President Pervez Musharraf has sworn in Yousef Raza Gilani as new Prime Minister of Pakistan, and it appears that the new coalition government has firmed up the factions and set a course. I’m still betting on Zardari to eventually move into the position, and will look at Gilani as the seat warmer until I see clear indicators of independence.
Over the weekend yet another charge was cleared in courts against Zardari, and there have been articles on clearing up his educational bonafides, both indicators to me that he’s still jockeying for the position or at minimum a seat in Parliament. Yet to come is election to office in a bye-election as a precursor, but we should see that soon now that parliament and national assembly are seated.
The new Prime Minister, Gilani, has said that he will not be a “yes-man” in reference to Musharraf, so the impact to US-Pakistan relations will have to be seen. In a parliamentary country where you have both a prime minister and a president things can get confusing when it comes to divvying up executive powers, so things will get interesting.
Gilani, leading a civilian government after eight years of military rule, appealed for national unity to tackle the crises facing Pakistan, particularly economic problems.
“We have to give supremacy to the parliament so that we can jointly take the country out of these crises,” he said.
The new government will include the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted when Musharraf first seized power in a military coup in 1999.
The coalition partners have vowed to shift power from the presidency to parliament and review Musharraf’s counterterrorism policies. Many Pakistanis resent his support of Washington’s aggressive campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban — which are believed to operate in Pakistan’s tribal and border regions — claiming it has stoked a bloody backlash.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher arrived in Islamabad early Tuesday and held talks with Sharif just as the new premier was being sworn in. They then visited Musharraf at the presidential palace.
The U.S. Embassy declined to say who else the envoys would meet.
Zaffar Abbas, an editor with Dawn newspaper, said the visit was badly timed.
Their presence on the day when the new prime minister was inducted would signal to both Islamic extremists and moderates that “here are the Americans, right here in Islamabad, meeting with senior politicians in the new government, trying to dictate terms,” Abbas said
I’m going to disagree with Abbas, it doesn’t matter when the US comes, it will be perceived wrong. Above and beyond that “new approaches” spoken of by the new government seems to be leading towards Jirgas and more temporary peaces while the extremists re-arm and extend their reaches in the Sindh and Punjab. That’s been tried a few times already, and each time the violence has escalated afterwards.
I think “new things” better include restoring the ’73 contstitution into the frontiers as well as the Sindh and Punjab. The colonial structure of tribal “reservations” and family fiefdoms still leftover from British Colonial days is a structure guaranteed to ensure continuing lawlessness in the frontiers and powerless political factionalization in the Sindh and Punjab.
More profile on Gilani from Adil Najam
Update: Gilani has released all the Justices that Musharraf had placed under house arrest, including Iftikhar Choudry. This was an expected move as it clearly demonstrates the independence of the new government.
In another interesting update, Syed has an article in the Asia Times, in which he states that the new government will attempt to split off TTP from Al Qaeda, and he indicates that the war against the new government will continue. As my earlier analysis suggested, the Taliban is focused on interdicting Supplies and commerce through the Khyber pass.
Long term this is a fatal ploy for them, as neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan can afford them to gain a stranglehold on trade there. The reaction might take awhile, but it will be firmer than what they’ve seen in the past. I would also wager that the same planners who created the Kohat Tunnel fight are the architects of the new ploy.
Also note this, which could be misdirection:
Indeed, the anti-Taliban networking has already resulted in several al-Qaeda and Taliban targets being hit. And importantly, leading Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is on a “most wanted” list in Afghanistan, have left the North Waziristan tribal area for a safer district.
So where does this all lead? With Nawaz as the lead in negotiating with the TTP, I would wager renewed focus on Kashmir, and a chill of relations with India might be in the offing. If he places that in front of the disaffected Kashmir groups who have slipped the leash and joined AQ, they could be turned.