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Political Landscape in Pakistan - The Musharraf Option

June 1, 2010

The month of May has been rather busy; we have experienced the largest oil spill in US history; Congress has passed a landmark financial reform package and has moved one step closer to repealing the long standing "don't ask don't tell policy" for gays and lesbians serving in the US military; law enforcement agencies were able to apprehend Faisal Shahzad, a radicalized Pakistani American who planned the failed NYC time square bombing and Pakistan banned access to Facebook to protest against "Draw Mohammed Day" on the social networking website. In addition to this, while appearing on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, the former secular Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who had resigned in 2008, declared his intention to seek again the highest public office in Pakistan in the next general election.


Given the escalation of predator drone strikes in Pakistan, and the surge in neighboring Afghanistan, the United States has more than a passing interest in such a contest. The current coalition government of moderate forces led by President Asif Zardari has unfortunately failed to bring relief to average Pakistanis and is unlikely to form the government in the next election. In the absence of a credible moderate option, it is possible that a coalition of religious parties led by Nawaz Sharif would take control in Pakistan. This would be detrimental to U.S. interests and would have global consequences. Sharif has twice led the country, from 1990 to 1993, and from 1996 to 1999. In each of his tenures, Pakistan faced financial peril.


Moreover, during both terms in office, Sharif was at odds with the Pakistan Military, was violently confrontational with the nation's judiciary branch, and widened the ethnic tensions to a point of implosion in the port city of Karachi. Sharif has been dubbed a "closet Taliban" by Musharraf and his friends and advisors include Taliban sympathizers like General Mirza Aslam Beg, the former chief of Pakistan Army, Lt. General Hamid Gul, the former Director General of ISI (1987-1989) and Colonel Imam, who is a well-known Holy warrior and Taliban trainer.


It is against this backdrop that Pervez Musharraf now emerges as a credible moderate option primarily for the following reasons:

 

  1. He continues to maintain credible standing on the world stage, especially in China, India, Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia.
  2. He is developing widespread support in Pakistani Diaspora around the world, especially in United States and United Kingdom, who are investing their own time and treasury to help him return to public office.
  3. Since the beginning of this year, he has rekindled grass-roots support in Pakistan, which is rapidly growing. In less than five months, his Facebook page has over 200,000 fans, most of who are from Pakistan.
  4. Several dozen elected and electable politicians from all over Pakistan have established contact with Musharraf and have enthusiastically signaled their support to him when he decides to formally launch his political party.

 

The root cause of terrorism and extremism in the Muslim world resides in unsettled political disputes, especially between India and Pakistan, and the several decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which again has made front page news in recent days. Perhaps Musharraf's return to power in Pakistan can fast track the peace process between India and Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India during his US visit in the fall of 2009 had publicly acknowledged that he and Pervez Musharraf were very close to resolving the three major disputes between India and Pakistan: Siachin, Sir Creek and Kashmir.


Pervez Musharraf may also be well situated to help build consensus in bringing a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although not well known, it was Musharraf who in 2004-05, at the height of his popularity both in Pakistan and around the world, initiated an indigenous effort to establish dialogue with Israel by instructing his diplomatic missions around the world to begin contact with their Israeli counterparts that eventually led to the first formal meeting between Pakistani and Israeli Foreign Ministers in Turkey. To further explore a common ground to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in 2005, he broke bread and addressed a joint gathering of various prominent American Jewish organizations in New York City. In politics, meaningful alliances are essential to succeed.


In Pervez Musharraf, President Obama, may find the much needed partner that could not only help navigate a winning strategy to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also assist President Obama to enhance his outlook in the Muslim world and reverse his rapidly dwindling support in the American Jewish community and Israel.

Raza Bokhari discusses Musharraf Treason Charges on Voice of America
June 28th, 2013
Dr. Raza Bokhari joined experts from Pakistan and United States to discuss the implications of treason allegations against Former President Musharraf

Click here to see the video.
Political Landscape in Pakistan - The Musharraf Option
June 1, 2010
Dr. Raza Bokhari wrote the folowing op-ed which was recently in the news.
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