Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day! - Mar 17

OK, so when I say St. Patrick's Day, what do you think of? Green beer and leprechauns right? Well, we here at the X-Def like to buck the trend so I've decided to give you a stratfor article about the problems Musharraf is having in Pakistan. Look at it as 'outside the box' thinking.

Mr. Johnny Cash

Geopolitical Diary: The Growing Opposition to Musharraf
Mar 16, 2006

Pakistani forces blew up a seminary -- the Khalifa Madrassa in North Waziristan agency, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- on Wednesday. It was the third religious seminary to be demolished in the area in the past two weeks, since Islamabad launched another wave of anti-jihadist operations. The previous day, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had demanded Pakistan's full cooperation against al Qaeda and Taliban elements, saying that without it, the world would not be safe.

Islamabad and Kabul have been waging a war of words since U.S. President George W. Bush's recent visit to the region. Islamabad has bitterly criticized statements from Afghan leaders that Pakistan is not doing enough, but the pressure it is feeling is coming not only from Karzai but the Bush administration as well. Thus, the Pakistani military launched operations against jihadists in the tribal belt shortly before Bush's March 3 visit. The fact that there was a bombing in Karachi hours before Air Force One was to touch down in Islamabad practically forced Islamabad's hand.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's attempts to respond to external pressures, however, are only deepening his domestic problems, which seem to be worsening by the day. The pressure Bush applied about democratization, the deaf ear he turned to Islamabad's demands on Kashmir and the nuclear deal he sealed with India just before his arrival have caused Pakistan's opposition parties to conclude that the love affair between Washington and Islamabad is over. Put differently, the opposition groups are sensing an opportunity to bring down the Musharrafian system.

Public anger at Musharraf's handling of the jihadist war certainly runs deep. U.S. strikes against al Qaeda militants, carried out on Pakistani soil, are viewed as violations of the country's sovereignty that Musharraf has permitted. And furthermore, counterterrorist offensives have been the cause of many civilian deaths: The severity of the fighting in the most recent operation by Pakistani troops forced many North Waziristan residents to flee the area.

Islamist, conservative, liberal and ethnic political groups now are trying to leverage public resentment against the regime in order to forge a broad political movement. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have all said that they intend to boycott any elections held in 2007 under the Musharraf regime. Instead, they have called for an interim caretaker government to conduct the elections, with an impartial election commission. PPP-P and the PML-N members also are thinking of resigning their seats in the current parliament and are trying to get their exiled leadership to return to the country.

The Pakistanis' disgust with Musharraf has been benefiting Islamist political groups since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. What is fairly new about the situation, however, is that now conservatives and (to a lesser degree) liberals are seeking to exploit the fallout from anti-jihadists efforts to their advantage as well. The conservative-liberal opposition coalition called the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) is, however, wary of joining hands with the Islamist MMA coalition, fearing that the Islamists would overpower them in such a union. Among other things, the ARD's leadership is in exile, and the MMA is firmly entrenched in the existing political system. It is little wonder, then, that ARD members have proposed resigning their seats in parliament, while the MMA is lukewarm at best on such a move.

These schisms among the opposition are a source of comfort for Musharraf, but he still is under considerable pressure to turn things around, and soon: A mere guarantee of weakness among his opponents will not secure the survival of his regime.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

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