Friday, August 24

Pakistan: the ball is in play

Pundita can't imagine Musharraf taking this turn of events lying down:
The increasingly assertive Supreme Court in Pakistan ruled Thursday that [former prime minister Nawaz] Sharif could return from exile, throwing politics in the nation into turmoil and threatening the strategy of support by America for the president. [...]

Sharif and Musharraf are longtime enemies, and his return could split the party that supports Musharraf and undo any prospect of his re-election. (The Pakistan Muslim League, the party of Sharif, on Friday rejected any possibility of reconciliation with Musharraf ... Sadique al-Farooq, a senior leader of the party, said "there is no chance for any reconciliation" with Musharraf.) [...]

For the Bush administration [...] the re-entry of Sharif into politics would overturn its plan to prod the general to share power with the Pakistan Peoples Party chairwoman, Benazir Bhutto [another former Pakistan prime minister], as a way of keeping him in power [...]

Sharif is a rival to Bhutto, who had been made politically vulnerable by reports that she had held secret talks with Musharraf to negotiate a power-sharing deal. [...] (1)
Earlier this week Bhutto chatted at length with PBS NewsHour about the talks. Not wise.

Complicating matters, Sharif is not a friend of the United States.
[...] should Sharif end up becoming prime minister after general elections, current agreements that America has with Musharraf - particularly on the sharing of intelligence - would have to be renegotiated, said Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"For months or longer, there would be no progress on a lot of different issues," he said. But, he asked: "Could we resurrect the relationship? I think we would. I think we'd have to."

The return of Sharif would certainly hamper the efforts by the Bush administration to arrange a power-sharing accord between Bhutto and Musharraf, and it could further complicate the plan by Musharraf to seek election next month by members of the current National Assembly, whose term expires this year.

A government minister, Ishaq Khan Khakwani, said this week that moves were already afoot to start reconciliation with all parties and have Musharraf seek re-election from a newly elected Parliament instead. The general has sought to avoid that route because his support in a new Parliament is far less certain.

Political analysts predicted that the court decision would fundamentally alter the political map of the country as it headed toward general elections

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