Posts Tagged ‘Musharraf’

The Destabilization of Pakistan

May 30, 2009

The Main Result of the “War on Terror”

By Gary Leupp | Counterpunch, May 29 – 31, 2009

So far the principle result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the events of 9-11 has been the destabilization of Pakistan. That breakdown is peaking with the events in what AP calls the “Swat town” of Mingora—actually a city of 375,000 from which all but 20,000 have fled as government forces moved in, strafing it with gunships. We’re talking urban guerrilla warfare, house-to-house fighting, not on the Afghan border but 50 miles away in the Swat Valley. We’re talking about Pakistani troops fighting to reclaim the nearby Malam Jabba ski resort from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, who since last year have been using it as a training center and logistics base. We’re talking about two million people fleeing the fighting in the valley and 160,000 in government refugee camps.

And of course, “collateral damage”: As was reported in The News in Pakistan May 19:

Several persons, including women and children, were killed and a number of others sustained injuries when families fleeing the military operation in Swat’s Matta town were shelled while crossing a mountainous path to reach Karo Darra in Dir Upper on Monday, eyewitnesses and official sources said. Eyewitnesses, who escaped the attack or were able to reach Wari town of Dir Upper in injured condition, said they were targeted by gunship helicopters. However, police officials said they might have been hit by a stray shell. Local people said they saw some 12 to 14 bodies on a mountain on the Swat side but could not go near to retrieve them or help the injured for fear of another aerial attack.

What a nightmare scenario for Pakistan.

We’re talking about the Pakistani Army sometimes fighting over the last year to retake towns from Taliban forces in the Buner region of the North-West Frontier Province that are closer to the capital of Islamabad than the Afghan border. And while the Talibs apparently lack popular support, even among the Pashtuns (who are 15 % of the Pakistani population—26 million and 42% of the Afghan population—14 million) they have been able to inflict embarrassing defeats on the army.

Continued >>

POLITICS-US: Vested Interests Drove New Pakistan Policy

September 18, 2008

Analysis by Gareth Porter | Inter-Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Sep 17 – The George W. Bush administration’s decision to launch commando raids and step up missiles strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda figures in the tribal areas of Pakistan followed what appears to have been the most contentious policy process over the use of force in Bush’s eight-year presidency.

That decision has stirred such strong opposition from the Pakistani military and government that it is now being revisited. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Pakistan Tuesday for the second time in three weeks, and U.S. officials and sources just told Reuters that any future raids would be approved on a mission-by-mission basis by a top U.S. administration official.

The policy was the result of strong pressure from the U.S. command in Afghanistan and lobbying by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the CIA’s operations directorate (DO), both of which had direct institutional interests in operations that coincided with their mandate.

State Department and some Pentagon officials had managed to delay the proposed military escalation in Pakistan for a year by arguing that it would be based on nearly nonexistent intelligence and would only increase support for the Islamic extremists in that country.

But officials of SOCOM and the CIA prevailed in the end, apparently because Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney believed they could not afford to be seen as doing nothing about bin Laden and al Qaeda in the administration’s final months.

SOCOM had a strong institutional interest in a major new operation in Pakistan.

The Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALS had been allowed by the Pakistani military to accompany its forces on raids in the tribal area in 2002 and 2003 but not to operate on their own. And even that extremely limited role was ended by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2003, which frustrated SOCOM officials.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose antagonism toward the CIA was legendary, had wanted SOCOM to take over the hunt for bin Laden. And in 2006, SOCOM’s Joint Special Operations Command branch in Afghanistan pressed Rumsfeld to approve a commando operation in Pakistan aimed at capturing a high-ranking al Qaeda operative.

SOCOM had the support of the U.S. command in Afghanistan, which was arguing that the war in Afghanistan could not be won as long as the Taliban had a safe haven in Pakistan from which to launch attacks. The top U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, worked with SOCOM and DO officers in Afghanistan to assemble the evidence of Pakistan’s cooperation with the Taliban. .

