Musharraf in power play game to isolate religious parties ahead of polls

December 3rd, 2007 - 3:52 pm ICT by admin  

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: Following is an analysis done by Mr. Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau chief of the Asia Times online. We do hope this will be of use to your esteemed publication.
Thanks and Regards, ANI News Desk
Musharraf in power play game to isolate religious parties ahead of polls
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Islamabad, Dec.3 (ANI): The appointment of a new Chief of Army Staff, a civilian President and a mechanism in place to ensure the isolation of religious parties in the upcoming Pakistani election are the result of Washingtons year-and-half long effort to promote a regional strategy aimed at encouraging pro-West political parties to come forward to govern and to influence an army to act free of political compromises to defeat precious Talibans strategic assets in Pakistan. From November 28, 2007, General Pervez Musharraf does not hold any operational influence on the Pakistan armed forces. He would further lose his formal public relations with his old colleagues when incumbent Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani would change five corps commanders and the DG (Military Intelligence), who happens to be Musharrafs wifes nephew, in the coming days and bring in his own team in place.
Nevertheless, as president of Pakistan, Musharraf would continue to preside over the strategic National Security Council to decide the broader strategic dimensions in the country and would continue to be the conduit for broader policy dialogue between Washington and Pakistan.
At the same time, Washington has already set up a separate mechanism in place under which the NATO Command regularly communicates with Director General Military Operations in Pakistan on cross border operations, the CIA and the FBI directly deals with the Director General-ISI on intelligence sharing and with Chief of Army Staff on the issues pertaining anti-Taliban and Al-Qaeda military operations in Pakistan.
After Musharrafs retirement from Pakistan Army, life is easy on the War on Terror front as the Army would act on the merit of a problem and would not bow to political pressures. Under the umbrella of President, a retired General Pervez Musharraf, an alliance of different political parties would be part of the government and provide political support to US-led War on Terror in the region. Politics is all local, and therefore, the issue of statecraft is still a challenge to Musharraf. At he behest of Saudi Arabia, the Nawaz Sharif factor was put into play in Pakistan before the polls, but only after guarantees were furnished through Saudi Arabia that he would not create a nuisance in Pakistan through street agitations.
He has been sent back to Pakistan after a prolonged exile to contest the polls. Sharifs return and support from Saudi Arabia is only meant to contest the polls and not leave the ground for a secular Pakistan Peoples Party.
However, a group of hardliners in the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group) led by Javed Hashmi, engineered a powerful move which forced Nawaz Sharif to pull his weight in favour of an election boycott.
The only other important party which supported the call is the Jamaat-i-Islami. The majority of the political parties, including Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-Fazl) which is the largest religious political party in the country, have announced to contest the elections. The chief of JUI-F, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, even said in a statement that his party would favour and oppose Musharraf on the merit of issues, and there would be no reason for getting into an all out war against Musharraf.
The Pakistan Peoples Party led by Benazir Bhutto has launched a party manifesto for the January 2008 elections. The sub-nationalist Pashtun Awami National party is another opposition party which has decided not to boycott the polls.The former ruling coalition, including the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Peoples Party Patriot have also said that they will contest the elections. Sources told this scribe that various quarters, including Pakistans strategic institutions are in contact with Sharif to convince him not to align himself with minority groups which are boycotting elections.
If Sharif continues with a policy of boycotting the elections, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam would confront the Pakistan Peoples Party in all four provinces and prevent it from securing an absolute majority in Parliament. After the elections Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam would form its government with its old ruling coalition and Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam led by Fazlur Rahman group. If Nawaz Sharif decides to revert his decision for boycott, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam would make seat adjustments against Pakistan Peoples Party and with the six parties religious alliance MMA. Pervez Musharraf is doing his level best to create a power player combination of three Ps in the next elections — that is President Pervez Musharraf, former Chief minister of Punjab Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi as prime minister and General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani as Chief of Army Staff — in Pakistan. But many pre-election and post election political formations suggest that the most crucial role would be that of Nawaz Sharif and, if he reverses his boycott decision, that would change the country’s political course. (ANI)

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