Sunday, October 07, 2007

Musharraf Wins Pakistani Election...But No Stability

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf won a new term in a presidential election in Pakistan's parliament boycotted by nearly the entire opposition, who boycotted the vote.

It remains to be seen whether Pakistan's Supreme Court will allow the results to stand. Or even if they do, how firm Musharraf's grip on power is.

The key question (aside from Musharraf's general unpopularity)had to do with the challenge to Musharraf based on the fact that he was running for president while still head of the army. Musharraf finessed that in a unique way - by offering to step down as head of the army if he was re-elected. Towards that end, he appointed an old crony,General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, the former head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) counter espionage agency, who will take over as the new vice chief of army staff, and probably succeed Musharraf as head of the army if and when he steps down from his army position by November 15.

Musharraf has attempted to expand his base of power by making a defacto alliance with former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto, who left Pakistan amid charges of corruption. In a power sharing deal between Mausharraf's Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid e Azam (PML-Q) and Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) she's returned to the country and the corruption and theft charges have been dropped.

That doesn't change the central nature of the opposition to Musharraf's rule.

Pakistan is an extremely anti-American country, and a haven and a major source of support for Islamic terrorism to the West. Musharraf is largely seen as a US toady and a secularist...`an enemy of Islam.'

Musharraf's been dancing on the cracks between Western aid and keeping the jihadis happy for a very long time, but eventually something had to give,and the turning point was likely the bloody battle for the Red Mosque in Islamabad. After that, the hardline fundamentalists turned against the regime and the truce Musharraf had entered into with al-Qaeda and the Taliban which gave them a virtually free hand in Waziristan crumbled, as al-Qaeda declared war on Musharraf in recent videos and called for him to be overthrown.

Ever since, the regime has been involved in homicide bombings and bloody battles..the latest one just yesterday when the Taliban ambushed a Pakistani army convoy near Mir Ali, a town in the North Waziristan region,and killed twenty Pakistani troops.

Keep in mind that Pakistan doesn't just have a nuclear program - they've got full blown nuclear weapons and ICBM's, and a population, according to the recent Pew poll, where a sizeable majority thinks the West - and especially the US - is at war with all Islam. And they also share a border with our enemies in Iran.

Right now, the US is investing substantial strategic capital in Musharraf in the hopes he can continue his current high wire act.

I personally wouldn't bet on it.

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