Washington envisions a Pakistan beyond Musharraf
Despite enthusiasm from the White House, analysts are looking to the next best thing.
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"The problem is, the interim period of instability and doubts about who's in charge, suggest at least the possibility of a tumultuousness that for Washington is problematic," Markey says. One of the key determining factors would be how long such a transition period lasted.Skip to next paragraph
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"If after 24 hours, you had a completed reshuffling of the Army deck and clarity about who was in charge, that's one thing," Markey says. "It's something else if the transition dragged on and fed doubts about who held the power and ultimately Pakistan's stability."
The harder issue, Markey, adds, is that completing a transfer in military power would, by itself, do nothing to resolve the political turmoil Pakistan faces.
"Again, it's the kind of transition that's the question," Markey says. If smooth, and with Musharraf's cooperation and that of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, then it could still come out a plus for the US. "But if it's a more tumultuous transition," Markey adds, "then the Army could be forced under pressure to yield to far less helpful political masters than Musharraf has been working with so far."
A less favorable alternative for the US, Markey, says, would be the rise of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
"That wouldn't mean an extremist Pakistan, but they just aren't as keen on working that closely with the US, and they don't see the world through Washington's lenses," says Markey.
Washington's best option is still for Musharraf to rescind his declaration of emergency law and to proceed with the political power-sharing deal he had been working out with former Prime Minister Bhutto, Mr. Harrison says. While still a lesser-of-evils solution, it gets Pakistan on to civilian rule and some satisfaction for protesting sectors of Pakistani society.
On Sunday, Bhutto said she welcomed Musharraf's announcement that elections would be held before Jan. 9, but many Pakistani observers say she can't really deal with Musharraf until he lifts martial law and the Constitution is restored. Cooperating with Musharraf would effectively be political suicide in the eyes of the opposition. There are doubts, experts say, that she would play the part of Musharraf's legitimizer.
As of Monday, Bhutto said that she will proceed with plans for a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad on Tuesday. But some Pakistani observers say that such rallies are a form of political theater designed to maintain the public's interest. Bhutto's announcement, some say, means she will be locked up for the day, as she was during a similar rally last week.
Another factor standing in the way of US backing for a real political transition in Pakistan could be private deals the US may have made with Musharraf over US actions vis-à-vis Afghanistan and Iran.
"This is just speculation," Harrison says, "but it's not hard to imagine some kind of agreements that might have been made with Musharraf about intelligence or special operations" in Iran or concerning the Islamist communities in Pakistan's northern frontier areas "that are influencing our actions in this crisis."