THE DOWNFALL OF PAKISTAN'S MUSHARRAF: WHAT DOES IT PORTEND?
"President Musharraf has been a friend to the United States and one of the world's most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism. President Musharraf made the critical choice to join the fight against al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other extremist groups that threaten the peace and security of Pakistan, its neighbors, and partners throughout the world. For this, he has our deep gratitude.
We will continue to work with the Pakistani government and political leaders and urge them to redouble their focus on Pakistan's future and its most urgent needs, including stemming the growth of extremism, addressing food and energy shortages, and improving economic stability. The United States will help with these efforts to see Pakistan reach its goal of becoming a stable, prosperous, democratic, modern, Muslim nation".
American Secretary of State Rice, 18 August 2008, in
"Musharraf’s role was, by the end of the day, very ambivalent. He was seen as the ally of the United States and a symbol of stability in the region. But was he really such a symbol? Was he part of the problem? Or was he part of the solution?"
"....More and more observers came to the conclusion that Musharraf himself was part of the problem. Therefore, his resignation today signifies more confusion....But it will not necessarily lead this part of the world into immediate chaos. He was part of the problem. And part of the problem is resigning today...."
"Unfortunately, the vision one has of Pakistan right now is an extremely negative one....The future is very bleak. The economic situation is confused. The political situation is even more confused. And the security situation is deteriorating. So, unfortunately, it looks like a dark spot on the planet."
Dominique Moisi, quoted in "Initial Reaction to Pakistani President's Resignation cautious," by Ron Synovitz, 18 August 2008, in http://www.eurasianet.org/
"These classical projections, and something from the fire, suddenly suggested Poussin's scene in which the Seasons, hand in hand and facing outward, tread in rhythm to the notes of the lyre that the winged and naked greybeard plays. The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of human beings, facing outward like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in intricate measure, stepping slowly, methodically sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognizable shape: or breaking into seemingly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the steps of the dance".
Anthony Powell, "A Question of Upbringing", in the Quartet, "The Dance to the Music of Time".
If there were ever a real life equivalent to the late, great, British novelist, Anthony Powell's dictum (taken from a painting by Nicolas Poussin), that human beings are creatures in an intricate dance which they cannot control, with new actors replacing old ones, from time to time, the modern day history of Pakistan is the sine qua non of such an example. The ouster (by forced resignation) of President Musharraf today, being merely a predictable end-result of what a long line of military rulers eventually face: initial popularity, especially by the secular, urbanized, bourgeoisie, with some co-operation by the lesser notables in the countryside. Soon followed by growing discontent, as difficulties both at home (usually economic down-turns) and abroad (another debacle in war) follow one after the other. With the upshot that the unpopularity of General or Field-Marshal, XY or Z, results in the ouster of the same, and, the restoration of civilian rule, under a pseudo Democratic rubric. This in turn, also follows a tried and true formula: initial popularity, followed by growing discontent, due to corruption, and, discontent by the 'outs', either regionally (Baluchistan usually) or in terms of the carve-up of public goods which are parceled out to the ruling clique of insiders (with all three Bhutto administrations being perfect examples of this pattern). The upshot in this case, being that rising discontent results in a military coup d'etat, directly or indirectly (Turkish style).
Musharraf's ouster today is merely another movement in this minuet rien plus. The reasons for it being almost entirely, those of primate der innenpolitik. With the influence of the USA, at the tail end of Musharraf's time in office being for all intents and purposes nugatory. Notwithstanding the rather frequent comment, made in prior years, that the mere fact of American influence would keep the General in power. Such outside influences have never done anything of the sort before, nor did they in this case. Nor can we, in keeping with the above dance macabre, expect much in the way of an 'improvement', in internal conditions in Pakistan. One can very well foresee that the two parties currently forming the government (the Bhutto clique and the Sharif clique) will soon enough set about quarreling with each other. Mostly for the spoils of office. The only difference between the two, being that the former is more corrupt, but, also more intelligent and more prone to listen to Western advice (one following perhaps from the other), while the latter while perhaps less corrupt (at least in Pakistani terms), is more inclined to give vent to symbolic, if also at times deadly foreign policy gestures (the near-war with India in 1998-1999 of Kashmir being a good example). The eventual end product being another ouster of the civilian government(s), and, another round of military rule. Anatol Lieven comments in today's Financial Times, while applying to Musharraf's fall from power, can be equally applied to his civilian successors as well in the years to come:
"Sooner or later, the administration would have fallen anyway, for the same reasons that destroy all Pakistani governments. They cannot satisfy the demands of the masses for higher living standards, if only because these are always devoured by population growth. And they cannot satisfy the demand of the political elites for patronage because there is not enough to go round. The state and the military cannot govern without the elites because there is no basis in ideology or society for the creation of a new mass political movement. In the end, elite and mass discontent unite in unstoppable protest".
Anatol Lieven, "Musharraf's Exit will not end Pakistan's woe", in http://www.ft.com/
Is there anything that can be done to stop this dance macabre? Yes, but such as can be done, can only be done in Pakistan itself and not by any Western, much less American assistance or advice. With the only true 'assistance', that Washington can provide is to shore up the current government in Kabul, without however using or projecting force into Pakistan itself. The very last thing that the new government in Pakistan needs, indeed any Pakistani government needs is for an American military incursion into its territory in a futile attempt to destroy the Taliban. That is one case, if there ever is one, of the cure being far, far worse than the disease.