Tuesday, February 19, 2008
If this is how they rig elections in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf needs to come take a refresher course from the Washington state GOP. It's still unclear whether Benazir Bhutto won the election posthumously, or whether Nawaz Sharif will carry Parliament. But Musharraf's ruling party was routed in what was described in the American press as a rebuke to Musharraf and his dalliance with the US.
The election outcome has sent Washington scrambling to line up the next Pakistani Prime Minister's support. At the risk of oversimplifying, our Pakistani policy really boils down to two priorities: to contain the burgeoning Taliban movement on the Afghan border, and to make sure the country's nukes are secure. Everything else is just static on the line. (Okay, preventing a nuclear exchange with India is a bit more than static, but bear with me.)
From everything I've read, the nuclear anxiety has always seemed slightly hysterical. Which leaves the Taliban on the Afghan border. Now, before she died, Benazir Bhutto had suggested she'd be willing to invite US forces into the border area to confront the Taliban there, a position that's significantly more pronounced than Musharraf's tepid charade that was supposedly too pro-American for Pakistani voters. So it will be interesting to see how hardline the PPP governing position is, especially if it's forced to form a coalition with Sharif.
The answer to that question will determine whether the WaPo is right when it suggested in an article today that a recent unilateral American strike in Pakistani territory without prior consent from Islamabad will serve as the model for future American operations in area. If domestic constraints force the future Pakistani government to continue the Musharraf policy of accomodation in the tribal areas, that could mean that the US will find itself fighting the border insurgency alone.