Mar 12, 2007

The General is Dispensable

The blackmailing General of Pakistan after all is not that indispensable for the West’s success in its War on Terror. According to New York Times a succession plan is already in place and incase Gen. Musharraf is assassinated or removed from power Pakistan will not plunge into internal chaos or will the Mullahs come to power as often warned by Musharraf himself.

Islamist politicians received a drubbing in local elections in 2005, gaining less support than expected in their power base in the tribal areas. In September, a poll by the International Republican Institute, a respected organization affiliated with the Republican Party that helps build democratic institutions in foreign countries, found that just 5.2 percent of respondents would vote for the main religious party, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, in national parliamentary elections.

Although the poll found that this party was the most popular in Baluchistan, the southwestern province where Taliban support is strong, Islamist leaders lagged far behind both Mr. Musharraf and Ms. Bhutto, as well as another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. It is also thought to be unlikely that a successful attempt on Mr. Musharraf’s life would mean wholesale changes to the power structure of Pakistani politics.

For decades, the military has been the most dominant institution in Pakistan. If Mr. Musharraf were to fall to an assassin’s bullet, American diplomatic and intelligence officials say, it is unlikely that there would be mass uprisings in Lahore and Karachi, or that a religious leader in the Taliban mold would rise to power.

“I am not particularly worried about an extremist government coming to power and getting hold of nuclear weapons,” said Robert Richer, who was associate director of operations in 2004 and 2005 for the Central Intelligence Agency. “If something happened to Musharraf tomorrow, another general would step in.”

Based on the succession plan, the vice chief of the army, Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hyat, would take over as the leader of the army and Mohammedmian Soomro, an ex-banker, would become president.

General Hyat, who is secular like Mr. Musharraf, would hold the real power. But it is unclear whether General Hyat would be as adept as Mr. Musharraf at keeping various interest groups within the military in line. American officials say that Pakistan’s intelligence service, the I.S.I., continues to play a direct role in arming and financing the Taliban’s re-emergence in western Pakistan, and there are worries about the relationships between some senior military leaders and Islamist groups. [NYT]

So at the end of the day - to perpetuate the military dictatorship that suits USA - it is again another General to replace another General . Democracy can wait.

Related Links:
How Indian intelligence saved the then indispensable General’s life in 2003 by warning the Pakistanis on the plan to kill Musharraf by blowing up a bridge. We saved the General coz he was the “world’s best bet in Pakistan”. And what did we get in return?

Benazir Bhutto pleading for a democratic Pakistan, free from the yoke of military dictatorship that would cease to be a breeding ground for international terrorism. Poor Lady.

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