Despite concerns that such an operation could cause a massive reaction in Pakistan against the U.S. war on al Qaeda, Rumsfeld gave in to the pressure in early November 2006 and approved the operation, according to an account in the New York Times Jun. 30. But within days, Rumsfeld was out as defence secretary, and the operation was put on hold.

Nevertheless Bush and Cheney, who had been repeating that Musharraf had things under control in the frontier area, soon realised that they would be politically vulnerable to charges that they weren’t doing anything about bin Laden.

The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was the signal for the CIA’s DO to step up its own lobbying for control over a Pakistan operation, based on the Afghan model — CIA officers training and arming a local militia while identifying targets for strikes from the air.

In a Washington Post column only two weeks after the NIE’s conclusions were made public, David Ignatius quoted former CIA official Hank Crumpton, who had run the CIA operation in Afghanistan after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, on the proposed DO operation: “We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack.”

That either-or logic and the sense of political vulnerability in the White House was the key advantage of the advocates of a new war in Pakistan. Last November, the New York Times reported that the Defence Department had drafted an order based on the SOCOM proposal for training of local tribal forces and for new authority for “covert” commando operations in Pakistan’s frontier provinces.

But the previous experience with missile strikes against al Qaeda targets using predator drones and the facts on the ground provided plenty of ammunition to those who opposed the escalation. It showed that the proposed actions would have little or no impact on either the Taliban or al Qaeda in Pakistan, and would bring destabilising political blowback.

In January 2006, the CIA had launched a missile strike on a residential compound in Damadola, near the Afghan border, on the basis of erroneous intelligence that Ayman al-Zawahiri would be there. The destruction killed as many 25 people, according to local residents interviewed by The Telegraph, including 14 members of one family.

Some 8,000 tribesmen in the Damadola area protested the killing, and in Karachi tens of thousands more rallied against the United States, shouting “Death to America!”

Musharraf later claimed that the dead included four high-ranking al Qaeda officials, including al-Zawahiri’s son-in-law. The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported last week, however, that U.S. and Pakistani officials now admit that only local villagers were killed in the strike.

It was well known within the counter-terrorism community that the U.S. search for al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan was severely limited by the absence of actionable intelligence. For years, the U.S. military had depended almost entirely on Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, despite its well-established ties with the Taliban and even al Qaeda.

One of the counter-terrorism officials without a direct organisational stake in the issue, State Department counterterrorism chief Gen. Dell L. Dailey, bluntly summed up the situation to reporters last January. “We don’t have enough information about what’s going on there,” he said. “Not on al Qaeda, not on foreign fighters, not on the Taliban.”

A senior U.S. official quoted by the Post last February was even more scathing on that subject, saying “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military, reacting to the U.S. aim of a more aggressive U.S. military role in the tribal areas, repeatedly rejected the U.S. military proposal for training Frontier Corps units.

The U.S. command in Afghanistan and SOCOM increased the pressure for escalation early last summer by enlisting visiting members of Congress in support of the plan. Texas Republican Congressmen Michael McCaul, who had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, declared on his return that was “imperative that U.S. forces be allowed to pursue the Taliban and al Qaeda in tribal areas inside Pakistan.”

In late July, according to The Times of London, Bush signed a secret national security presidential directive (NSPD) which authorised operations by special operations forces without the permission of Pakistan.

The Bush decision ignored the disconnect between the aims of the new war and the realities on the ground in Pakistan. Commando raids and missile strikes against mid-level or low-level Taliban or al Qaeda operatives, carried out in a sea of angry Pashtuns, will not stem the flow of fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan or weaken al Qaeda. But they will certainly provoke reactions from the tribal population that can tilt the affected areas even further toward the Islamic radicals.

At least some military leaders without an institutional interest in the outcome understood that the proposed escalation was likely to backfire. One senior military officer told the Los Angeles Times last month that he had been forced by the “fragility of the current government in Islamabad,” to ask whether “you do more long-term harm if you act very, very aggressively militarily”.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.


Pakistan’s new president Zardari is a clone of Musharraf

September 15, 2008

Eric Margolis | Edmonton Sun, Sep 14, 2008

The inauguration this week of Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the slain Benazir Bhutto, should have brought some hope and direction to embattled Pakistan.

