debkafile: Early signs of Musharraf leaning toward understanding with pro-Taliban extremists
Monday, two days after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, police used tear gas and batons to break up a protest of 2,000 lawyers in Lahore High Court, arresting 350. At the same time, thousands of Muslim extremists were allowed to demonstrate undisturbed after 500 opposition Jamaat e-Islami party members were detained in southern and central provinces amid the growing turmoil in the country. Sunday, pro-Taliban radicals in South Waziristan handed over 200 Pakistani troops captured last August in return for 28 Taliban prisoners.
Saturday, Nov. 3, debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reported: The White House demand for Musharraf to reverse his emergency measures is counter-productive for the US-NATO war on al Qaeda, Taliban – – likewise US reconsideration of economic aid. His declaration of a state of emergency, suspension of the Pakistani constitution and expulsion of the chief justice on Nov. 3, are likely to distance Islamabad from cooperation with the US-NATO war on al Qaeda and Taliban. Both terrorist groups have spread their wings to Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan, Kashmir and China.
President Musharraf’s move has in fact scuttled the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy. The cracks were first apparent two weeks ago when ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned home from eight years of exile. Washington forced Musharraf to accept her and open the way for her re-entry to the political ranks in Islamabad, even though her volatile presence was expected to stir up rather than calm the turbulence besetting the country.
Her conduct after her homecoming alarmed some circles in Washington, especially in the National Security Council. They began to fear that the Bhutto experiment had misfired.
debkafile‘s Pakistan sources report that Musharraf can keeping going because he holds a trump card: his cooperation with the US in the battle against al Qaeda and Taliban. Western attempts to twist his arm may well lead him to distance himself from this cooperation and remove a bulwark for the NATO force fighting in Afghanistan.
And if they persist in their condemnation, Western governments and media may find they have driven him to eventually seek an understanding with Taliban elements – and through them with al Qaeda – to rid Pakistan’s western and northern borderlands of bloody warfare.
The Pakistan president will furthermore gradually ease the military pressure on the Taliban-al Qaeda sanctuaries. Quite simply, he needs the army to prop up his regime in Islamabad rather than taking casualties in often unsuccessful bouts with Muslim extremists in Waziristan and the Swat Valley.
With regard to opposition leader Bhutto, Musharraf’s strategy is predictable. He did not stop her from alighting from the plane which rushed her back from Dubai to her home in Karachi Saturday. If she goes along with his measures, he will be amenable to working out a new political accommodation with her. But if Bhutto decides to lead the opposition against him, she is likely to find herself confined to her residence and cut off from the outside world and her following at home.