Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pakistan Has A New President

Asif Ali Zardari, Benazhir Bhutto's widower and head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has been elected as Pakistan's new president, which essentially gives the PPP control of the country.

His election comes at a time when Pakistan is on the verge of falling apart.The economy is crumbling, and Pakistan faces increasing violence from the Islamists, who have a defacto control of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. To mark Zardari's victory, they set off a car bombing that killed a dozen people in the northwestern city of Peshawar yesterday and another thirty Pakistanis were killed today in a massive truck bombing on a highway outside the same city.

Zardari claims he plans to continue as a US ally against the jihadis, and has called the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban 'Pakistan's war'.

I wouldn't count on too much.

For one thing, what Zardari has to be chiefly after is stability, and that means a truce with the Islamists. The PPP have been dubbed pro-western liberals by certain elements of the dinosaur media, but what they could actually be better described as quasi-socialist kleptocrats who are definitely not particularly pro-US. Both Bhutto and Zardari are part of Pakistan's oligarch class. When Bhutto was prime minister literally anything was for sale in Pakistan, she salted away a fortune for herself, and Zardari's nickname in Pakistan is 'Mr. Ten Per Cent.' A hint; he didn't get it because of his honesty and avoidance of bribery and corruption.

Another thing to watch will be Zardari's relationship with the army, the one entity in Pakistan that functions with reasonable efficiency. As I've mentioned before, it's all but certain that Zardari made a deal with the army to allow Musharaf to resign quietly and retire to exile. They obviously have acceded to the PPP taking power, but on the other hand, their campaign against the Taliban and the other assorted Islamists has been costly and largely ineffectual. Again, another incentive for a live and let live deal with the jihadis in the NWFP, with maybe an occasional small time raid to keep the Americans quiet and the aid coming in.

An interesting counterpoint to this was the fallout over the recent US air raid over the Pakistani border into Waziristan.Th efact that the raid took place at all is symbolic of the fact that in spite of all the nice words by Condi Rice, the Bush Administration has finally owned up to the fact that their interference with Musharraf was a costly mistake and that even Musharraf's limited level of support can't be counted on any longer with the new regime.

The US raid apparently hadn't been cleared with the Pakistanis beforehand for the every good reason that the Islamists have a lot of supporters in the army and in Pakistan's ISI security service, and any information of this kind given to the Pakistanis has a way of leaking out.

So of course they were livid, and took the unusual step of closing the vital Torkham border crossing to NATO trucks and closing off supplies to Afghanistan for a full day in retaliation.

As I've pointed out before, when Barack Obama and his fellow travelers in the Donkey party talk about their grand strategy of 'fighting the real war in Afghanistan' by invading the NWFP in Pakistan, they reveal exactly how clueless they really are. All you have to do is to be able to read a map, something community organizers and Harvard grads apparently aren't required to master.

Afghanistan's a landlocked country and the major lifeline for NATO's forces in Afghanistan flows through the Pakistani port of Karachi and over the highway that connects to the Torkham crossing. That's what the millions in aid money is really paying for, and the Pakistanis just reminded us how dependent we are on their goodwill to supply Afghanistan. If they become hostile, the only other practical overland route would involve going through the Black Sea through Georgia and Azerbaijan and then crossing the Caspian Sea and shipping the stuff through Turkmenistan and then over rough, mountainous desert country into Afghanistan from the Northwest. It could be done, but it would be much more difficult and time consuming.

Our only other choices would be to invade Pakistan from the coast and take control of a port and the road corridor into Afghanistan or pull out.

What we'll likely do is keep bribing the Pakistanis and attempt to work with them in the on again, off again fashion we have before.

But I wouldn't expect much from their end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

along with your stradegy of securing the borders to win the afghan fight, karachi should be dust by now. should have been 7 years ago.
supplies flowing into afghan should be along a 100 mile wide secur strip of eight lane highway that any ra....... ra....... person that we don't like, sets foot into gets his/her families lungs handed to them.
oh my, is my bigotry showing?????