Facing imminent impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday, after months of belated recognition by American officials that he had become a waning asset in the campaign against terrorism.Much like Saddam Hussein in the 80's and our string of Iraqi leaders currently, Pervez Musharraf was a necessary evil. He was the devil you knew in a Muslim country in the Middle East that had nuclear weapons. The fate of Pakistan is now up for grabs...and when anyone says that the fate of Pakistan is in the balance, they are talking about Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Keep that in the back of your mind.
The decision removes from Pakistan’s political stage the leader who for nearly nine years served as one of the United States’ most important — and ultimately unreliable — allies. And it now leaves American officials to deal with a new, elected coalition that has so far proven itself to be unwilling or incapable of confronting an expanding Taliban insurgency determined to topple the government.
“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” Mr. Musharraf said, explaining his decision in an emotional televised speech lasting more than an hour. He will stay in Pakistan and will not be put on trial, government officials said.
The question of who will succeed Mr. Musharraf is certain to unleash intense wrangling between the two rival political parties who form the governing coalition and to add a new layer of turbulence to an already unstable nuclear-armed nation of 165 million people.
“We’ve said for years that Musharraf is our best bet, and my fear is that we are about to discover how true that was,” one senior Bush administration official said, acknowledging that the United States had stuck with Mr. Musharraf for too long and developed few other relationships in Pakistan to fall back on.
So what now? As the NY Times reports, we don't know a whole lot of other folks in Pakistan and the government there was basically united on the fact everybody hated Pervez Musharraf. He's gone now. Now the real fun begins. Saeed Shah at McClatchy News has more.
Got that? There's five major players in Pakistan now that Musharraf is gone:
The Bush administration, which since 9/11 has based its Pakistan policy largely on Musharraf, now must chart a different course at a time when the Islamic insurgencies in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, economic unrest in Pakistan and tensions with Pakistan's arch-foe India are all on the rise.
Despite the administration's bet on Musharraf, Islamabad's role in the war on terror has been ambivalent at best, with evidence that members of the country's security and intelligence forces have been secretly backing Taliban militants. The Army decides the country's policy toward its tribal areas, which border Afghanistan and have become a refuge for Taliban and al Qaida militants, and its broader security policies.
"If this continues, I strongly suspect that Pakistan will move from the ally category to the foe category," said Christine Fair, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp, a private U.S. research organization. "The impeachment (threat) is a very necessary step to restoring the constitution and getting civilian control over the military."
In Washington, President Bush heaped praise on Musharraf Monday but was quick to underline his commitment to the new government.
"President Bush appreciates President Musharraf's efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan, as well as his commitment to fighting al Qaida and extremist groups," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "We're confident that we will maintain a good relationship with the government of Pakistan."
While the prospect of impeaching Musharraf brought the country's largely dysfunctional civilian coalition together, analysts said there now could be a tussle over who'd succeed Musharraf as president and whether judges he fired would be restored. Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-N wants the judiciary reinstated, but Asif Zardari, the leader of the rival Pakistan People's Party, is thought to remain reticent.
"There's no stable settlement. These two guys (Sharif and Zardari) will now start slugging it out," said Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper. "The political interests of the two are diametrically opposed."
- Asif Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower, and his party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Zardari is clever, charismatic, and the PPP is in charge for now based on the outpouring of grief and rage at Benazir Bhutto's assassination, they took a large chunk of parlimentary seats in February. With that, they were able to put in place their man, Yousef Raza Gilani, as Pakistan's new Prime Minister. But they don't have enough to run the country alone without...
- Nawaz Sharif, and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N). Sharif is a former two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan and is very popular among the country's religious groups of Sunnis (Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim country.) Both Zardari and Sharif hated Musharraf...and both wanted him gone so they could run the place themselves. The PML-N's big cause is getting Pakistan's Supreme Court judges reinstated after they were stripped of power by Musharraf several months ago. Zardari and the PPP have been dragging their feet on this, and Sharif is playing it up for all it is worth. But neither one wants to cross...
- The Pakistani Army, currently led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. They've got the guns, bombs, and tanks, and the army has ruled Pakistan for fully half its existence. They have a long and storied tradition of ruling the country with an iron fist, and without the Army's support, nobody in Pakistan makes it long. Gen. Kayani is Musharraf's hand-picked successor, but not even he was able to save Musharraf's hide when the call for impeachment came earlier this month. Gen. Kayani's agreement to go along with Musharraf's impeachment was the signal that Musharraf was done. And General Kayani gets to be the big boy with the big toys in town. But even he treads lightly around...
- The Pakistani military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI is, not to put a fine point on it, crooked as hell. They make the CIA look like nice, upstanding Rotarians. Prime Minister Gilani order their control transferred from the Army to the Prime Minister's directorate. The ISI told Gilani to go fuck himself, and Gilani agreed to put them back, sort of. The real problem with the ISI is that they basically support terrorists, and they run all kinds of black bag jobs to assist Islamic terror organizations. It's the worst kept secret since, well, the CIA in Vietnam, but they get away with it anyhow. It's mainly disconcerting because they are big supporters of...
- You guessed it, our old friends in Al Qaeda. The remote tribal regions of Pakistan that border Afghanistan, the North Waziristan area, is prime terrorist real estate. Osama and his buddies are rumored to be hiding out here along with whatever evil plans they are hatching, and the locals and the ridiculously moon-like terrain make it impossible for anyone to really go in there and clean the place out...plus most of Pakistan would go into open revolt if anyone tried. Remember, AQ is a Sunni organization, and Pakistan is roughly 80% Sunni. He's a hero to the locals. The Paks cut a peace deal with the tribal leaders, and that basically pissed off everyone...but Musharraf had no choice.
Now that Musharraf's gone, what happens in Waziristan? Who will be elected President now? What will the army do and which candidate will they support? Will the government even last without the common enemy in Musharraf?
The nightmare scenario is that Gilani's government falls, the Army and the ISI take over, and they decide delivering Pakistani nukes to Osama and his pals is a good idea. This would be bad...and it's certainly more within the realm of possibility than it was even a few weeks ago. The US is scambling to support the Gilani government and forge a relationship with the PM, because if Gilani goes down, the game is over.
Pray our next President has a better idea on what to do with Pakistan. Our local strongman is history. Everybody wants his job...and those nuclear weapons. Oh yeah...do you think India next door is going to just sit by and do nothing should Gilani go down? They have nukes too, you know. They already hate the ISI. You think they'll let the ISI get a hold of Pakistan's arsenal?
Pay attention, folks. More than Iraq, more than Iran, THIS is the real heart of the Warren Terrah. And everyone's got a knife looking to cut it out and claim it for themselves.