It did not. A sense of weary deja vu hung over the event.

Zardari’s first major policy statement was a vow to continue waging the so-called “war on terror” in northwest Pakistan. His choice of the Bush administration’s terminology was a clear message to Washington that he intends to pursue the hated policies of disgraced former U.S.-backed dictator, Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan will continue to dance to Washington’s tune.

In fact, Zardari seems set to inherit the ills of Musharraf’s failed regime. Pakistan is bankrupt, with only 60 days of foreign exchange left to import fuel and food. Half its 165 million people subsist on under $2 daily.

Infusions of $11.2 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, and tens of millions in covert payments, rented the grudging services of Pakistan’s armed and security forces, and halfhearted co-operation of its government.

But 90% of Pakistanis oppose the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which they, like most Europeans, see as a modern colonial war to secure U.S. domination of Central Asia’s energy. They despised Musharraf for sending 120,000 Pakistani troops to fight pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen in northwest Pakistan, killing thousands of civilians in the process, and for enabling the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

Now, Zardari, who was helped into power with Washington’s financial and political support, appears set on the same course. Considering only 26% of voters support him, Zardari is heading for major trouble.

Zardari’s refusal to reinstate justices of Pakistan’s supreme court purged by Musharraf is a slap in the face of democracy and further evidence of his fear of indictment over serious corruption accusations that dog him. Widely known as “Mr 10%” from when he was minister of public contracts, Zardari denies any wrongdoing, insisting these charges were politically motivated.

Plans by the U.S. to launch ground attacks inside Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal zone (known as FATA) have ignited a new crisis. Zardari apparently has approved more U.S. raids against his own people. But Pakistan’s powerful chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, says the nation’s 650,000-man armed forces will not tolerate U.S. violation of its borders. The stage is set for possible head-on clashes between Pakistani and U.S. troops.

Whether Canada will be drawn into fighting in Pakistan’s tribal areas is uncertain. The Harper government’s former defence minister rashly called for Canadian troops to invade Pakistan.


Truck convoys, upon which the U.S. and NATO depend for fuel, water, and munitions, face increasing attacks by Pakistani pro-Taliban groups as they make their way up to the fabled Khyber Pass.

A vicious cycle is now at play. The U.S. pays Pakistan’s armed forces to attack pro-Taliban tribesmen along the border, and aid the U.S. war in Afghanistan. U.S. and Pakistani warplanes bomb Pashtun villages in FATA.

Furious Pashtuns retaliate by staging bombing attacks against government targets (aka “terrorism”). The government and U.S. launch more attacks as Pakistanis demand their government stop killing its own people.

Musharraf was detested as an American stooge. If Zardari continues Mush’s failed policies, he also will meet the same fate.

The U.S. is about to kick yet another hornets’ nest by ground attacks on Pakistan. Unable to crush growing national resistance to the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan and secure planned pipeline routes, the frustrated Bush White House is launching a new conflict when it lacks the soldiers or money to subdue Afghanistan.

Spreading the Afghan War into Pakistan is perilous and foolhardy. It threatens to destabilize and tear apart fragile Pakistan, just as the U.S. has dismembered Iraq. A fragmented Pakistan could tempt India to intervene. Both are nuclear armed.

Asif Zardari is sitting atop a ticking bomb. He needs some new thinking. So do his western patrons, who urgently must end the futile Afghan War before it blows Pakistan apart.

Raids into Pakistan: What U.S. authority?

September 15, 2008

Bush’s orders to send special forces after Taliban militants have roots in previous presidencies.

Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, Sept 15, 2008

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Reporter head shot

Reporter Howard LaFranchi talks about the US military’s raids inside Pakistan, looking for terrorists.

Orders President Bush signed in July authorizing raids by special operations forces in the areas of Pakistan controlled by the Taliban and Al Qaeda and undertaking those raids without official Pakistani consent, have roots stretching back to the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In an address to a joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush said, “From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

But even before that declaration, two key steps had been taken: One, Congress had authorized the use of US military force against terrorist organizations and the countries that harbor or support them. Two, Bush administration officials had warned Pakistan’s leaders of the dire consequences their country would face if they did not unequivocally enlist in the fight against radical Islamist terrorism.

