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US Plans Unravel In Af-Pak

January 12, 2010

by Eric S. Margolis

ON my office wall hang photos of yours truly with Pakistan’s four last leaders. Two – Zia ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto – were murdered. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted in a military coup led by photo number four, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who was deposed by Pakistan’s military in a slow-motion coup. Either I’m a jinx, or leading Pakistan is a job with poor career prospects.

Now, Washington is finally getting the democracy it has been calling for in Pakistan – and it’s the Mother of all Backfires.

I’ve not met Pakistan’s current president, Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto. But I’ve written for decades about corruption charges that relentlessly follow him. Zardari, known as “Mr 10%” from when he was in his wife’s government, was in charge of approving government contracts.

In 2008, Washington sought to rescue Musharraf’s foundering dictatorship by convincing the popular but exiled Benazir Bhutto to front as democratic window-dressing for continued military rule. Her price: Amnesty for a long list of corruption charges against her and her husband. The US and Britain quietly arranged the amnesty for the Bhuttos and thousands of their indicted supporters (and other political figures).

But just before Benazir’s assassination, she told me jealous associates of Musharraf were gunning for her.

Asif Zardari then inherited Benazir’s People’s Party, Pakistan’s largest. He became president, thanks to strong US political and financial support.

In return, Zardari supported the US war in Afghanistan, and allowed the Pentagon to keep using Pakistan’s bases and military personnel. Washington promised at least US$8 billion (RM27.5 billion).

That sleazy deal has now come unstuck as Pakistan’s newest, rather improbable democratic hero, Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, enforced the law by reinstating the corruption charges. Zardari has presidential immunity against criminal charges. But his chief lieutenants face prosecution, notably regime strongman, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar. Both are key supporters and facilitators of US military operations in Afghanistan, America’s use of Pakistani bases, and Pakistan’s war against its Pashtun tribesmen.

Opposition parties are demanding Zardari and senior aides resign. Islamabad is in an uproar just when Washington needs Pakistan’s government to intensify the war against the so-called Pakistani Taliban and support growing US military efforts in Afghanistan, and intensifying drone attacks inside Pakistan.

Skeletons are dancing out of Zardari’s closets: US$63 million (RM216.6 million) in illegal kickbacks and commissions allegedly hidden in Swiss bank accounts by the Bhuttos; Zardari’s estimated personal fortune of US$2 billion (RM6.9 billion); luxurious properties in the US, France, Spain and Britain, and on it goes. Zardari spent 11 years in jail in Pakistan on corruption charges – which Benazir claimed were politically motivated. He avoided trial in Switzerland by claiming mental illness.

The Bhuttos remain one of the largest feudal landowners in a desperately poor nation where the average annual income is US$1,027 (RM3,531) and illiteracy over 50%. Pakistan has been ruled since its creation in 1947 by either callous feudal landlords, who bought and sold politicians like bags of Basmati rice, or by generals.

Zardari’s days as Washington’s man in Islamabad are numbered. Anti-American fury is surging, with popular claims that Pakistan has been “occupied” by the US, treated like a third rate banana republic, and is run by corrupt, US-installed stooges.

Many Pakistanis blame the current bloody wave of bombings in their nation on US mercenaries from Xe (formerly Blackwater), and old foe India staging revenge attacks.

Most Pakistanis believe Washington is bent on tearing apart their unstable nation to seize its nuclear weapons.

Washington is almost back to square one in turbulent Pakistan. When Zardari goes or is kicked upstairs as an impotent figurehead, attention will turn to Pakistan’s 617,000-man military and its commander, General or should we say “president-elect” Ashfaq Kiyani?

As we enter 2010, the ugly acronym, “Afpak,” will bedevil, befuddle, and consume the Obama White House that so unwisely and rashly ignored Gen Douglas MacArthur’s wise warning to avoid land wars in Asia.

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5 comments

  1. Pakistan MUST get her self out of the American circle. We are not allies! We do not share anything! Pakistanis and Americans have different interests all together: be it South Asia, Israel policy, Iraq or Afghan occupation, international business and arms law or general world view – no where do our interests corralate with theirs.

    Heck, Americans are directly killing Pakistanis with their drone attacks – with the full knowkedge and consent of the curropt political parties and the power hungry military when they (or rather Musharraf) were in power.

    Atleast I am completely sick of everything
    American inside our country. This illogical support is taring down our national fabric and will in the end prove too costly. Already too many Pakistani lives has been lost to this “War on Terror”. I am afraid our nation wont be able
    to save her self after the Americans are done with us – this time around.


    • well said brother I second that. getting rid of american cancer is solution to our problems.


  2. A good synopsis of the current situation. We have battle on two fronts, internal and external. As a Pakistani I don’t really care who sits in the top seat, a general or a popper. As long as they are loyal to the country and honest, it is good enough. As far as Zardari and his protégées are concerned, it is our duty now to rid the nation of this imported virus and reboot. We have to first win on the internal front before we focus on the external. Pakistan Zindabad, Pinedabad.


  3. I think its time to say good-bye to America. We have already suffered a lot. America if ever be an ally, was a stinking friend- who caused more troubles than any benefit. Islamic extremism is their problem not ours.

    And above all American Nato allies are not ready to support it- why we have to support them.If its about 1,5 billion dollar – we do not need that.

    Keep your money in your pocket we cannot be with you any more. And if you will try to impose war you by yourself will be responsible for results.

    Pakistani people gives 15 billion dollar every year in tax to government- not for this government to work to unsecure lives of Pakistani people for bunch of amount which they will burn for their own luxurious life 🙂


  4. Don’t you guys think it is too late to say goodbye to America. We might have to wait for a few years more, until the situation improves internally. Our politicians and the army have ruined our nation, of its wealth and its respect in the world. We do not have a self sustained industry. We still majorly depend on external aid.

    We need to develop to be self reliant. And once a better administration and a better army is able to make that happen, it will be right time to kick the whites and their agendas out of our country and the neighborhood.

    Until then, there is no other go, brothers. We badly need the dollors. And lets hope that America does not turn into our foe, before we kick them out.

    Lets start kicking the internal filth first



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