Going Down with Musharraf

21 Feb

Both conservatives and progressives are criticizing the Bush administration for its continued support of Pakistan’s embattled president, Pervez Musharraf, and the same could be directed at Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.

Cato Institute advises the Bush administration to .

Politically, the United States will have to branch out to civilian leaders other than Musharraf in order to maintain some semblance of political stability. Militarily, to prevent the army’s gradual erosion, the United States must continue giving aid to Islamabad with strict oversight and the assurance that such funding is being used against insurgents and not against long-time rival India.

The Center for American Progress is .

The Bush administration continues to demonstrate a shocking tone deafness and incompetence when it comes to U.S. policy toward Pakistan. Just recently, the White House press secretary stated that it was too early to tell whether elections had weakened Musharraf’s power. In even more disturbing remarks, she continued: "I think what President Musharraf has shown is an ability to provide for the country a chance to be confident in their government."

Furthermore, sources in Islamabad tell us that the administration is asking the PPP to explore forming a coalition government with PML-Q rather than to reach out to former prime minister Sharif’s PML-N. In short, the Bush administration may be trying to keep Musharraf in the game and sideline Sharif. The Bush administration has been nervous about Sharif because of his historical closeness to the religious parties in Pakistan, yet sidelining the PML-N could be potentially destabilizing for Pakistan as it controls the heartland of Pakistan through control of the Provincial Assembly in Punjab.

The Bush administration needs to let Pakistan’s political parties do their own parliamentary horse-trading without U.S. pressure, but we worry that the administration has refused to learn the lessons of its failed policies in Pakistan. Its efforts to negotiate a deal between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto prior to her assassination served to delegitimize her for many Pakistanis, making her a greater target for anti-American extremists in Pakistan.

The administration’s consistent over-reliance on President Musharraf emboldened an authoritarian figure who has weakened the nation’s independent judiciary and media, making the United States appear to be a force against democracy and the Pakistani people. What’s more, U.S. policy has done little to counter the strengthening militant groups in Pakistan. If anything, the administration’s ham-handed policies have only inflamed a fragile political and security environment in the country.

Meanwhile, Juan Cole warns that (as well as defending Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama).

And, let’s just consider the shaky dictator Pervez Musharraf, who just suffered a sharp rebuke from the Pakistani electorate, as I wrote about today in Salon.com. McCain appears never to have met a rightwing dictator he didn’t like. McCain defends the dictator. Here is what McCain said about Musharraf late last December:

"Prior to Musharraf, Pakistan was a failed state," McCain said. "They had corrupt governments and they would rotate back and forth and there was corruption, and Musharraf basically restored order. So you’re going to hear a lot of criticism about Musharraf that he hasn’t done everything we wanted him to do, but he did agree to step down as head of the military and he did get the elections."

There’s much more in this blog, so make it a priority!

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