Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pakistan: What's Next?

Over the last few weeks, the US government has been making various statements about the political situation in Pakistan. There's a lot of talk about "tough messages" and "restoring democracy" in Pakistan. However, I believe Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf have both been severely damaged by the open and repeated statements of support by the Bush administration. In my humble opinion, this is likely to backfire just like it did in Palestine when US threw its support behind Mahmood Abbas. Average Pakistanis may not be the most well-informed and educated people but they can see this US intervention for what it is: An overt attempt to install US favorites in power. If relatively free and fair elections are held as planned in Jan 08, I see a hung parliament at best with PPP/MQM in Sind, PML(N) and PML(Q) in Punjab and MMA in NWFP/Baluchistan as the winners. The overt US support may, in fact, enhance the popularity of the parties not seen to be supported by the US and increase their strength in Parliament. Given this scenario, no one can take for granted the post of the prime minister with this set up. Gen Musharraf can still influence the outcome in his favor if he plays his cards right even in the face of free and fair elections. The one big unknown is the extent of US influence in Pakistani military if the US decides to dump Musharraf. If the US gets Pakistani military brass to overthrow Musharraf, then all bets are off.

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