The United States for years has been President Musharraf’s chief cheerleader and has supported virtually every aspect of his rule in Pakistan. However, triumph by opposition parties in last month’s parliamentary election gave an overwhelming majority to the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz coalition, confronts America with new challenges. Teresita Schaffer and Jeffrey Ellis, writing in the current issue of South Asia Monitor, raise questions regarding how will the Bush administration or any future adminisration respond to the new configuration of power.
The stage is set for an early test whether Musharraf is prepared to accept a significant reduction in his powers in order to placate the new government or whether he intends to stand fast and refuse to make changes such as restoring Pakistan’s judiciary to its former positions. The authors suggest the new coalition has a vast array of problems to face regardless of issues in dealing with Musharraf. There is now a wheat shortage, power outages, suicide bombers and fighting in the northwest region. Both leading political parties appear more willing than Musharraf– or the United States– to arrange political settlements with militants in order to end violence.
At this point, no one knows for certain what a new president like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will do about Musharraf. Will political solutions take precedence over military?