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Pakistani powder keg

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The political situation in Pakistani grows more tense as former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ousted in the military coup which brought President Musharraf to power in 1999, returned to Islamabad today, reports Zarar Khan for the Associated Press:

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed in Pakistan Monday, returning from exile to lead a campaign to topple Pakistan's U.S.-allied military ruler who ousted him in a military coup eight years ago.

Police arrested leading Sharif supporters and clashed with others on blocked roads leading to Islamabad airport, where he arrived on board a Pakistan International Airlines flight from London.

Supporters on the flight chanted "Go, Musharraf, Go!" as Sharif's flight taxied on the runway, an Associated Press reporter on board said.

Read the entire article at the above link.

UPDATE: According to CBS-2, Sharif was arrested and put on a plane to Saudi Arabia upon his arrival in Islamabad.

We posted in August on the negotiations between the Musharraf government and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, conducted with a view towards a temporary power-sharing arrangement on the way to the return of full and free elections. Bhutto commands greater support than Sharif, and has no direct vendetta against Musharraf, so if she can be brought into an alliance, peaceful resolution seems possible.

Sharif, on the other hand, is absolutely committed to ousting Musharraf immediately. This might be a thoroughly reasonable position, were it not for the precarious situation with the extremists.

Deposing Musharraf would likely embolden them to incite even more violence, which could lead either to chaos or to a nervous Army taking full control. Neither scenario appeals.

Bhutto remains the last best hope for a democratic Pakistan which can stand against the Islamic fascists. She was twice elected Prime Minister - a woman in a Muslim nation - illustrating the strong roots of moderation and desire for modernization in Pakistan. Those roots can probably best be succored by a negotiated plan for Musharraf's "retirement," rather than a full-fledged political battle between the supporters of democracy and those who favor the Army's "security-first" approach.

Turmoil in Pakistan constitutes a direct threat to our own security, and that of the entire region. The irony that a strong and worldly Muslim woman may be the key to overcoming the tide of Islamic extremism should not be lost, nor should the opportunity to try.


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Comments (6)

So, you think the 'soft tou... (Below threshold)

So, you think the 'soft touch' will work on the product of the madrassahs? I wish I had your confidence. The Saudi money supporting them must stop. But how?

I certainly do not mean to ... (Below threshold)

I certainly do not mean to exude confidence. The situation remains completely up in the air.

I do believe Bhutto represents the best chance to contain the extremists. Anti-Musharraf feelings are helping the radicals right now; diplomatic and electoral victories by moderate democratic parties will serve to demonstrate, domestically and to the region, that "mainstream" Muslims are not on the side of the terrorists.

The Saudi money has propped up the madrassahs and created, in major part, the current crisis with extremism, but the fuse has already been lit.

The problem with Bhutto is ... (Below threshold)

The problem with Bhutto is that he fled the country after he and his wife were convicted of corruption charges and given five year prison sentences. Prime Minister (at the time) Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League party had won the majority in the National Assembly in 1997. After trading nuclear weapons tests with India in 1998 and increased militant activity on the Indian side of Kashmir, the Pakistani army begins clearing the militants out of Kashmir. Prime Minister Sharif fires General Musharraf (and others) over this course of action, and Musharraf takes over in a military coup.

Let's keep our eye on the ball in this discussion. Pakistan's Surpreme Court declared the coup Constitutional (yes, military rule is provided for under their constitution) and Musharraf has survived a referrendum in 2002 as well as a Confidence vote by the Senate and National Assembly in 2004.

By no means are we looking at a perfect situation in Pakistan, but I agree that Bhutto would be a better choice for Pakistan and the world than Sharif.

This may be why Musharraf i... (Below threshold)

This may be why Musharraf is talking to Bhutto. Perhaps he considers it possible to share power with her, but not with Sharif.

To Saudi Arabia. Very inte... (Below threshold)

To Saudi Arabia. Very interesting. I'll bet he gets a big welcome from Abdullah.

Nice article about Musharra... (Below threshold)

Nice article about Musharraf by Ian Bremmer at RealClearPolitics.






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