ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Bigger Picture in Pakistan

The Pakistani state is in a more precarious condition than at any time since 1971.

Pervez Musharraf liked to think of himself as a great strategist who could outwit anyone. He cleverly tried to deceive the Indian armed forces in Kargil in 1999. He then turned Nawaz Sharif’s bid to sack him against the prime minister himself, and sent the hapless Sharif packing to Saudi Arabia. His slick performance on the margins of the failed India-Pakistan talks in Agra in 2001 won him many admirers. Perhaps Musharraf was at his best as a wily strategist in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 when he brought relief for his country’s beleaguered economy and ensured the continued operational autonomy of Pakistan’s military, in return for cooperating with the US in its “war on terror”. He made himself indispensable to the US administration by persuading them to b elieve that after him lay a torrent of Islamic militancy. To the m ilitary he sold the dumping of the Taliban as a necessary move if Pakistan was to avert direct US intervention.

Musharraf remained confident of his strategic ability even as he blundered into a stand-off with Pakistan’s formerly docile j udiciary. He was cornered too by the US administration into agreeing to a peaceful transition to elected civilian rule. Wriggle room diminished as secret negotiations with Benazir Bhutto and later Nawaz Sharif ended the exile of the two former prime ministers whom Musharraf had held responsible for all of P akistan’s problems. Not one to give up easily, Musharraf fought hard to prevent the return of the two leaders – forcibly deporting Sharif once, and putting relentless pressure on Bhutto to postpone the date of her homecoming.

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