After Pakistan vote, U.S. eyes options
Some White House officials want to embrace victors in parliament; others don't want to abandon Musharraf.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Yet some quarters of the Bush administration would rather see President Pervez Musharraf hang on despite the drubbing he took from opposition parties, which could leave Washington on the outs with Pakistan's rising leaders, some analysts say. Even if the US does court the country's new civilian powers, a key challenge would loom: The new powers favor playing down the military fight against Pakistan's Al Qaeda and Taliban forces and sympathizers – a battle that remains the top American priority.
But Mr. Markey, until recently a top adviser on the administration's South Asia policies, sees a split in the administration between those who tout this as a moment "to get on the right side of history" and those who remain reluctant to abandon Mr Musharraf before it is clear he will be out – or before it's clear that the victors of parliamentary elections will be able to forge a stable government.
In an effort to allay concerns about their governing prospects, Pakistan's parliamentary victors held a joint meeting Wednesday as a show of strength – and to pressure Musharraf into quickly convening a parliamentary session. The Pakistan People's Party of slain leader Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the nationalist Awami National Party agreed to form a coalition to lead the country after trouncing Musharraf forces in elections Feb. 18.
The coalition parties, still shy of a two-thirds majority, are negotiating with a number of independent members of the new parliament with the goal of nailing down the votes required for impeachment proceedings against Musharraf
Unity meetings aside, no one foresees easy sailing for a coalition of opposition parties whose leaders have little love for one another. And the US got off on the wrong foot after the elections by expressing a desire to see an arrangement allowing Musharraf to remain in office, some analysts say. It's left the impression among Pakistanis that the US is sticking by its man, they add.