Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pakistan: What Now? (Part Two)

The big news out of Pakistan today, apart from the Musharraf government's continued beatings of street protesters, is Benazir Bhutto's call for large-scale anti-government demonstrations this coming Friday. The article touches on two important points. First, Ms. Bhutto is key to any acceptable solution to the current crisis, as she is the only one capable of mounting a large-scale political assault on Musharraf's government. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that her popularity, combined with U.S. pressure, will keep her from being detained by Musharraf any time soon, so she now stands as the primary locus of viable opposition. Second, the article mentions that her planned march "runs more than 160 miles from the eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad, the heart of Punjab, the country’s largest and most powerful province... The vast majority of the country’s army hails from Punjab, and the military has hesitated in the past to fire on civilians in the province. Widespread popular unrest there could cause senior Pakistani army commanders to turn on General Musharraf and ask him to resign..."

In other words, Ms. Bhutto has (it would seem) concluded that the best way to strike at Musharraf is to undermine his legitimacy within the ranks of his own military. This echoes comments made by Senator Biden on Sunday's Face The Nation, where he suggested withdrawing the high tech military aid (F-16 fighters and such) that allows the Pakistani military to keep pace with that of India in order to convince others within the army that Musharraf has become a liability.

My suggestion, then, is this: come Friday, at the height of Bhutto-led protests through Punjab, the Administration ought to announce the indefinite suspension of all military aid to Pakistan, offering to resume it only once Pakistan is put under functional civilian leadership legitimized through free parlimentary elections. The simultaneous internal and external pressure, if timed correctly, might just create the tipping point necessary to break the deadlock.

1 comment:

Jeb Koogler said...

I think it was Daniel Markey who wrote an article in Foreign Affairs a few months back calling for a slightly different aid policy. He said that instead of threatening to cut off aid, we should actually offer to up our military support.
This would provide Pakistan with a positive incentive to change its policies, rather than merely threatening them into submission. Personally, I think there are major flaws in such a policy, but I thought I'd put it out there.