantage of the Ahmedzais. Curbing the flow of drugs and other illicit contrabands will weaken the Mehsuds, but it’s unclear as to whether the Pakistani military is effectively declaring war on the Mehsud tribe or whether it’s trying to make them see Baitullah Mehsud as a source of their problems.

Eurotrip: The National Reconciliation Tour
On Saturday, Muslim League-Nawaz President Shahbaz Sharif met in Islamabad with Niaz Ahmed, a retired military officer who serves as an intermediary between the Sharif brothers and Pervez Musharraf. The octogenarian retired brigadier was an army instructor to Pervez Musharraf and is well-respected by the Sharif brothers due to past favors. He reportedly presented Shahbaz, the younger Sharif, with an offer straight from Musharraf to take part in a national unity government before the elections and have a considerable role thereafter. The Sharifs were also requested to tone down their criticism of Musharraf.

Shahbaz reportedly replied that he’d have to have discuss any offer with his elder brother, Nawaz, who was nearby in the resort town of Murree. After being caught leaving Ahmed’s Islamabad home by spunky Pakistani journalists, Shahbaz described his meeting with Ahmed as a “courtesy call.” Coincidentally, he also met the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri. The Saudis have a keen interest in seeing the return of the Sharifs to power and have for years played a role in managing Sharif-Musharraf relations.

And in yet another coincidence, Shahbaz Sharif, Pervez Musharraf, and Niaz Ahmed will all be in London this Friday. Shahbaz claims he’s going to London for medical treatment, but there’s no sign his hair plugs need re-alignment.

As of now, Nawaz Sharif, who is seen by some as less compromising than his brother, has continued his call for a national unity government without Pervez Musharraf. But he has called for a re-scheduling of elections so that new election commission could be formed, headed by deposed Supreme Court Justice Rana Baghwandas, enabling the participation of Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e Insaaf and the Jamaat-e Islami. The PPP strongly rejected Sharif’s proposal.

The elections delay serves the interest of all parties save the PPP, which will lose the sympathy vote as we get further away from Benazir Bhutto’s death. This brings up some significant questions in regard to the national reconciliation talk.

Is it an attempt by Musharraf to divide and control the opposition? Until now, the PML-N has been following the lead of the PPP. Is that changing? Does the PML-N share an interest with Musharraf in checking the PPP, particularly in Punjab? We’ll probably get a good sense this weekend as to the status of the Sharif-Musharraf talks.

Where’s the PPP in all this? Earlier this week, there was a rumored meeting between Musharraf and Asif Zardari, which the PPP denied. But Amin Fahim, the PPP vice chairman, likely met Musharraf around a week ago. PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that “all options are open” in regard to cooperation with Musharraf after the elections.

And what about the PML-Q? Earlier this week, Pervaiz Elahi, always on the attack, said that “all those parties after smelling their defeat in the upcoming general elections are giving suggestions for formation of the national government which has no constitutional, ethical and democratic reasons.” But then Chaudhry Shujaat, his cousin, stated yesterday that his party will form a national unity government after the elections and will invite the PPP and PML-N.

Pakistan will likely see some form of a national unity government. But it remains to be seen as to whether it will be formed before or after the elections, with or without Pervez Musharraf, and all the parties, including the PML-Q.

Kayani’s De-Politicization of the Army
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani issued an order prohibiting army officers from meeting with politicians. When the directive was first reported, it was unclear as to whether Pervez Musharraf, now a civilian president, was included in the category of politicians. After all, he still lives in the military’s headquarters. Retired Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, a former chief of army staff, tells the Daily Times that meeting with Musharraf is also prohibited, but there was no confirmation from government sources. New Inter-Services Public Relations spokesperson Athar Abbas also distanced the army from Musharraf’s claim that Benazir Bhutto was not popular with the Pakistani army.

But Army Has More Duties
While the army might be doing less politicking, its burden has now increased. It has now been tasked with defense of the country’s increasingly scarce wheat supplies. This is on top of its responsibilities in fighting insurgencies, defending Pakistan’s borders, and providing security for some of Pakistan’s major cities after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Today, Gen. Kayani met with junior commissioned and non-commissioned army officers. He emphasized his two major themes of improving the army’s “professional excellence” as the standard of living for all of those in its ranks. But importantly, he emphasized that the army’s primary duty is to defend the country’s borders.

Aitzaz Ahsan’s Return to the PPP
The spirit of reconciliation is alive. Asif Zardari will reportedly promote Aitzaz Ahsan to People’s Party vice chairman. This is a move to push the PPP in Punjab. As I noted earlier, Zardari will be moving to Lahore to build up the party there. But this also marks a challenge to the PML-N and PML-Q, whose support base is almost exclusively in that province.  Aitzaz was paid a visit by Attorney General Malik Qayyum, who reportedly offered an end to his house arrest if he hushed up about the judges issue.

