The bell tolls for Musharraf & Pakistan: Disintegration, Democracy or Doom?

Pakistan is pretty much screwed right now. There is an ongoing covert effort by the U.S. to stir up the Baluchis to attack Iran, the Taliban is operating firmly out of the Pakistani city of Quetta (once the British 'garrison town' at the fringe of Colonial India), and the major interest groups underpinning Musharraf's rule are basically running for the door.

The latest crisis was when Musharraf fired the chief justice of the Supreme Court for failing to extend and further rationalize his military dictatorship. This crisis appears to have alienated Islamic fundamentalists, intelligence service heavies, and other major parts of the political scene from Musharraf. Meanwhile, Waziristan tribal areas and the Pashtun sector beyond Quetta trend towards a basically Taliban-oriented autonomous structure.

If we want to get buzzwordy, could say that "fourth generation warfare entities like religious foundations and tribal segments are focusing primary loyalties to themselves and acting independently, moving away from the central government's military dictatorship, as the factionalized army and ISI act accordingly and autonomously." Or something like that.

(note: the Baluchis, like the Pashtuns and Afghanistan's other major ethnic groups, were placed across national frontiers by meddlesome Europeans in the 19th century. The Baluchis, a historically nomadic people, are trisected between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. They have recently suffered repression from the Pak government)

So you'll want to read this analysis by Ahmed Rashid. No one really knows the cogs of Central Asia better than this journalist.

Musharraf at the Exit
By Ahmed Rashid
Thursday, March 22, 2007; Page A21

LAHORE, Pakistan -- In the rapidly unfolding crisis in Pakistan, no matter what happens to President Pervez Musharraf -- whether he survives politically or not -- he is a lame duck. He is unable to rein in Talibanization in Pakistan or guide the country toward a more democratic future.

Since March 9, when Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, public protests have escalated every day -- as has a violent crackdown by the police and intelligence agencies on the media and the nation's legal fraternity.

The legal convolutions about Chaudhry's dismissal boil down to one simple fact: He was not considered sufficiently reliable to deliver pleasing legal judgments in a year when Musharraf is seeking to extend his presidency by five more years, remain as army chief and hold what would undoubtedly be rigged general elections.

Musharraf's desire to replace Chaudhry with a more pliable judge has badly backfired. After just 10 days of protests, lawyers around the country have made it clear to the senior judiciary that they will not tolerate further legal validations for continued military rule or tolerate Musharraf remaining as president. At least seven judges and a deputy attorney general have resigned in protest.

Across the country, in law offices, in the media, among the opposition parties and other organized sections of civil society, the feeling is growing that Musharraf will have to quit sooner rather than later. After eight years of military rule it appears people have had enough.

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