Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dearth of Pakistani Leadership

Whenever one of my grad school professors, a retired Pakistani Brigadier, would discuss Pakistan he would say "I reserve the right to come in here tomorrow and tell you that everything I said yesterday is wrong" because facts change and events happen just that fast in Pakistan. With that caveat, here is my current take on Pakistani leadership.
President Asif Ali Zardari is the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who took over the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) when his wife was assassinated after her return to Pakistan in December 2007. He is both corrupt, having been known as Mr. Ten Percent for the amount he supposedly embezzled when his wife was Prime Minister, and weak, having backed down several times during his rule.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leads the egotistically-named Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). He was deposed in a coup in 1999 following the failed attempt to use militants to take over part of Kashmir, which led to the Kargil War. Reportedly when briefed at the front on the operation his only question was "which way is India?" He is clearly shrewd, but his beliefs are eclectic. He is a populist leader who ordered the 1998 nuclear tests and has partnered with various religious groups and political parties, and once called for a return to Islamic law in Pakistan. At the same time he was close to the Clinton administration, so it is difficult to know how reliable an ally he might be now. He has led and won the populist push to reinstate the sacked Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Zardari and Sharif are longtime rivals, but the only thing they hated more than each other was former President General Pervez Musharraf. Now that Musharraf has been forced out they are going head to head, and Zardari has blinked twice, allowing Sharif out of house arrest and agreeing to reinstate Chaudhry, who will almost certainly revers the decision to bar Sharif and his brother from running for office. Zardari's days as leader of Pakistan seem doomed.
The wild card is General Ashfaq Kayani, Musharraf's hand-picked successor as Army Chief. Although the United States is a strong proponent of democracy, military participation in politics is seen as normal in Pakistan. With Zardari ineffective bordering on incompetent, and Sharif with troubling ties to the very militants we are fighting, should the United States consider the possible advantaged of military rule in Pakistan?

No comments:

Post a Comment