The Travails of Maulana Diesel
It hasn’t been a good week or so for Maulana Fazlur Rahman. He’s been staying indoors lately as a result of the reported assassination threats made against him. His party, the JUI-F, is facing some turbulence; it recently expelled 18 party members. Fazl tells BBC Urdu that a senior Punjab official replied to his request for security by stating, “No money, no security.”

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National Reconciliation


Tariq Mahmood / AFP/Getty Images
Tariq Mahmood / AFP/Getty Images



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Op-Ed: Pakistan suffering from Musharraf’s misdirected wrath

URL: www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.pakistan06nov06,0,4170497.story

The Baltimore Sun
Pakistan suffering from Musharraf’s misdirected wrath
By Arif Rafiq

November 6, 2007

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule Saturday, declaring that inaction would be suicidal for the country. However, his contravention and suspension of the country’s constitution is itself political suicide. Mr. Musharraf’s declaration of war against the judiciary, media and political opposition will redirect public fury toward him and away from the terrorists wreaking havoc across Pakistan, potentially precipitating widespread chaos.

The wave of militancy spreading from Pakistan’s hinterland near Afghanistan into its major cities is as deadly as it is unpopular. An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis oppose terrorism and seek the rule of law. Indeed, the country’s most popular institutions are the army, judiciary and media.

But Mr. Musharraf has, to the detriment of the country and himself, failed to leverage these sentiments into a broad coalition against militancy. To save his country from disaster, his only choice now is to step aside – a step the U.S. and Pakistan’s other benefactors should encourage.

Faced with two types of threats – militants who cut off the heads of his soldiers on one side, and the judiciary and political opposition on the other – Mr. Musharraf has conflated both, and in fact inflicted greater wrath on the latter. In doing so, he antagonizes the politicians, institutions and population segments whose support is critical for him to decisively combat terror. They are his natural allies in this war, though politically they are his foes. Mr. Musharraf blames them for stifling his countermilitancy campaign, but he and his dual roles as army chief and president are more culpable.

Mr. Musharraf’s dualism is contradictory and paralyzing. As chief of army staff, he needs widespread public and elite support to isolate and defeat the terrorists. As a partisan president, he needs to divide and conquer the opposition to maintain political power. Although a brilliant military strategist and effective ruler, he has failed at politics – said to be the art of compromise. And his political trials have distracted him and the senior army brass from their national security responsibilities.

Though his political demise has been reported prematurely many times, Mr. Musharraf now could be the instigator of widespread chaos in Pakistan. Consider a worst-case scenario:

First, Pakistan’s mainstream political opposition takes to the streets against Mr. Musharraf. Though thrashed by security forces, the protests swell. At the same time, insurgencies in Baluchistan, Swat and Waziristan intensify.

Terrorists continue to attack Pakistan’s major cities. Turmoil is widespread, hundreds, if not thousands, die, and Pakistan nears anarchy (though its nuclear weapons are never in danger because of the solid command-and-control structure).

With public anger fully focused on Mr. Musharraf, the army overthrows him, deciding that he is an unbearable liability to the institution. In the end, the military partially withdraws to the barracks so it can focus on defeating the multiple insurgencies. But Pakistan’s institutions are torn, and the country is irreparably fractured. Once an emerging economy and transitional democracy, Pakistan remains a stagnant kleptocracy for years. And all this occurs because one man has sought a political transition on his terms.

There is a way out, however. Mr. Musharraf’s three major foreign benefactors – the U.S., Saudi Arabia and China – can give him an ultimatum: Resign from your two posts now (and enjoy a clean exit while it’s still possible) and restore the constitution within two weeks, or we’ll cut off your aid.

In the short term, civilian support for a comprehensive military campaign against terrorists should come with a promise by a post-Musharraf military to restore the constitution and pre-emergency courts, as well as free and fair national and provincial parliamentary elections operated by an independent election commission and supervised by international monitors.

Beyond that, Pakistan’s elite must work together to develop an efficient, constitutional and consensus-based distribution of labor among the military, democratically elected politicians and the judiciary. If these institutions perform their primary tasks in concert, Pakistan can for the first time have security, democracy and the rule of law.

Arif Rafiq is a policy and communications consultant and editor of The Pakistan Policy Blog (www.pakistanpolicy.com).

Copyright © 2007, The Baltimore Sun

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The Nawaz Sharif Factor

aaj_tv_uncle_sam_elections_1.JPGPakistani public opinion data released last week by the International Republican Institute (IRI) strongly indicates that U.S. efforts to facilitate a Pervez Musharraf-Benazir Bhutto power sharing deal are backfiring and necessitate revision.

Talks between Bhutto and Musharraf have been going on for months with persistent encouragement from Washington, including regular involvement by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and periodic interventions by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. A deal between the two, which is virtually complete, would join Pakistan’s most powerful institution, the army, and largest political party, the People’s Party (PPP), in a fight against rising militancy.