What Mr. Bush’s July orders signify is that, after seven years of encouraging Pakistan to take on extremists harbored in remote areas along its border with Afghanistan and subsidizing the Pakistani military handsomely to do it, the US has become convinced that Pakistan is neither able nor willing to fight the entrenched Taliban and Al Qaeda elements. Indeed, recent events appear to have convinced at least some in the administration that parts of Pakistan’s military and powerful intelligence service are actually aiding the extremists.

“We’ve moved beyond the message stage here. I think the US has had it with messages that don’t get any action, and that is why the president authorized this,” says Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East analysis for Stratfor, an intelligence consulting firm in Washington. “This says loud and clear, ‘We’re fed up.’ ”

Even before the July order, the US had undertaken covert operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Moreover, the CIA over the past year has stepped up missile attacks by the unmanned Predator drones it operates to hit targets in the region. That increase has coincided with a deterioration of the war in Afghanistan, where the Afghan Army and NATO forces have come under increasing attack from militants crossing over the rugged and lawless border from Pakistan.

But Bush’s orders, first reported in The New York Times Thursday, mean that operations against insurgent sanctuaries will become overt and probably more frequent. A Sept. 3 ground assault involving US commandos dropped from helicopters targeted a suspected terrorist compound. Missile attacks by the CIA’s unmanned drones, including one Friday reported by Pakistani officials to have killed at last 12 people, are also on the rise.

Precedence for the orders authorizing the attacks on terrorist havens can be found in President Bill Clinton’s authorization of retaliatory attacks in 1993 (against Iraqi intelligence facilities) and in 1998 (against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Sudan), and in President Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya, legal scholars say.

The administration has debated the use of commando raids in Pakistan for years, but the tipping point came in July, as relations with Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders deteriorated, intelligence sources say. The “kicker,” according to one source who requested anonymity over the sensitivity of the issue, was two July events: the bombing of India’s embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, an act that US intelligence officials concluded was aided by Pakistani intelligence operatives; and a July 13 attack on a US military outpost in eastern Afghanistan that killed nine US soldiers. The outpost attack was carried out by Taliban militants who had crossed over the nearby border from Pakistan.

Continued . . .

Quagmire, Phase 2: The Invasion of Pakistan

September 15, 2008, Posted on Sep 11, 2008

By William Pfaff

The United States has just invaded Cambodia. The name of Cambodia this time is Pakistan, but otherwise it’s the same story as in Indochina in 1970.

An American army, deeply frustrated by its inability to defeat an anti-American insurgent movement despite years of struggle, decides that the key to victory lies in a neighboring country. In 1970, the problem was the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia. Today it is Taliban and al-Qaida bases inside Pakistan, which the United States has been attacking from the air for some time, with controversial “collateral damage.”

George W. Bush has now authorized independent ground assaults on Taliban and al-Qaida targets in Pakistan’s Tribal Territories, without consultation with Pakistan authorities. These already have begun.

This follows a period of tension, with some armed clashes, between American and Pakistani military units, the latter defending “Pakistan’s national sovereignty.” Pakistan public opinion seems largely against “America’s war” being fought inside Pakistan.

Washington’s decision was made known just in time for the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that opened the first phase of the “war on terror,” after which “nothing could ever be the same.” We no doubt have now begun phase two.

The eventual outcome of the American intervention in Cambodia in 1970 was Communist overthrow of the American-sponsored military government in that country, followed by genocide. The future consequences in (nuclear-armed) Pakistan await.

There is every reason to think they may include civil protest and disorder in the country, political crisis, a major rise in the strength of Pakistan’s own Islamic fundamentalist movement and, conceivably, a small war between the United States and the Pakistan army, which is the central institution in the country, has a mind of its own and is not a negligible military force.

