May 16, 2007

Stratfor Examines a Post-Musharraf Pakistan

Here is Stratfor's article looking at a possible post-Musharraf Pakistan in full.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in an interview published Wednesday in the British daily Times Online, calls President Gen. Pervez Musharraf "a gone man." Sharif, who also is leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and was ousted from power by Musharraf in 1999, said Musharraf's "options are totally exhausted, and starting from today [his fall] is simply a matter of time." Sharif is not exaggerating -- with each passing day Musharraf appears to be losing his hold on power.

Musharraf's own constituency, the military, is beginning to show signs of concern -- even his close generals are now privately admitting things have gotten out of hand. There also are indications that the United States has begun to gradually move away from the embattled Pakistani leader.

The developing shift in Washington's attitude is notable, considering that the Bush administration has heavily depended on Musharraf being at the helm in Islamabad during the war on terrorism. But the United States has been preparing for a post-Musharrafian Pakistan for at least a little over a year. In the beginning, however, the U.S. move stemmed the need to move beyond reliance on a single individual leader and not because of any threat to Musharraf's hold on power.

Now that the political crisis has imposed a crisis of governance on the Musharraf regime, it is only natural that the United States now move from planning to actually preparing for the time when Musharraf will no longer be Pakistan's president. But the military establishment dominates Pakistan, and Musharraf being both president and military chief raises the question of who will replace him.

However, it is unlikely that one successor will hold both positions because the domestic and international situation precludes the possibility of a military takeover of the country. It should be noted that this assumes that Musharraf continues to try and tough it out, in which case the growing unrest and violence in the country could prompt the corps commanders and agency heads to force him to step down.

In such a situation, the chairman of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro, would become acting president and an interim prime minister would be appointed to lead a caretaker government. Such a government would then be tasked with holding new parliamentary elections. The interim administration would be based more or less on a consensus between the political forces and the military. Such elections would lead to a coalition federal government likely composed of at least the two main parties -- the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party -- with the latter being the senior coalition partner. The new parliament and provincial legislatures, which together constitute the Electoral College that elects the president, would install a new head of state who likely would be a consensus candidate of the parties in the coalition government.

Regarding the position of the chief of the army staff, it is likely that the current vice chief of army staff (VCOAS), Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat, would succeed Musharraf. This is assuming that, if current trends persist, Musharraf will be unable to hold on to power until October, when Hayat is expected to retire. Hayat has worked extensively with Washington in the past several years, especially since he assumed the post of VCOAS in October 2004.

Furthermore, though the current political crisis will lead to the ouster of Musharraf, the military establishment will remain in control of the state for some time. From the U.S. viewpoint this is important because it ensures continuity in policy on the war on terrorism. In the long run it is in Washington's interest to see the military come under civilian control because such a government allows for relatively smooth transitions of power. But in the current circumstances, such a political dispensation could create hurdles in the path of ongoing counterterrorism cooperation because elected regimes are answerable to the masses, which in this case resent U.S. foreign policy toward their region of the world.

Musharraf's exit certainly will represent a major shift in the Pakistani political scene, but it is one for which the United States has been preparing.[Stratfor]

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