Rather than securing a liberal alliance, by overstepping its bounds and excluding former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Washington has helped bolster rightist, anti-American parties and lower the popularity of Bhutto and Musharraf.

Pakistanis oppose U.S. interference in their democratic transition. They resent Washington’s choosing of sides in their upcoming elections—made blatant by its (at the very least) tacit approval of Musharraf’s deportation of the exiled Sharif in September. Washington has wrongly seen Sharif as a conservative threat to the liberal alliance, but closing him out of Bhutto-Musharraf talks leaves him only one card: allying with nationalist and religious parties and making his party Pakistan’s protest vote.

Nawaz Sharif is now Pakistan’s most popular politician. His once dismal approval ratings have skyrocketed in recent months, with Pakistanis forgetting his checkered past. The IRI poll suggests that Sharif’s faction of the Muslim League party (PML-N) could—in free and fair elections—win the popular vote nationally and in Punjab (the largest province), and lead a coalition government with nationalist and Islamist parties in the Afghanistan-bordering Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). A provincial and federal government made up of malcontents and those pushed away by Washington would jeopardize cooperation with the U.S. in areas bordering Afghanistan.

Such a scenario is, however, still avoidable. Parliamentary elections will be held in early January, leaving ample time for Bhutto, Musharraf, and their benefactors in Washington to integrate Sharif into a moderate, centrist set-up. Should their deal survive, Bhutto and Musharraf can secure victory in rigged elections, but the gains will be fleeting and further bolster the opposition (including extremists). Already, a majority of Pakistanis oppose their arrangement, seeing it as an extra-legal measure to clear Bhutto of corruption charges. It’s been a major political blow to both Bhutto and Musharraf; either might decide to jump off a sinking ship.

The submerging of a moderate front against militancy by conservative elements is not inevitable. It can be legitimized and depersonalized by adding Nawaz Sharif into the mix. Musharraf and Bhutto will be able to cut their losses, force Sharif’s party to earn support on their own right—not simply by serving as an alternative—and isolate it from parties further to the right. Bhutto and Sharif will regain shots at winning the premiership, and the latter will be able to mend his relations with the military and Washington. Musharraf can recede to a more secure position mediating between his two counterparts, who slung quite a bit of mud at one another in the 1990s.

aaj_tv_uncle_sam_elections_2.JPGThe Musharraf camp, with the approval of Bhutto and friends in Washington, can offer Sharif, contingent upon his joining a moderate front against militancy: a pre-election return to Pakistan; dropping of court cases against him and his brother (pending judicial review); the ability to run for the premiership for a third time; and leadership of a consolidated Muslim League party.

The records of Bhutto, Musharraf, and Sharif are quite blemished, but at this point, they represent Pakistan’s largest power factions and three of its major ethnic groups. This albeit flawed tri-partite grouping can help put an end to the elite discord that has ravaged Pakistan since its independence. Previous pacts among Pakistan’s ruling class have been incomplete, guaranteeing those excluded to become spoilers.

The in-fighting has helped create a quasi-failed state. A staggering 73% of Pakistanis see their country as headed in the wrong direction. A majority sees itself as less secure and worse off economically than before. A democratic Pakistan with a balance of power between Musharraf, Bhutto, and Sharif, combined with an emboldened judiciary, press, and civil society, can compel Pakistan’s leaders to boldly confront the country’s major challenges, including militancy and poverty. There is much work to be done.

For the Bush administration, entering its final year, a Bhutto-Musharraf-Sharif deal can secure a long-lasting victory for its pro-democracy and anti-terror campaigns. The so-called Arab Spring quickly winterized in part because Washington failed to account for long-standing factional and structural impediments that were country specific. With its Plan A for Pakistan collapsing, Washington can quickly transition to a more sound Plan B that will serve its interests and those of Pakistan’s 160 million people.

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Toward the Finish Line?

The final round of Bhutto-Musharraf talks have taken a turn for the better, with both sides very close to a deal.  Benazir’s assertion yesterday that talks have stalled and her threat of PPP resignations are clear signs of her negotiating strengths.  The former prime minister seamlessly alternates between tough remarks against Musharraf and a more conciliatory approach, often portraying his political allies (i.e. the Chaudhries) as potential spoilers.

Meanwhile, Musharraf has re-emphasized his call for national reconciliation made in August and even called for the inclusion of Nawaz Sharif (which Chaudhry Shujaat has been pushing for).   This confirms our earlier assessment that Musharraf is not expressly against Nawaz’s return, but opposed its September timing.

Nawaz will understandably oppose Musharraf’s ‘suggested’ post-election timing, and not simply on the basis of his legal right to return to Pakistan.   The timing keeps him on the sidelines while the political spoils are being distributed.   Still, Nawaz can find himself a leadership position thereafter if Musharraf takes national reconciliation to heart, by defactionalizing himself, and taking the middle ground between the PPP and a consolidated PML.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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