The Crisis in Pakistan

Just when it looked like Pakistan was returning to normalcy after President Musharraf lifted the emergency, it appears to have landed in a crisis. Sad to hear of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the most visible and relatively progressive face of Pakistani politics. It is hard to imagine (yet impossible to rule out) that the army had played a role in Ms. Bhutto’s death. In a highly populated country like Pakistan its virtually impossible to protect a leader who thrives on waving to the masses from an open car top. Ms. Bhutto took some unnecessary risks and unfortunately paid the price.

The immediate question that comes to mind is clearly, What next? Where does Pakistan go from here?

  • President Musharraf can now claim that his Emergency rule was justified given the law and order situation. In short, he could tell President Bush & team, “I told you so”, thereby countering any cutbacks in the funding from the US.
  • Nawaz Sharief, the other political force in Pakistan must now be terrified to campaign. The election will most likely be postponed, but a fair and free election seems unlikely anytime soon.
  • The Bhutto family decision to continue its hold on power is not surprising, but it remains to be seem if this is viable in the long term. Sadly, this is likely to stunt the rise of any new leadership.

With President Musharraf no longer army chief and the country clearly in a crisis, with control on the purse strings, the US is clearly in a position to call the shots in Pakistan, more so than ever before. As a start, it would be best if the US demanded greater transparency in return for continued funding with a not too long term commitment to transition Pakistan to a democratically elected government. This is easier said than done, but a firm long term US policy on Pakistan (with or without Musharraf) is long overdue. The current criss might be the perfect opportunity to develop and execute on a new long term strategy.

Author: Pran Kurup

Pran Kurup is founder and CEO of Vitalect, Inc.

%d bloggers like this: