The FP Debate: Should the U.S. Abandon Pervez Musharraf?

The FP Debate: Should the U.S. Abandon Pervez Musharraf?
By Daniel Markey, Husain Haqqani: Posted November 2007: Foreign Policy

Is it time to send Pervez Musharraf packing? Two top experts on South Asia, Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations and Husain Haqqani of Boston University, square off on the tottering Pakistani president’s fate.

“No.” — Daniel Markey

The United States should hold its nose and stick with Musharraf. He currently occupies a unique position in Pakistani politics and could still serve as an essential transitional figure during the next few weeks, months, and possibly even years.

In the immediate term, Musharraf offers Washington continuity in the face of uncertain political transition. He is a familiar face, a leader with whom the Bush administration has established a sustained working relationship. Under even the smoothest possible transition scenarios, Musharraf’s departure would interrupt bilateral cooperation on military, counterterrorism, and intelligence matters for days or weeks—with uncertain consequences for U.S. security.

With a watchful eye, Washington should stand by Musharraf not for what he is—an unpopular military leader—and not for what he has been—an imperfect ally—but for what he might still be: a transitional figure who offers near-term continuity and medium-term potential for founding a new, more effective configuration of power and governance in Islamabad.

Daniel Markey is a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former member of the U.S. State Department’s policy planning staff.

“Yes.” — Husain Haqqani

Washington has consistently overestimated Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s value as an ally in the war on terror. Under Musharraf’s military rule, terrorism in Pakistan has increased and terrorist safe havens have expanded. Billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Musharraf’s authoritarian regime has done little to stem the tide of anti-Americanism sweeping this nuclear-armed Muslim nation of 160 million people.

After Musharraf’s decision in early November to suspend Pakistan’s constitution and impose martial law under the guise of emergency rule, even his limited utility as Washington’s partner has dissipated. And now that Pakistan’s military, police, and intelligence services are busy arresting Supreme Court judges, beating up protesting lawyers, and tracking opposition politicians, they certainly aren’t able to focus their energies on flushing out terrorists.

By abandoning Pervez Musharraf, the United States could signal that it will not tolerate Pakistan becoming “Myanmar lite,” a nation permanently dominated by its military. Once Washington makes it clear that it will no longer support Musharraf, Pakistan’s military will have to start negotiating with the country’s political parties and civil society instead of dictating to them. Only then will Pakistan be able to emerge as a normal country with predictable patterns of political change, which will make it easier to ensure the security of its nuclear weapons and to fight the terrorists who benefit from the country’s present chaos. It is time for Musharraf to go and for civilian rule to return.

Husain Haqqani is a professor and director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, and author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005).

For Complete Text of the debate, click here


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