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Assassinating Pervez Musharraf

November 19, 2007

"This was an assassination attempt, no question. An extremist group was clearly responsible. There are a lot of suspects. A great number of extremist groups have been inside the establishment for a long time," said Iqbal Haider, former Pakistani law minister.

After the advent of the September 11th attacks, General Perez Musharraf's militaristic regime metamorphosed into a stalwart cohort of the U.S.-led war on terror. Confounding conventional wisdom, the Pakistani government cut financial, cultural and military ties to the Taliban, supplied the U.S. government with key intelligence, dissolved financial assistance to madrassas and denied educational visas for foreign Islamist students. This began a string of actions in the region that intensified the Pakistani people's perception of Musharraf as a yes-man of U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, most Pakistanis, including Islamic fundamentalists, secular-nationalists and religious-moderates, are infuriated by Musharraf's enduring obedience to Uncle Sam's robust demands.

In a questionable April 2002 referendum, General Pervez Musharraf was "elected" president, by garnering a mountainous ninety-eight percent approval vote. This controversial ballot, which featured a predisposed two sentence query reeking of government-backed implantation, was challenged by prominent Pakistani legal experts as unconstitutional. Among the measure's most prevalent critics is the revered Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court. In an ill-conceived and evidently hasty maneuver, the government reacted against dissident opinion by ousting Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, which resulted in wide spread denunciations and protests.

Consequently, Chaudhry was reinstated, but on November 3rd, the military regime subsequently dismissed 7 of 13 Supreme Court Justices (including Mr. Chaudhry), imposed a curfew, suspended the constitution, banned several publications and arrested prominent journalists. This form of government sponsored oppression is hardly promising for those who are wary of the increasingly unstable domestic situation in Pakistan.

But President Pervez Musharraf's regime deserves praise for its achievements. Its ability to balance Pakistan's domestic interests with international obligations is certainly laudable. On October 2, 2007, "The National Reconciliation Ordinance" was initiated by Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League and Bhutto's Pakistan's People's Party, a monumental deal which seemed to profoundly enhance Musharraf's political ambitions. This ordinance, which revoked anti-corruption charges against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, strategically transformed a former formidable opponent into a strange bedfellow, albeit temporarily.

On October 18th, Benazir Bhutto, the 54-year old former prime minister, was enthusiastically greeted by over 200,000 of her ardent supporters. But minutes before Bhutto's convey was scheduled to arrive at the tomb of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Jinnah, two suicide bombers detonated bombs, murdering over 130 of her supporters. These horrendous attacks may complicate the volatile political discourse in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto's husband blamed the Pakistani intelligence service, under direct control of Musharref. This accusation was swiftly denounced by Musharref's cabinet ministers who cited Ms. Bhutto's pretentious return to Pakistan as motivation for the attacks. The aforementioned alliance reeks of feeble seasonal tides rather than a durable democratic alliance.

President Musharraf remains fairly popular but astute political heavy-weights believe his popularity and political coalition are deteriorating as stakes in Pakistan's highly volatile political situation heighten. A recent bombing in Karachi on May 12th and 13th which killed 40 people was carried out by members of General Musharraf's loose national coalition. So far, over 350 innocent people, including women and children, have died in the last three months. Furthermore, Pakistan's two mainstream coalition parties, led by former Prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, have garnered widespread affinity among diverse groups undermining Musharref's iron-fist grip.

General Pervez Musharraf once enjoyed an unchallengeable relationship with the Pakistani military, but he is now confronted by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who are vigorously and clandestinely gathering support from disgruntled generals and intelligence officers. Recent alarming polls show thirty percent of the Pakistani military as sympathetic to fundamentalist factions and a public cynical and dissatisfied with the status quo. This dissatisfaction has resulted in four failed assassination attempts on President Musharraf's life.

The hard-line military establishment and fundamentalist religious clerics have minuscule prospect of victory in democratic elections, but they are astute architects of social upheaval and emotionally-driven oracles of Islam. Their ruthless vigor coupled with emotionally driven radicalism makes the assassination of Musharraf not only a possibility, but a probability. If the United States is preoccupied by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic of Iran, then it should be obsessed with the probability of a nuclear-armed Pakistan ruled by a trigger-happy regime with an evil eye towards the United States.

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Copyright ©2007 Slater Bakhtavar

Slater Bakhtavar is an attorney, journalist, author, and political commentator. He is the author of “Iran: The Green Movement”. He has appeared on hundreds of network radio shows, including G. Gordon Liddy, Crosstalk America, Les in the Morning, NPR, Jim Bohannon Show, and VOA.