Thursday, February 21, 2008

Opposition Agrees on Coalition Deal/ NEW POLL: What Should Musharraf Do?

On Thursday, news sources reported that the Pakistan People's Party, PPP, (technically the Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians), and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the two main victors of Monday's election, agreed to form coalition governments. According to the NY Times, "The speedy accord, just three days after the overwhelming defeat of Mr. Musharraf’s party [PML-Q], was another setback for the embattled Pakistani president as well as his backers in Washington." The Daily Times quoted Nawaz Sharif, who told reporters during a news conference today, We have agreed on a common agenda. We will work together to form the government in the center and in the provinces...We will ensure that you [PPP] complete a full five years’ term." Reuters cited statements by Asif Zardari, the co-chairman of the PPP and the widower of former PM Benazir Bhutto, who further asserted, "We intend to stay together (to establish a government)."

The establishment of the coalition left Musharraf's role perhaps even more ambiguous. So far, Washington has urged the newly elected government to work with the Pakistani president, who emphasized yesterday that he would not step down from his post, despite calls for his resignation. According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, "The United States on Thursday was sending conflicting signals on its position on the current political situation in Pakistan, with the White House saying that it’s up to the Pakistani people to decide President Pervez Musharraf’s political future and the State Department insisting that Washington hopes to continue to work with the embattled leader."

An op-ed in today's Washington Post by Robert Novak further discussed this discrepancy. Although State Department spokesman Tom Casey publicly argued that Musharraf is still the president and expressed hope that "whoever winds up in charge of the new government would be able to work with him," privately, U.S. diplomats "pushed hard against any effort to dislodge the retired army general who had just suffered a public rejection." Ultimately, Novak commented, "No Pakistani expects help from Musharraf, who has been repudiated by the public and is not backed by the army now that he has removed his uniform. Only the State Department still takes him seriously."

Would these coalition governments be as close of a U.S. ally as Musharraf? How vigorously would they support the U.S.-led war on terror, particuarly in relation to Afghanistan, and the subsequent conflict that has spilled over our own border? According to a Boston Globe op-ed today by Graham Allison, "The answer to each of these questions is as unambiguous as it is uncomfortable. A Pakistani government whose actions align with its citizens' views on these issues would be at loggerheads with the United States." However much Pakistanis dislike Musharraf, they are perhaps more hostile to the U.S. According to Allison, "When asked to name the 'single greatest threat' to their country, 64 percent of Pakistanis named the United States. Historic archrival India, with whom Pakistan has fought five bloody wars, was second, well behind America."

Ultimately, where does this all leave Musharraf? If the democratic government listens to the constituents who voted them into power, the Pakistani president is left out in the cold. However, if they heed to U.S. pressures and strategic reasoning, his role in the political process is still malleable. The question is, what do you think? This week's poll, just three days after the much-anticipated elections, seeks to gauge your reasoning on this very pertinent question - What should Musharraf do? Resign, cut a deal with the new coalition government, or (God forbid) overthrow the Parliament and call for new elections. Is there another option? [Image from Reuters]

Note: Last week's poll results reflected the national elections - PPP won, PML-N came in a close second, and PML-Q trailed with 20% of the vote.


Fahad said...

I think he should resign. It was what the people want. He never had any right to take over-- but this election proves without a doubt that the Pakistani people have taken away any possible mandate he can claim to be the President.

In terms of reltionship with the US, the PPP had a very close relationship with the US under BB (even though her father was indirectly overthrown by them!). The PML-N is no where close to as religiously inclined as some papers have insinuated. Both parties have claimed to want to tackle terrorism head on.

I think what is just as important is that they work to address the inter-provencial inequalities that had been further excarbated under Mush.

nhassan said...

No matter how a political scientist views democracy, one thing is clear, it is the people who govern the state through their collective will. Therefore, when President Musharraf saw his party ousted in national elections, he should have realized that his mandate to govern the nation had been stripped away for once nand for all. A true patriot and a man who puts his concern for his nation ahead of personal self-interest and desire for power would volunatrily remove himself from office and give the new coalition government an opportunity to move the country out of its current predicament.

However, Musharraf seems intent on serving his own self interest and the United States seems intent on supporting him in this endeavor. What the poll results cited in this article demonstrate is that the United States is losing the good will of the Pakistani people by supporting a leader and his policies that are no longer popular with the majority of the country. US foreign policy must reflect realities on the ground and this would require a dropping of support for the unpopular Musharraf. Pakistan is a democracy and as such, the United States should be supporting the right of the people to decide who they want to lead them free from interference from powerful external actors. The right of self-determination if the essence of US democratic values and that is what we should be exporting, not an international war on terror that is making us more enemies by the day.

Musharraf's resignation would be a positive step forward for Pakistan, and if the United States wants the opportunity to serve as Pakistan's faithful allies in the coming years, then we should adhere to the wishes of the people that the government of Pakistan exists to serve.