Bhutto, Bluto or Brutus?
Pakistan is the focus of a SAAG (South Asia Analysis Group) look at possible successors to Musharraf in Pakistan. It warns that Benazir Bhutto may not be the savior of Pakistan she is touted to be for several reasons:
- Bhutto's domestic political power base is no longer as strong as it used to be. Having long been in exile she is counting largely on US support to regain power.
- Bhutto is an double-crosser who was involved in many of the ISI's dubious schemes and AQ Khan's doubtful nuclear activities;
But the fundamental problem, according to the SAAG analysis, is any US-backed strongman will be unpopular in Pakistan because, outside of the Northwest frontier provinces, the primary grievance is against these strongmen themselves. "Today, the Neo Benazir, who denounced Nawaz and his PML in 1988 as the stooges of the Army and the ISI, is seeking the benediction of the US even before winning the elections and the support of Musharraf and his Army for her return to power and the closing of the corruption cases against her and her husband."
Nobody can find fault with the over-all US objective, but it has been going about it in the wrong way. It should have allowed genuine democracy to take its own course, even at the risk of political forces not well disposed towards the US coming to power. Instead, by giving the impression of taking sides even before the elections and by making its ill-advised preferences known before the elections, it has given rise to the strong possibility of more instability, not less, more terrorism, not less.Even if Benazir comes to power in an election rigged by the Army,she will be seen as Pakistan's Hamid Karzai, who came to power not by the will of the people, but by riding on the shoulders of the US.
Speaking of the Northwest frontier provinces, Bill Roggio's site has this report:
The Taliban insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province intensifies as a large force of Taliban fighters captured a company of Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan. The Taliban captured “over 100 security forces personnel after intercepting a military convoy in the Mehsud-dominated tribal area,” Dawn reported. The Taliban have claimed over 300 Pakistani soldiers were captured by a large Taliban force near Luddah, which is about 25 miles north of Wana, but the highest estimate given by Pakistani sources is 130. “The Taliban had also impounded 17 trucks which were carrying troops,” Pakistani sources told Dawn. “Nine of the hostages were reported to be officers including a colonel.”
The US approach to the instability in Pakistan provides an interesting contrast to Iraq's. While the US policy in Iraq has evolved to become a "bottom up" approach -- the much reviled "bringing democracy to the Middle East" -- that in Pakistan has strictly been from the top down. The traditional tools of diplomacy: foreign aid, political support, training etc have been used -- and are being used -- to manage the crisis in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto is one possible path along that network.
There is now pressure to achieve a "regime change" in Pakistan by easing Musharraf out but managing the outcomes so that there is some predictability about the nature of the successor regime. However, this shakeup will not reach all the way to the bottom and the danger -- as the SAAG article correctly points out, despite whatever biases it may contain -- is that the "regime change" will simply substitute one strongman for another. The worst outcome would be a replay of the Fall of the Shah, this time involving a country with an ready nuclear arsenal. Let's see what happens.