Monday, November 5, 2007
Musharraf's Shakespearean Turn
The emerging common wisdom about the state of emergency in Pakistan is that notwithstanding Pervez Musharraf's claims to the contrary, the crackdown has little to do with Islamic militants and everything to do with Musharraf's domestic political opposition. Namely the professional and political class as symbolically represented by the judiciary, the political opposition parties, and the legal profession, all of whom were the first to be rounded up under the order. (Think Shakespeare's famous injunction: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.")
As I pointed out yesterday, the Provisional Constitutional Order that suspends the constitution explicitly leaves in place all Islamic injunctions. And according to the Pakistani press (can't find the damn link), Musharraf's crackdown on political opposition has not extended to the extremist Islamic political parties, to whom he is actually extending olive branches. (Although some of them have declared their opposition to the crackdown nevertheless.) Which would seem to bolster the longstanding claim that Musharraf pays lip service to the War on Terror line when it comes time to cashing American checks, while doing everything he can to accomodate the fundamentalist Pakistani street the rest of the time.
My hunch -- and it's a gut feeling based only on the reading I've been doing, mainly in the Pakistani press -- is that Musharraf isn't going to survive this one. His position is far from stable, based as it is exclusively on his ability to advance the Pakistani military's agenda, which is primarily stability, efficient government and keeping a low profile so they can continue playing their strategic games in Afghanistan and Kashmir. He's delivering none of the above, with seriously failing marks on the keeping a low profile angle. I also think that with a little distance, the Bush administration will realize this and begin to tighten the screws. In fact, I sense a hardening of the tone coming out of Washington already.
I'd lay odds that the clever way out of this impasse will be a new general emerging to replace Musharraf, allowing the Bush administration to save face. The new guy will then be accorded a short period of time to re-stabilize the political situation before re-launching Pakistan's return to civilian rule. The old "When in doubt, switch despots" ploy. It worked for Shakespeare.