In Afghanistan, American and NATO forces have been complaining for many months that victory over the Taliban was impossible so long as there were secure Taliban bases in Pakistan’s largely inaccessible Tribal Territories.

Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, was told by his American allies to clean the Taliban out of the Territories or the U.S. Army and NATO would do it for him. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama made the same threat. John McCain concurred. Musharraf had been looking for a negotiated arrangement with the tribesmen.

Pakistan’s military intelligence services created the Taliban while they were collaborating with the CIA to form the mujahadeen that drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Many in the service still support the Taliban as a useful instrument against India, and to keep Afghanistan out of the hands of more dangerous enemies.

Musharraf was forced out of office. The U.S. brought in exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, expected to be cooperative. She was assassinated, presumably by Islamic extremists. Her widower has been elected to take her place and declares himself an enemy of terrorism. However, the United States has already taken the matter into its own hands.

In the Vietnamese case, the American military command held that it could win the war by invading Cambodia to cut the so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail, along which supplies and arms for the Viet Cong Communist insurrection were being transported. The argument made was that cutting this route would starve the Viet Cong of supplies.

Initially, the unhappy Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia, desperately trying to keep his country out of the Vietnam War, was persuaded to turn a blind eye to U.S. bombing of the trail. A military coup followed in 1970, installing an American puppet general. B-52 saturation bombing ensued, without the desired military effect, but killing many Cambodians.

The joint U.S. and South Vietnamese “incursion” to cut the trail came in April 1970; it simply pushed the supply operations deeper into Cambodia. Richard Nixon said he acted to prove that the United States was not “a second-rate power.” “If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation acts like a pitiful helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.”

The native Cambodian Khmer Rouge subsequently defeated the American-backed military regime in Phnom Penh. Genocide followed, the “killing fields,” on which the United States turned its back, condemning the triumphant Vietnamese Communist government when it later invaded Cambodia to stop the killing.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at

Pakistan: From crisis to crisis

August 27, 2008


The Khaleej Times, August 26, 2008

THE more things change in Pakistan, the more they seem to remain the same. It was only six months ago that the people of the South Asian country celebrated when the outcome of February 18 polls brought the two leading parties and bitter rivals together in an unprecedented coalition.

Those polls, conducted in most trying circumstances and the unusual alliance that they created, were seen as a triumph of democracy. That historic alliance is now in tatters, two weeks before the crucial presidential election.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League (N), has finally walked out of the governing coalition with the Pakistan Peoples Party of Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former PM Benazir Bhutto and a contender for the top job now. Sharif’s party has also decided to field Saaeduz Zaman, a former supreme court chief justice, as its own presidential candidate. It must be the shortest political honeymoon ever. So what was seen as a ground breaking alliance was little more than a marriage of convenience!

To be fair to Sharif and his party, the former prime minister gave the government and coalition partner Zardari a long, long rope and at least three deadlines to restore the Supreme Court and high court judges sacked by General Pervez Musharraf following the imposition of Emergency. In spite of numerous meetings and agreements between Sharif and Zardari, there has been no move or initiative by the government and the governing PPP to resolve the judges issue. After all these encounters, Zardari and Sharif appeared together before the media to reiterate their commitment to the restoration of judiciary, democracy and the rule of law.

In fact, the coalition promised to restore the judges within 24 hours of Musharraf’s exit, implying the General was the only hurdle to the restoration of judiciary. It’s been more than a week since Musharraf left the presidency. But Pakistan remains stuck where it had been before the General’s departure with the ruling party offering no signs or hopes of any progress.

What happens now? The government led by the PPP is likely to survive with the support of other minor players like MQM, ANP and JUI. However, with Sharif in opposition and the issue of restoration of judges still hanging fire, the prospects of the current dispensation continuing for long appear rather remote. And yet another general election with a realignment of forces looks imminent in not too distant a future. When that happens, Pakistan’s leaders and politicians will be held to account by the voters. As Benazir Bhutto, the late wife of Zardari, would say: Democracy is the best revenge. That will be especially true when the politicians go back to the voters.

