Books on Pakistan
Update No: 008 - (21/09/06)
After having launched the revision of the Hodood ordnances in order to
improve his standing as a liberal and progressive ruler, President Musharraf is
finding that his initiative is backfiring. The original plan to bring abolish
the worst discrimination against women in Pakistan's legislation has now been
shelved. After pressure from the Islamic parties forced him to gradually dilute
and eventually eviscerate the reform, secular parties counter-attacked. The
Mujahir Qaumi Movement, which is part of the government coalition, threatened to
quit if Musharraf changed the original version of the bill. Faced with this
dilemma, Musharraf postponed the reform sine die. The President appears to have
been weakened by the division within his own party, over whether to keep
cooperating with the Islamic parties or to forge a new reformist alliance with
the opposition People's Party.
The parties were not so bad after all
The largest secular parties, however, remain firmly in the opposition camp.
In this regard Musharraf was embarrassed by a new report from Transparency
International, according to which his second government is much more corrupt
than the first and what is worse, it is more corrupt than the hated civilian
government which preceded Musharraf's take over. While this type of reports
would not normally have much impact on the internal politics of a country like
Pakistan, Musharraf himself had been hailing the good performance on corruption
of his government, as shown in older reports by Transparency.
Another factor weakening Musharraf was likely the backlash following the killing
by the army of Bugti, one of the leaders of the Baluchi autonomist movement.
Throughout Pakistan the reaction to the killing has been overwhelmingly negative
and has sprung into action even those Baluchi nationalists who seemed ready to
work within the Pakistani political system.
Musharraf's American friends increasingly uneasy
The pressure on Musharraf is not only internal. The US are pushing towards a
rapprochement with Afghanistan, which led him to travel to Kabul in September
and issue conciliating statements, such as admitting that the Taleban operate
from Pakistan bases. Under American sponsorship, Afghans and Pakistanis are now
finally beginning to take the first steps towards concerted control over the
common border. However, so far Musharraf has failed to really convince anybody.
As long as violence continues in Afghanistan, he will be accused of having a
hand in it. The Americans are clearly angered by the discovery that the
Pakistani judiciary has been releasing up to 2,500 of foreign 'volunteers' who
had been arrested along the Afghan border, all potential Al Qaida activists in
US eyes. The releases occurred over the last three years and may well still be
happening, despite US warning not to do it. The handing over of a substantial
chunk of Pakistani tribal areas to the control of domestic Taleban must not have
impressed the Americans either, not least because it makes restraining the
Afghan Taleban even more difficult.
Musharraf's Indian policy is mired in similar contradictions. He is still trying
to improve relations, after the July train bombings in India almost derailed
previous efforts. Something is being achieved on the trading side. The latest
development is a new agreement which is expected to be signed soon, allowing
ships of each country to lift cargo from the ports of the other country. There
is also a proposal to cooperate with India on issues related to security and
terrorism, although this faces several hurdles before becoming reality. Pakistan
remains home to several known terrorist and militant groups and unless Musharraf
find the courage to take action against them, he will never build real