The following is a part analysis of a January 7 article in the International Herald Tribune entitled Ã¢â‚¬ËœIn Musharraf`s shadow, a new hope for Pakistan risesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ written in part by Carlotta Gall, one of the foremost commentators on Pak politics and author of the book, Chechnya, Calamity in the Caucasus. The TribuneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s excerpts are italics and the authorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remarks follow.
Over the last several months, a little-known, enigmatic Pakistani general has quietly raised hopes among American officials that he could emerge as a new force for stability in Pakistan, according to current and former government officials. But it remains too early to determine whether he can play a decisive role in the country.
The statement that dictates feelings of contentment of American officials with a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœregime changeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ for the International Herald TribuneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (IHT) readership is of little solace to one reading between the lines.
In knowing how much the U.S. is in tune with what is going on in Pakistan is quite evident when during the past two presidential administrations tens of billions of dollars have been blindly funnelled to a country that carefully counts their Ã¢â‚¬ËœgreenbacksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ like an old miser. The mantra that is literally being taken, for example, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœchange is goodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and anyone better than General Musharraf that is servicing the special interests of the U.S., is potentially beneficial during this crucial war against terrorism that so happens to fall in the middle of a hotly contested election year.
Incredibly none of the three Democratic frontrunners or the slew of Republican hopefuls are talking about what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and naturally, Pakistan. Instead a U.S. Congress is busily earmarking billion dollar spending bills, receiving a set of Ã¢â‚¬ËœJohn HancocksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ from the Appropriations Committee and quickly being passed so Christian senators can go home and enjoy Christmas holidays with their families. It seems accountability for the billsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ viability is discarded and undoubtedly promised to end up in the laps of federal court judges and in future the highest courts of the land.
Whether Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the new army chief of Pakistan, actually plays a decisive role in the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s maelstrom is of little importance at this stage. Irreparable damage has already been caused, and more than likely he will turn into a puppet commander as Musharraf dictates his Ã¢â‚¬ËœsuperiorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ every move. After the dust from Tora Bora settles, the question that needs to be asked: Is a de facto Musharraf army better than a passive aggressive Musharraf government and army?
This passive aggressive psychotic episode has literally manifested itself in the WestÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last best hope for an embedded ally (as British, Australian, Canadian and even IcelandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s troops have begun to draw up a timetable to withdraw from both Afghanistan and Iraq). Pakistan has displayed the most common symptoms of this sickness over the past decade: Procrastination Ã¢â‚¬" where money is demanded first and questions and action are put off until later; stubbornness Ã¢â‚¬" closed dialogue between the West, and constant ignorance from diplomatic vehicles and a blatant misuse of a character trait called common sense. Furthermore is the ineffectiveness of implementing war games from, theoretically, the most fit Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcommander-in-chiefÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in Musharraf, a career-dedicated serviceman, to lead a country by leading an army. Finally, the defense mechanism that a crippled Pakistan has revealed for the world to see completes its profile and nullifies what little clout it may have left in international diplomatic circles. This is the lame duck approach that Musharraf and his cronies have employed while cloaked under an invisible, and invincible, shield of non-responsiveness.
The parties already accuse Musharraf Ã¢â‚¬" who is widely unpopular according to public opinion polls Ã¢â‚¬" of fixing the elections. If demonstrations erupt, Kayani will have to decide whether to suppress them. What he decides will determine who rules Pakistan, according to Pakistani and American analysts. The decision also could affect whether the country descends into even deeper turmoil.
One cannot possibly see Pakistan dipping any farther below its current level of respectability. As the mid-February election looms, it appears as though the PeopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Party will be absent, boycotting what the slain Benazir BhuttoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contingent rightly determined as a deeply flawed election system, akin to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfree and fair electionsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ taking place in that of the Central Asian totalitarian regimes, dictatorial rule in North Korea or former French and British colonies deep in the heart of Africa.
The crucial point is not who rules Pakistan, but how Pakistan is ruled. As stated before, a serious change of direction needs to be taken, and if other regions in the world do not believe the time and commitment is worth it or necessary, they are dead wrong. One need only to look at the ever increasing victims of suicide bombings in remote locations. This all stems from a haven where a decisive blow could have been made, should have been made and needs to be made, and this must be initiated by a sound, driven Pakistan. Anything less put forward by a tarnished general or an expectant protege to resurrect the nation and the critical fight now consuming the four corners of the globe will end in a agonizingly painful nuclear terrorist winter Ã¢â‚¬" certainly an aspect where, because of recent events, is becoming all the more probable.