(A very interesting article)
by MK Bhadrakumar
The United States has given a huge boost to the Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani at a critical turning point in Pakistani politics. Secretary of State John Kerry had a dinner meeting at Amman with Kayani last month. A team of senior US officials met Kayani at the GHQ in Rawalpindi in the weekend.
It has since been announced that Kerry will be having a ‘trilateral’ with Kayani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Brussels on Wednesday.
(Karzai is a reluctant partner, as his open invitation to China to exploit the geopolitics of the region plainly underscores even as he left for Brussels.)
Hmm. Three meetings for Kayani with American interlocutors within a month’s time. What needs to be noted is that all this is happening despite the fact that within a few weeks Pakistan is going to have an elected government.
Put differently, all this is happening precisely because Pakistan is going to have an elected government very soon.
The heart of the matter is that both Washington and the Pakistani military leadership are viewing with unease bordering on trepidation the prospect of an elected government headed by Nawaz Sharif, which is the probable outcome of the parliamentary election in May.
The US apprehends that Sharif will be a difficult customer, given his ‘desi’ outlook and his links with the ‘anti-US’ Islamic parties (who may well form part of his coalition government), while the army dreads that once ensconced in power in Islamabad he will inexorably push the envelope on civilian supremacy in policymaking.
Both are valid fears and it explains Kerry’s manifest rush to get peace talks somehow started with Kayani’s help by exploiting the latter’s need of US support in the upcoming tussle with a Sharif-led civilian government.
Alas, the US is once again bolstering the Pakistani army’s dominance at the cost of democratic forces. And it comes as no surprise that the Pakistani generals are using the American crutch to maintain their dominance in domestic politics.
Quite obviously, the return of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan fits into this paradigm. Musharraf was America’s trusted man in Islamabad and being a highly compromised personality, he now has no choice but to subserve US interests till the end of his life.
In sum, Musharraf has been inducted into Pakistan’s domestic politics with great deliberation rather than arriving on his own accord, as is being projected.
He will now be playing a dual role — as the bridge between the Pakistani military and the country’s political class and at the same time as the courier between Rawalpindi and Washington. It is a role he is uniquely suited to play.
Without doubt, Kayani can be trusted to ensure that Musharraf gets incrementally rehabilitated as a full time politician in Pakistan.
It has been a bumpy ride so far for Musharraf, which is only to be expected, considering the huge backlog he created before going into exile.
But the army trusts his capability and grit to weather this storm and survive.
On its part, the army is steadily creating an opinion from behind the scenes that Musharraf should not be ‘humiliated.’
Indeed, Musharraf will face rough weather for a while but he can be ultimately expected to emerge with a key role in Pakistani politics serving the army’s and the US’s interests.
Meanwhile, what is happening is a dress rehearsal in the sense that Nawaz Sharif will come under compulsion to go slow in cracking the whip at Musharraf or the army — or to pursue policies that may adversely impact the US’ interests.
The mother of all ironies is that Washington ought to know that the democratization process in Pakistan is virtually unstoppable now and yet it is opting out of being on the ‘right side of history.’
The reason is not far to seek — it is Kayani and Musharraf who can serve the US regional strategy at this juncture, and not Nawaz Sharif.
From the US perspective, the dream team in these critical months would have been Kayani plus an Asif Zardari - Musharraf combine. But then, young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is only 25 years old and at that age, young men tend to be idealistic.
– April 23, 2013
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- Anonymous saysNawaz Sharif will mostly serve the Saudi interests. Imran Khan is the creation of Pakistan ssi and the military itself.
- Anonymous saysMr. Bhadrakumar is a distinguished analyst and one who I admire a lot. In this particular case, however, I beg to differ with the inferences he has drawn from some recent events. He is on the dot except in one aspect and that is Nawaz Sharif’s compulsion to toe the American line. If the army and the US are wary of anyone who may throw a wrench into the works it is Imran Khan - the more likely winner in the coming contest. Nawaz Sharif is openly pro US, it is Imran who has been condemning American intervention in Pakistan’s affairs rather vociferously and has promised an immediate disengagement from the American led war on terror.