US has alternatives to Musharraf: South Asian expert

November 22nd, 2007 - 2:34 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 22 (ANI): US has alternatives to President General Pervez Musharraf when it comes to nuclear proliferation and Islamist extremism that are just as good, if not better, a noted South Asian expert has said.
“Washington’s approach to Pakistan has always been that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know. But there is every reason to believe that with Musharraf and Pakistan, that is not the case,” Selig Harrison told the Christian Science Monitor (CSM).
“Musharraf has blinded Washington over and over again with a mastery of blackmail, but in the two areas we worry most about - nuclear proliferation and Islamist extremism - there are alternatives that are just as good, if not better,” he added.
Harrison says Washington has treated Musharraf as if he were the last stand before nuclear Armageddon or a new triumph for Islamist extremism.
He says the US has enough leverage over Musharraf to effect a desirable political transition if it wanted - through at least a threatened cut-off of the huge monthly military assistance the country receives for fighting Islamist extremists.
But he sees little prospect of that happening, given the Bush Administration’s continued public support for Musharraf and “more than 54 years of US policy of blindly supporting Pakistan’s dictators.”
Another factor standing in the way of US backing for a real political transition in Pakistan could be private deals the US may have made with Musharraf over US actions vis-a-vis Afghanistan and Iran, he adds.
“This is just speculation,” Harrison says, “but it’s not hard to imagine some kind of agreements that might have been made with Musharraf about intelligence or special operations” in Iran or concerning the Islamist communities in Pakistan’s northern frontier areas “that are influencing our actions in this crisis”.
The CSM report also quotes Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington as saying that envisioning a Pakistan that is just as reliable a US ally without Musharraf is not the hard part, it’s more the pitfalls of a short-term transition period that are troubling.
A Pakistan free of political turmoil, and with the public satisfied that democratisation is proceeding, is more likely to support US policies in the region, the Daily Times quotes Markey, as saying.
“The problem is, the interim period of instability and doubts about who’s in charge, suggest at least the possibility of a tumultuousness that for Washington is problematic,” Markey says.
One of the key determining factors would be how long such a transition period lasted. “If after 24 hours, you had a completed reshuffling of the army deck and clarity about who was in charge, that’s one thing,” Markey says.
“It’s something else if the transition dragged on and doubts about who held the power and ultimately Pakistan’s stability.” The harder issue is that completing a transfer in military power would, by itself, do nothing to resolve the political turmoil Pakistan faces, Markey adds.
If smooth, and with Musharraf’s cooperation and that of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, then it could still come out a plus for the US. “But if it’s a more tumultuous transition,” Markey adds, “then the Army could be forced under pressure to yield to far less helpful political masters than Musharraf has been working with so far.”
A less favourable alternative for the US, Markey, says, would be the rise of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, led Nawaz Sharif.
“That wouldn’t mean an extremist Pakistan, but they just aren’t as keen on working that closely with the US, and they don’t see the world through Washington’s lenses,” says Markey. (ANI)

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