Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nawaz Sharif Back: Setback for US/Bhutto

First, does anyone believe Musharraf went to Saudi Arabia last week to ask the Saudis not to release Sharif? And that the Saudis pressured Musharraf to release him?

Under pressure from Saudi Arabia, where Sharif had been living in exile, Musharraf agreed to allow his archrival to come back to Pakistan.

Nobody believes that? Good. Though it might be pleasurable to point out all the different ways that this is a stupid story, what would be the point? On the other hand, why would they even make up a story like that? I bet the Saudis came up with it. Musharraf and Sharif's people must have looked at the Saudis, looked at each other, rolled their eyes and both said "OK" at the same time.

Sharif is back as the final nail in the coffin of the Musharraf/Bhutto alliance. There is one thing certain about Pakistan politics at this point. Bhutto no longer a factor in it.

Sharif says he didn't meet Musharraf when Musharraf was in Saudi Arabia. I believe him only because he didn't have to meet him. There had to have been contact between intermediaries and there have to be conditions.

A likely condition is that Sharif will not call for general opposition to Musharraf remaining president or to the removal of the legitimate supreme court. The acceptance of Musharraf in the presidency is very disappointing. Mostly because if Musharraf didn't give up power this time, he won't next time.

Pakistan would be a lot better off if Sharif had stayed in Saudi Arabia, denounced any conditions of return and called for those loyal to him to select a successor in Pakistan who would represent the party. The single most important factor in effective political systems is a competitive contest for succession. The second most important is predictable term limits. Both Musharraf and Sharif have shown they are unwilling to put these in place.

Very few people would be willing to establish either a succession contest or term limits once in power. But if the people around them understood the importance to the country of these features of government, they would apply enough pressure, from enough directions, that those in power would accept them.

But the US' candidate and the US are now on the sidelines of Pakistani politics. The US still has some leverage in the form of these billions of dollars its throwing around to the Army. Like the money the US has been throwing at Iraqi politicians, in the long term, this money is just wasted.

The chance that Pakistan ever gets a leader that would either send Pakistani troops or support the sending of US troops to fight Islamists on the frontier because those Islamists host extremists, meaning opponents of Zionism who condone violence, are very slim at this point.

Unfortunately the chance that Pakistan gets a stable, effective political system are also slim at this point.

No comments: