News sources, Pakistani and otherwise, have been very active in reporting two significant stories. The first is that Pervaiz Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, abruptly canceled his visit to Afghanistan to attend a jirga (tribal council) to solve the problems plaguing Afghanistan, Pakistan, and their border areas. (In other words, work out some diplomatic mumbo-jumbo on how to deal with those pesky terrorists.) In Musharraf’s place will be the Pakistani prime minister, Shaukat Aziz (who is seen as Musharraf’s puppet). The second story may explain why Musharraf abruptly withdrew from the jirga: there are reports that Musharraf (with other significant authorities in Pakistan’s military government) is planning to impose emergency martial rule in Pakistan. No explanation is given as to why.
I am puzzled. I am not aware of any significant developments in Pakistan that would necessitate such a measure. Well, other than what has been happening for some time. But I doubt emergency martial rule would do anything. As it is, Pakistan has been under de facto martial rule since Musharraf took power. The immediacy with which Musharraf came to his conclusion (and the urgency with which he is meeting with his top advisers) suggests that the military government has become aware of something or is anticipating something. What this something is, I haven’t even an idea, and seems like no one else does either.
Maybe this is in preparation for the failure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan jirga. Maybe if the jirga fails and no accord is reached, Musharraf and his military government will use the opportunity to execute a major operation in the areas of concern, using martial rule to stifle the inevitable outrage of the opportunistic politicians and people.
What has increased the need of such a measure is the recent blow to Musharraf’s legitimacy in the people’s eye, that is, when the Supreme Court reinstated the Chief Justice that Musharraf dismissed. That the legal/juridical apparatus has come out against Musharraf (and, it seems, with a vengeance) means more idiotic distractions for Musharraf. (It’s all politics, and I hope Musharraf knows not to take it personally. But at the same time, he cannot let opportunistic or idiotic legal people to bring him or his regime down.)
Regarding all this, the LA Times had a remarkably interesting article on President Bush and his strategic ambiguity regarding Pakistan. Bush did something right for once! According to the LA Times, when asked about potential policy towards Pakistan, Bush evaded the question. This was crucial. America has a large number of tools in its toolbox with which to pressure Pakistan to cooperate. Invasion is very, very, very low on the list. Perhaps the best tool is the promised jets, which have been a sore point in Pakistani-American relations for decades. By remaining silent, Bush does not assist anti-American propaganda nor does he let lazy Pakistani military authorities get away. He essentially permits the American and Pakistani governments to continue whatever arrangement they have made without having to deal with public outcry from either side.
In contrast, when other politicians openly threaten Pakistan, it makes an already complicated situation even more complicated. With regard to international politics and relations, one simply cannot threaten to invade an ally. I think why this is so is so blatantly obvious I don’t need to detail further.
Let us see what transpires.
And remember: we may not like Pakistan or its government or its military or its autocrat or its people, but the fact remains that Pakistan is a major geopolitical area in global terrorism. We need to keep paying attention and to keep making the right decisions if we are to win in that threatre of World War III.