U.S. Strategy for Pakistan Looks More Fragile: NYT

News Analysis
U.S. Strategy for Pakistan Looks More Fragile
By HELENE COOPER; November 10, 2007; New York Time

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 — In pushing for the deal that took Benazir Bhutto back to Pakistan, the Bush administration hoped to build a broader base of support that might help Gen. Pervez Musharraf stay in power.

But General Musharraf’s sweeping crackdown over the last week has raised questions about that strategy, not least when he sent thousands of police officers on Friday morning to prevent Ms. Bhutto from leading a protest rally against his imposition of de facto martial law.

The images coming out of Pakistan — of police forces blanketing the site of a planned rally by Ms. Bhutto, the opposition leader, and then barricading her inside her residence — were hardly consistent with the kind of cooperation the United States promoted.

Bush administration officials and Pakistani experts say they still believe that a power-sharing agreement between Ms. Bhutto and the general can survive. “We hope we’re seeing a little bit of political theater here,” a senior State Department official said.

By that the official meant Ms. Bhutto’s insistence on holding a rally, General Musharraf’s decision to barricade her in her house, and the subsequent speech by Ms. Bhutto to the nation that was broadcast on official Pakistani television.

But the danger, Bush administration officials said, is that the longer the public conflict — whether choreographed or not — continues, the more likely the chance that the proposed power-sharing deal collapses completely, leading to even more chaos.

The White House has urged General Musharraf to reverse his emergency power edicts. Publicly, the Bush administration complained in strong terms on Friday about Ms. Bhutto’s detention, urging that “moderate political forces work together to bring Pakistan back on the path to democracy.”

“In any decision-making with respect to getting Pakistan back on the road to democracy and constitutional rule, the bias should be in favor of greater openness and dialogue among those forces who want to take Pakistan in a positive direction,” the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said. “The bias should be in favor of allowing peaceful expression of views no matter what they may be saying about the existing situation.”

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Also See:
Pakistan's Institutions and Civil Society By Jayshree Bajoria: CFR & Washington Post
Analysts Say Decision to Block Bhutto Could Backfire: VOA
Getting away with farce? By Ayaz Amir, Dawn

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