Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Accessing America’s Pakistan Policy and Pakistan’s Future: Stimson Co-Founder Michael Krepon Chimes In

Posted by K.E. White on January 10, 2008

Michael KreponPakistan has parliamentary elections slated for February.

Below are the thoughts of Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and lecturer at the University of Virginia. First are selections from his recent Bloomberg interview, followed by a Stimson Center compilation of an earlier NewsHour interview.

The interview and report paint a very pessimistic outlook—perhaps trying to jolt new thinking from a White House administration now firmly in its days of twilight.

On elections:

“I honestly don’t think this is a great idea. But it’s the Bush administration’s position and Musharraf is going to go ahead.”

On Musharraf:

“My feeling Mike is that Mushaffaf is now such a big part of the problem is that he can’t be part of the solution…He’s not part of the solution.”

On a way forward:

“I don’t think that’s [another military strong-man] going to work at this point, Mike. Mike if I ruled the world and if I somehow could help Pakistan get through this, I think they way to do it is through a non-partisan government of national unity…[I]n the meantime, the country is going to be more unstable.”

Krepon criticizes the Bush administration’s Pakistan strategy in this Stimson Center statement:

The United States needs Pakistan, and Pakistan needs the United States. If the forces of extremism prevail in Pakistan, its relations with all of its neighbors – Iran, Afghanistan and India – will become inflamed. The US and NATO military effort in Afghanistan will become much harder. The export of terrorism would grow significantly, and it would not just be confined to Pakistan’s immediate neighbors. Most importantly, the disposition of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which may well be larger than many suppose, would be in question.

It was profoundly unwise for the Bush administration to attempt to midwife a partnership agreement between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. A core assumption behind this effort – that Musharraf remains essential in any transition strategy for
Pakistan’s future – is mistaken. When a military strongman in Pakistan produces a big mess, the strongman doesn’t clean up the mess. Instead, he leaves the stage to allow others to clean up the mess. It is therefore essential that the United States proceed wisely during the troubled times that Pakistan now finds itself in.

Washington’s call for elections under Musharraf’s rule also reflects the core assumption that Musharraf remains essential in any transition strategy. Because this assumption is so flawed, and because the election period and its aftermath are likely to be so contentious and violent, the destabilization of Pakistan will likely grow.

Three agendas will dominate the upcoming election campaign and beyond. Musharraf’s agenda will be to manipulate the polling results to try to produce a pliable government. If this is not possible, he will, at a minimum, seek to prevent opposition majorities that are so large that they can force him from office. The major political parties – Benazir’s Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League – have the exact opposite agenda. They will seek such overwhelming support at the polls that rigging will be obvious and will become added reason for Musharraf to leave. To whatever extent these parties achieve representation in the National Assembly, they will join forces to seek Musharraf’s departure. The third agenda belongs to al Qaeda and other extremist groups in
Pakistan. They will seek to destabilize the country and the electoral process by political assassinations and other acts of violence.

The upcoming elections under Musharraf’s tainted presidency offer this grim outlook. The best that can be said for the ragged period that lies ahead is that it will hasten his departure.

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