Another US-created mess in Pakistan

By B.Raman

(December 17, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) You can depend on the US to do it--- create yet another mess in Pakistan.

The December 16,2009, ruling of the full-bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court declaring null and void Pervez Musharraf's National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which paved the way for the US-desired return of Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari from political exile in 2007 to participate in the elections to the National Assembly, is a slap in the face not only for Zardari, now the President of Pakistan, but also for US policy-makers, who worked behind the scenes to pressure Musharraf to issue the NRO.

The NRO, widely unpopular in Pakistan and seen by many as the result of US machinations to prevent the return of Nawaz Sharif to power, closed all pending corruption cases against her and Zardari to enable them to return to active political life. She promised the US that if she returned to power she would work in tandem with Musharraf in co-operating with the US in its war against terrorism in the Af-Pak region.

Being the cunning person that he was and still is, Musharraf made the NRO applicable --- without any US objection --- not only to Benazir and Zardari, whom the US wanted to help, but also to about 8000 other public servants and political leaders in Pakistan, who were facing corruption cases. The US shouts from the roof-top about the need for action by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan against corruption,but became a party to the cover-up of thousands of corruption cases in Pakistan in order to facilitate the return of Benazir to power to carry out the US agenda.

Action against corruption in Afghanistan will be good for the fight against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Cover-up of corruption in Pakistan will be necessary for the war against terrorism. That was the US logic and morality.

Commenting on the US-encouraged move for a patch-up between Musharraf and Benazir in an article of September 2,2007, titled "US PARADROP FOR A NEOBENAZIR" ( ) I wrote as follows: "The much talked about US plans for a political paradrop of a neo Benazir Bhutto into Pakistan in the hope of providing the badly-needed oxygen to President General Pervez Musharraf and saving the country from Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and an assortment of other pro-Al Qaeda and anti-US jihadi terrorist groups is likely to create a third mess in a row for the US after the earlier two in Afghanistan and Iraq...... Sections of the US media have quoted US officials as justifying the proposed Musharraf-Benazir patch-up as the best of the bad options available. So they said, when they gave unqualified backing to Musharraf post 9/11. So they are saying now. US calculations of political stability in Pakistan under such a patch-up may be belied..... Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal need to be protected from the hands of Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorists. Nobody can find fault with the over-all US objective, but it has been going about it in the wrong way. It should have allowed genuine democracy to take its own course, even at the risk of political forces not well disposed towards the US coming to power. Instead, by giving the impression of taking sides even before the elections and by making its ill-advised preferences known before the elections, it has given rise to the strong possibility of more instability, not less, more terrorism, not less.Even if Benazir comes to power in an election rigged by the Army,she will be seen as Pakistan's Hamid Karzai, who came to power not by the will of the people, but by riding on the shoulders of the US."

Things did not work out the way the US was hoping they would. Benazir was assassinated on December 27,2007, allegedly by the Pakistani Taliban then led by the late Baitullah Mehsud even before she could contest the elections. Yousef Raza Gilani, who was nominated by Zardari as the Prime Minister after the elections hoping he would be a weakling who would carry out his wishes, has proved to be a strong and cunning leader, who has quietly won the support of the Army. Musharraf could not survive in power and had to leave office and his country in total ignominy. Zardari, who succeeded Musharraf as the President much to the satisfaction of the US, finds his credibility steadily weakened. The weakening of his credibility started because of the perception that he succumbed to US pressure not to humiliate Musharraf by arresting and prosecuting him for his misdeeds and that he was quietly allowing the US drone strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the tribal areas.

Zardari's failure to have the NRO approved by the Parliament for want of the required majority and the latest slap in the face from the Supreme Court would further damage his credibility. The only way Zardari can survive in office is by using his immunity as the President against criminal investigation and prosecution. If he tries to do it, he is going to be a President who is constantly at the mercy of his Prime Minister and Chief of the Army Staff.

At a time when the State of Pakistan is reeling under the repeated blows delivered by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the form of devastating suicide attacks on soft and hard targets even in the non-tribal belt, a weakened and unpopular President will not be able to provide the kind of political leadership which Pakistan needs at this critical juncture.

If the US is wiser after the latest blow, it will let the democratic process take its natural course in Pakistan instead of meddling once again to shore up the position of Zardari or any other political leader. What Pakistan needs today is a political leader who can be seen by large sections of its people as owing his position to the support of his people and not to US support and as having the political will to stand up to US pressure.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )
-Sri Lanka Guardian
Farooq said...

Thank you Sir for an inspired and brave piece of writing. Its rare in this day and age :)