At least 40 people were killed and 100 were wounded, according to The Associated Press. The toll was expected to grow because of reports that many people were still trapped inside the six-story hotel, which was engulfed in flames. Thus reports the NY Times.
On August 12th a year ago, I wrote in these pages that an unstable Pakistan has the potential to cause geopolitical crises beyond our wildest imagination. Therefore, I wondered whether it would be better if Pervez Musharraf continued on as the president, even though he had come to power through a military coup.
Ding dong the witch is dead—Musharraf stepped down when the parliamentary majority initiated impeachment proceedings against him.
Having followed Pakistani politics from a distance ever since I could read a newspaper, I suspected that this would trigger more instability and chaos. While recent developments indicate that I might be correct, being right in this case is, unfortunately, no cause for celebration.
Almost immediately after Musharraf’s exit, the ruling coalition government came unglued. The opposition was held together by a focused, singular, objective of getting rid of Musharraf. There is no longer that unifying force and, as a result, it became a bitter struggle for power.
Leading one faction is Nawaz Sharif whose elected government was the one that was ousted by Musharraf in a military coup in 1999. The other faction is led by Asif Ali Zardari, who inherited the leadership mantle after his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated.
These two leaders and their parties formed the majority in the parliament. But, when Zardari became his party’s nominee for the presidency, Sharif pulled his party out of the coalition.
Zardari won the elections and is the president now. But, he may not be well—Britain’s Financial Times reported that he apparently "was diagnosed with a range of serious illnesses including dementia, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in a series of medical reports spanning more than two years." Would
anybody want this person to be in-charge of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda sympathizers and other militant fundamentalists have seized this political confusion as an opportunity to remind everybody of the havoc they can unleash. Suicide attacks and other forms of violence have increased, according to published reports. A week ago, one suicide bombing in the northwest killed 33. To complicate matters, neighboring Afghanistan and Kashmir are experiencing a new round of violence and death.
To make matters worse, the New York Times reported that American forces stationed in Afghanistan had our president’s approval to go after the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan—without prior permission from Pakistan’s government. The government, military, and the media in Pakistan are furious at America’s unilateral move that seems to undermine the sovereignty of that country.
In such a sequence of events, it was, therefore, not a real surprise when it was reported that Pakistani military fired shots to repel American helicopter and ground forces. The only good news here is that shots were fired in the air as warning, and not directly at American troops.
But, Pakistan is very clear about what will happen the next time they detect American incursion into their territory. The army spokesman said, “in case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire.”
The world has not gained anything from Musharraf’s exit. In addition to the geopolitical complications his exit has triggered, Musharraf is now completely off the hook and is not bound to answer THE question that has dogged us for seven years:
“where’s Osama bin Laden?” Musharraf is the one person who the world suspects has an idea of the whereabouts of bin Laden and his deputies.
Further, with his exit, Musharraf does not have to clarify to anybody how much he was involved in nuclear proliferation. Recently, in the German publication Spiegel, the wife of the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb claimed that Musharraf and his military minions orchestrated the spreading of nuclear know-how to countries, including Libya and North Korea. Alas, we will never find out what Musharraf knew, and when he knew it.
The irony of it all, and perhaps an insult to us Americans, is a report from Pakistan’s Daily Times that one of the two places that Musharraf may go into exile is New Mexico!
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad world.”