What will happen when Musharraf falls? By Robert Terpstra


What will happen when Musharraf falls? The very timeline and the answer to that question are still up for debate. Many had predicted the Pakistani leader would retire to his villa long ago. However, now, after committing several acts of political suicide, it seems only a matter of weeks before the former general and battle-scarred president is toppled.
For a quick recap of the past several months for those who have been living in a Tora Bora cave, Musharraf sacked a plethora of Supreme Court judges who were challenging his rule, the aforementioned leader threatened a state of emergency, then declared one, resigned his post as army commander, lost an election to a haunting ghost, and is considered being tossed out by parliament. All this is certainly hard to digest, for both a man in ‘the line of fire’ and for the world’s people, including those in Pakistan proper.
When Musharraf falls, and this is an important distinction, not ‘if’, because if he does not, the region will surely, if it is not already, be thrown into chaos. When Musharraf falls, as this has been well-documented, the West will lose a very important ally. The timing, however, is crucial, a virtual race before the next president of the U.S. assumes office. A Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton could easily see the point in withdrawing billions of funds currently being directed towards Pakistan. This bold move would certainly be justified claiming the ineffectiveness of Musharraf’s offensives in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) as well as his inability to curb wanted men easily finding safe haven in the mountainous, bordering areas.
When Musharraf falls, a certain power vacuum will naturally exist, and someone from either of the opposition parties will have to fill the void, quickly. Pakistan cannot afford to be without a leader (in Musharraf), a voice (in Nawaz Sharif) and a soul (in Benazir Bhutto). Perhaps the recent appointment of Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani is a step for the PPP to slowly re-introduce the Bhutto legacy to Pakistan politics in the form of her widower and/or learned son.
Many have looked at the global question and the ramifications of what this will do to the status of the war on terror, but many in Pakistan are looking to repair a state in bad disrepair. The stability of Pakistan as a country is a vital cog in the world, not for the world.
Nevertheless, one does have to look at what impact the departure of Musharraf will have on the growing threats against the West abroad and the transcending of al-Qaeda as no longer a jihadist organization, but a global network.
Musharraf is vilified for a reason, he is as passive as an ‘important ally’ could get, perhaps proactive steps could have been taken in 2003 to cease the spread of the insurgency and end the threats worldwide, but they didn’t, and now Musharraf should be held accountable.
When Musharraf falls, the new president needs to, first, keep the impressively performing Pakistan stock market from mimicking the remainder of the world’s markets, save perhaps for the growth observed in India and China.
Second, make bread and simple commodities affordable in the country. A major reason the PPP and PML-N did so well in the recent parliamentary elections was the people’s unheard voice that simple staples of their diet and needs were not being met.
Third, sit down George W. Bush and lay out both a short-term plan for the remainder of his presidency and then in November, begin talks with the president-elect to hash out a long-term strategic plan to combat terrorism.
Fourth, Balochistan, the NWFP and Jammu & Kashmir need to be remedied, a solid introspection will only strengthen its clout in the global arena.
Last, and of the utmost importance, guerrilla tactics under General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, should improve beyond the novice levels in episodes once boasted by Musharraf’s Kashmiri offensive. This will allow the army to seal off the Khyber Pass, choke off the flow of goods, weapons and fugitives from entering and exiting the country, neutralize and then in the future, perhaps sustain the threat of al-Qaeda. As a resurgent NATO, made up of a Canadian contingent and European-led forces, quell uprisings in Afghanistan and a Democrat takes the oath for the highest office in the land, a gradual reduction in troops within Iraq may allow an overstretched army to pause and re-concentrate its efforts in eradicating the Mahdi army and Sadrists, provide a forum for Shias and Sunnis and prevent internecine warfare. The best case scenario is of restoring faith in the Muslim world that this is not a war against Islam, it is not as Bush said, a war against those ‘that are not with us, are against us’.
This is the category where perhaps Pakistan has often been misappropriated and certainly mislabelled. Hopefully, with the fall of Musharraf, current events will be ancient, and we will not bear the task of repeating history because we have failed to learn from it.

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