Friday, November 16, 2007

The Dog That Didn’t Bark

Musharraf, America, and Pakistan's Supreme Court

One thing we don’t hear about from the United States concerning the crisis in Pakistan is the sticky situation with Pakistan’s Supreme Court that provoked Musharraf’s declaration of the State of Emergency in the first place.

But no demands from Washington yet that Musharraf reinstate the by now presumably terminally intractable Supreme Court, which had signaled a couple weeks ago that it would decline to certify Musharraf for another term as president because he had run while still in uniform.

That’s the big dog that didn’t bark.

So I’d speculate that the Washington’s Big Deal v. 2 is that Musharraf “take off the uniform”, keep the presidency, lift the state of emergency, and hold the elections. And we'll avert our eyes while he packs the Supreme Court with his cronies and gets his election certified.

Then the Bush administration can kick the can down the road and further distance itself from the mess by watching Musharraf’s party slug it out with Bhutto in the parliamentary elections early next year.

In other words, now that our power-hungry client has slipped the leash and we’ve totally alienated our purported ally, it’s time to sit back and watch the magic of democracy Pakistani-style, complete with bribery and vote-rigging, transform the crisis into something we have nothing to do with.

Good times!

The stumbling block is, of course, Bhutto. She has added a call for Musharraf to step down as one of her demands and, even if she recants, Musharraf is unlikely to trust her.

So Musharraf’s getting ready to roll the dice in his contest with Bhutto.

Dawn, a major Pakistani English-language paper, reports that Musharraf has transferred the power to lift the state of emergency from the army to the presidency, an indication that he’s planning to rule as a civilian to placate world and local opinion, but wants to keep the ultimate bargaining chip--lifting the SofE--close at hand:

President Gen Pervez Musharraf who as Chief of Army Staff promulgated the state of emergency and Provisional Constitution Order on November 3 has transferred the power of lifting the emergency to the office of president. He amended the PCO with the Provisional Constitution (Amendment) Order 2007, issued on Wednesday night....

Mr Qayyum claimed that Gen Musharraf would quit his army post before December 1....

To most people, the amendment only means that Gen Musharraf has transferred the power from himself to himself, as he currently holds both offices of the president and the army chief. However, legal experts say it is not so simple.The attorney general said that since President Musharraf had imposed the emergency as the Chief of the Army Staff, he wanted to lift it himself as and when required after relinquishing the post of the army chief. [emph. added]

Maybe this is an indication of lack of trust in Musharraf’s successor as army head, purported Western darling and anointed army of chief of staff Kayani, and the corrosive acid of paranoia will start eating away at Musharraf’s support within the military.

But on balance, I think it’s intended as a demonstration to Negroponte that Musharraf has the reins of power in hand, is prepared to govern as a civilian and lift the state of emergency when he feels like it, and that Washington should think twice about its disastrous marriage of convenience with Bhutto and its futile, wide-stance flirtation with Kayani and back off.

Washington, relieved that Musharraf has the will and a way to get out of this mess, may very well let him have his way.

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