APRIL 11 - Sitting in his house in Islamabad with a close
aide , President General Pervez Musharraf reportedly
explored the scenario in Pakistan - albeit if he were to
take off the uniform as being demanded of him . "Well I am
being counseled by some of my own family members to take off
the uniform but others suggest I keep it on. Myself I am not
This classic "to be or not to be" scenario is also microcosm
of the way Pakistanis as a nation are moving ahead. On one
hand they want the goodies offered by living off western
lifestyles, and on the other hand the power of the
fundamentalists sways them the other way.
In such a backdrop, the somewhat tempered US support as
reflected in the most recent statements of Richard Boucher,
the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central
Asia, which suggested that the US support for General
Musharraf is not as absolute anymore, Pakistan's present
political scenario appears once again kaleidoscopic at the
The US are now looking ahead to the 2007 elections.
According to a report, Boucher linked the return of Benazir
Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan and its politics as
"major players" along with U.S. vision of a free,
modern and democratic Pakistan. He also confirmed having met
the country’s chief election commissioner to assess the
extent of Pakistan’s democratic process.
Addressing Musharraf's uniform issue in an interview in
India, Boucher said "That's not the central issue; the
central issue is whether democracy will establish in
Pakistan next year through free and fair elections. The
question of his two posts arises in that context, needs to
be addressed in that context, and he has promised to do so.
But the key to us is this overall movement towards a
restoration of democracy, and we are happy that it has begun
and are happy to support it. We have seen the appointment of
a Central Election Commissioner with some credibility.
That's a key part, it's not the whole thing, it doesn't
ensure a perfectly fair election but it is one of the pieces
that has to work, and we'll try to help it make it work, and
support the process as it moves forward."
There is therefore an obvious but subtle shift in the United
States' continued support to Musharraf - "a friend, ally,
buddy" - and the army as the performing party post 9/11, and
given the most recent drumbeats of democracy, civilian
rule in Pakistan, and the military being under civilian
control, its shift appears to be clearer than ever. The
first volley was fired with the unprecedented invitation of
Benazir Bhutto to the Voice Of America's worldwide media
platform and her well publicized press briefing. As to how
General Musharraf and the other power brokers are
interpreting this shift will be according to their own
looking glass though.
It is no longer a secret that Ms Bhutto and her husband Asif
Zardari are unacceptable to the General and his cohorts.
This fact was amply demonstrated some two weeks ago when the
National Accountability Board (NAB) not only renewed
corruption charges against both of them but also added more
serious charges against the couple for having illegally
acquired properties in Spain and elsewhere. The fact that
neither Ms Bhutto or Zardari has denied these charges is
raising the eye brows of many politicians. While one
concedes that constant barrage of government attacks may be
distracting to the husband and wife team but when the chargers
are so specific an adequate response is not only necessary
but a must for the record. Unfortunately that has not
happened to date.
As against that, the PML (N) duo ,Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif
did not have charges against them increased or added -
except for those that where leveled against them at the time
of their forced exile -- like building the palace at Raiwind
-- nothing else has been added.
Be that as it may, the PPP leadership needs to level with
the people in order to gain their trust ultimately.
But looking ahead, one insider says that one should wait and
see to interpret the party elections of PML(Q) which are
expected to be held in August. It could become a deciding
factor in the body politick of Pakistan, according to the
If meetings are any indication of where the essence and
brass tacks of Pakistan's politics are moving to, former
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was unable to obtain
American visa in time to come to New York to attend a
wedding of a close confidant's son, is expected to come to
United States next month. His brother Shahbaz Sharif and PPP
power broker Asif Zardari are already here.
Some news reports claim that all three plan to meet and discuss
politics, elections, return to Pakistan, etc. in the order
or priority they finally agree by consensus. It would not be
a surprise though if BB also participates in the meeting or
is included in it through video conferencing.
In the past, London was that mystical platform from where
sub-continental politicians planned and launched movements,
conspired and toppled governments, bid for power with or
without successes. Now the U.S. may appear to offer them a
more open, majestic and freer scenario.
Recently former Chief Minister of Punjab and PML (N) leader
Shahbaz Sharif suggested that all opposition political
parties sign a contract stating clearly that if there are
free and fair elections which gave them the mandate, they
would form a national government to rule for next five years
without losers trying to use the army and or other
unscrupulous means to unseat them.
He said that PML (N) is ready to sign on such a contract .
But will the others? There in lies the dilemma.