Musharraf may seek sanctuary in UK

August 21, 2008

Press TV, Thu, 21 Aug 2008 02:23:29 GMT

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf may seek sanctuary in Britain amid reports that London intervened to ensure a safe exit for him.

Reports have been circulating in recent days that President Pervez Musharraf will seek sanctuary in Britain, the Press TV correspondent in London reported on Thursday.

There are also rumors that the British government had encouraged the Pakistani government to reach a deal with Musharraf to resign in return for immunity.

The British Foreign Office denies the allegations but an official told our correspondent that should Musharraf choose to reside in Britain, there would be no obstacles.

Dilip Hiro, an expert in South Asia said any country that gives sanctuary to Musharraf would face difficulties because that country should pay millions of dollars for his safety.

The last time Musharraf came to the UK, protestors were angry with him over violating democracy in the elections.

Musharraf resigned on Monday after a televised speech, during which he defended his performance as president.

The Impeachment of Musharraf, Then What?

August 17, 2008

By FATIMA BHUTTO | Counterpunch, August 16 / 17, 2008

The murky abyss of Pakistani politics has been especially murky over recent months, and true to form it just keeps getting murkier. The one thing that is absolute when dealing with the dregs that run my country is this: nothing is ever as it seems. Nowhere is that more true than in the current scenario involving President Musharraf’s likely impeachment by the ruling coalition.

“It has become imperative to move for impeachment,” barked Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Zardari, at a press conference in Islamabad last week. Sitting beside the new head of the Pakistan People’s party was Nawaz Sharif, twice formerly prime minister of Pakistan. Zardari snarled every time Musharraf’s name came up, seething with political rage and righteousness, while Sharif did his best to keep up with the pace of things. He nodded sombrely and harrumphed every once in a while. The two men are acting for democracy, you see. And impeaching dictators is a good thing for democracies, you know.

But Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are unelected. They’re not just unrepresentative in that they don’t hold seats in the parliament – they have absolutely no mandate in Pakistan. They head the two largest, and most corrupt, parties in the state but hold no public office. Pots and kettles.

The rest of the coterie that wields power behind this administration, the attorney general and the interior minister for instance, also happen to be unelected. They serve, and I use the term ever so lightly, by appointment only. Some 170 million Pakistanis have lived under military rule of law for nine years. Musharraf stepping down from his army post has not changed that. Neither did the recent selections. Sorry, I meant elections, obviously.

The current administration – a party coalition comprising two formerly mortal enemies, the PPP and the PML – has enjoyed five months in office. And what has this thriving democratic union accomplished? It passed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, an odious piece of legislation that wipes out 15 years’ worth of corruption cases against politicians, suspiciously covering 11 years of PPP and PML rule. Bankers and bureaucrats were also given the all-clear. Worse still, the ordinance contains a clause that makes it virtually impossible for future charges to be filed against sitting parliamentarians.

But they must have done more than that, surely? Well, all that really changed is that food inflation has accelerated, oil subsidies have been cut, gas prices have doubled, and those pesky militants in the Swat district the tribal regions have turned up the fighting. Several days before the decision to impeach Musharraf hurtled through the airwaves, a small story came in from the tribal areas: the militants are close, the story said, they’ve vowed to target the government, even to the point of attacking state schools. This is a civil war, the story said.

So what does the government do when its country appears to be tearing apart at the seams? Go on the attack. Impeach the tyrant. “The period of oppression is over for ever,” declared the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, at an event marking 61 years of Pakistani independence yesterday. “Dictatorship has become a story of the past.” Deny everything. Nothing is wrong, democracy is good and we hate dictators. Well done.

Pakistan is a sovereign country. We are a proud, resourceful, independent nation. We have options. Zardari is not an option. Sharif is not an option. The army is not our one and only option. The mullahs have not become an option yet. There are close to 200 million of us: I’m sure we can think of something better.

Fatima Bhutto is a poet and a columnist for the News in Pakistan

Pakistan: Musharraf balks at plan for ‘graceful exit’ before impeachment

August 16, 2008

Negotiations between the Pakistani government and President Pervez Musharraf, aimed at securing his exit from office before impeachment, are stalling with only days left before proceedings begin in parliament.

The coalition government had hoped to pressure the president to quit, before the messy and possibly dangerous impeachment process formally starts. US and British diplomats have also tried to mediate a compromise to allow Musharraf to “exit gracefully”.

Once a motion is moved in parliament, which is scheduled for early next week, it will be difficult for the administration to let him go. But he is refusing to go down without a fight. He insists that he be given indemnity from any future prosecution and that he will live in Pakistan – terms the government will not meet. While an exit deal is still the most likely outcome, negotiations are going down to the wire.

“We’re hitting a wall now and we’re so close [to impeachment proceedings],” said one senior member of the coalition. “It’s this commando thing of his. His living here would be like a red rag to a bull. He wants to be photographed playing golf and taking it easy.”

The coalition wants Musharraf to leave Pakistan, for at least a year or two, until emotions cool down. In particular, Nawaz Sharif, a coalition leader who was thrown out of office in the coup staged by Musharraf in 1999, would find it personally and politically difficult to have the president in the country, safe from prosecution. The president’s house, which is still under construction, is located just outside Islamabad, so he would be a constant presence.

“Basically, Musharraf is being stubborn; the two sides are playing brinkmanship,” said Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan’s Daily Times newspaper. “Nawaz Sharif is sitting there, sharpening his knife.”

Musharraf has offered to leave Pakistan for some time, but only after three to six months. He is adamant that, unlike Sharif and the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he will not be seen to be fleeing the country as soon as he is out of office.

Musharraf’s legal adviser, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, went on a national television programme to suggest that the impeachment proceedings would drag on for months.

“The president has all the options, constitutional and political,” said Pirzada. “All institutions will be seriously damaged [by impeachment], perhaps beyond repair.”

The president’s aides boasted that he would defend himself in the proceedings, not resign. Sharif appears keen to humiliate the president but the prospect of a prolonged trial is what the senior member of the coalition, the Pakistan People’s party, wants to avoid.

The army, Pakistan’s most powerful institution, has said that it would now stay out of politics but it is likely to be appalled by the impeachment proceedings against a former army chief.

“He [Musharraf] may think it is better to go down as president and hope the army bails him out,” said Ikram Sehgal, a political analyst and friend of the president. “This situation is shot with a lot of danger.”

Musharraf locked in battle to avoid impeachment as allies turn away

August 12, 2008

Pakistan President ‘unfit’ to rule, declares regional assembly

By Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich in Islamabad
The London Independent, Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Supporters of Pakistan's largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami in Islamabad yesterday burn an effigy of President Pervez Musharraf


Supporters of Pakistan’s largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami in Islamabad yesterday burn an effigy of President Pervez Musharraf

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Pakistan’s government is finalising a “charge-sheet” against Pervez Musharraf as battle lines are drawn in the bitter struggle over the President’s future.

Several allies of Mr Musharraf began to distance themselves from him, saying he should stand down for the good of the country, but the former general again insisted he would fight the impeachment charges being prepared by his opponents. Meanwhile, the process to oust Mr Musharraf gathered additional pace as a crucial regional assembly overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence against him, saying he was “unfit” to rule.

Aftab Sherpao, a formerinterior minister in Mr Musharraf’s government and leader of a small regional party, said he was considering joining those seeking to force out the President. “[Mr Musharraf] is going to fight these charges on a moral ground to try to disprove them… But when it comes to the numbers, I think he’s lost it,” he said.

The coalition government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of the late Benazir Bhutto and the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) had been expected to table their allegations against Mr Musharraf at a session of the parliament yesterday evening. But a coalition spokesman said the process was taking longer than expected because the charge sheet and its supporting documents was running to “100 hundred pages”.

Government officials have said the charges against Mr Musharraf will focus on eight key points, including violating the constitution, damaging the economy and the sacking of senior members of the judiciary. The head of the PPP, Ms Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari, upped the stakes over the weekend when he said Mr Musharraf could also be investigated for corruption.

Continued . . .

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