SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
The coronation of Pervez Musharraf will have to wait a wee bit. Despite his clear ‘victory’ in the ‘elections’ held on October 6, 2007, the results cannot be officially declared since the Supreme Court has ordered that the official notification of the results be withheld until it decides on all the petitions challenging his candidacy.
General Musharraf bagged 98 per cent (671) of the total votes polled (684), and also secured 57 per cent of the total of 1,170 votes from Parliament and the four Provincial Assemblies. According to the unofficial count, just 257 senators and Members of National Assembly cast their votes in the 100-member Senate and the 342-member National Assembly. Musharraf secured 252 and Justice (Retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed bagged two votes while three votes were declared invalid, according to the announcement by the Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (Retd.) Qazi Mohammad Farooq. In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, 257 members polled their votes, with 253 falling in favour of Musharraf, three for Ahmed and one declared invalid. In Sindh, 104 votes were cast out of a total of 168. Musharraf secured 102, and two went to Ahmed. In the 124-member North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Assembly, just 34 votes were polled, with 31 members supporting Musharraf. One member voted for Ahmed and two votes were declared invalid. In the 65-member Balochistan Assembly, all the 33 votes were cast in Musharraf's favour.
On October 5, the Supreme Court, while allowing the present Assemblies to conduct the presidential election, directed the Election Commission to keep the results classified until a final decision is reached on all petitions challenging President Musharraf’s candidacy. Candidates Wajeehuddin Ahmed and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, with support from various civil society groups, had filed constitutional petitions for a stay against Musharraf’s nomination papers by the Election Commission. The 10-member bench, in a unanimous short order, ruled "that the election process already commenced shall continue as per the schedule… but the final notification of the election of the returned candidate shall not be issued till the final decision of these petitions." The Court adjourned the hearing till October 17.
Polling was held on October 6 for the 14th presidential election at Parliament House in Islamabad and all four provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, the NWFP and Balochistan. President General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan People’s Party’s candidate Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the lawyer’s candidate Justice (Retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed and Faryal Talpur were the candidates. The Electoral College for the office of President cast votes under a secret ballot system. The polling process was generally a smooth affair, with a strike call by the Opposition, grouped under the All Parties Democracy Movement (APDM), failing across the country, with the exception of some parts of Balochistan. In Peshawar, however, a lawyers’ protest march to the North-West Frontier Assembly turned violent. While legislators from the Pakistan People’s Party (Parliamentarians) boycotted the poll, claiming that they were opposed to the election of a President in uniform, opposition members from the APDM had resigned from the Assemblies on October 2. The Opposition parties have described the election as "unconstitutional" and a "shame". Nevertheless, Musharraf’s task was made easier due to an appallingly divided Opposition. Indeed, street protests and dissent were conspicuous in their absence in the run-up to the elections, a far cry from the intense anti-Musharraf sentiment and demonstrations during the lawyer’s agitation in March.
Musharraf, it is evident, does not believe that his tryst with power is approaching a near end. Posted on his official Website is an elaborate narrative on the "President's Vision of Pakistan", declaring the initiation of the process to translate this ‘vision’ into reality, distilled into a seven point agenda:
While a detailed analysis of the Vision is beyond the scope of this assessment, it is evident that the President’s capacities for implementation have steadily eroded over the past eight years of his rule. Critically, efforts by the military regime to ensure law and order have failed comprehensively. A cumulative escalation and diffusion of turmoil across Pakistan has been well documented, with large tracts of the country now afflicted by violence, and with a wide array of anti-state actors engaging in varying degrees of armed activity and subversion. Five years after military operations were launched against the Taliban–al Qaeda combine in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the radical alliance is the chief proponent and vehicle of a violent jihad that has achieved strategic success and significant victories. In his assessment to Dawn News TV on the gravity of the situation in FATA, the President had described prevailing conditions as ‘extremely precarious’, conceding that the threat from religious extremism was hitting at the very integrity of the state. FATA, Balochistan and NWFP are regions of long-term neglect and of recurrent insurrections. Further, the Pakistani ‘heartland’, Sindh and Punjab – particularly the politically and militarily dominant Punjab province – are now also passing progressively into the ambit of Islamist extremism. Gilgit-Baltistan has been simmering for a long time, and it is only the repeated cycles of repression and state-backed Sunni violence that have kept the restive population in rein. Well over half of the territory presently under Pakistan’s control, including Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan and ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’, has passed outside the realm of civil governance and is currently dominated essentially through military force.
Comparative Levels of Violence, 2003-2007
Source: Institute for Conflict Management Database
Further, the terrorist network that orchestrates violence in different parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir and across other parts of the region and globe, has secured extraordinary capacities of survival and operation in Pakistan.
At the heart of the rapid march of radical Islam and dissident violence in the country, and the consequent disorders of the past years, is the abysmal failure of Musharraf’s much-vaunted "enlightened moderation". However, he continues to adhere to the same strategy. Describing the rising tide of Islamist extremism as a disturbing phenomenon, he declared, again, that "It is precisely for this reason that I am calling upon forces of moderation to join hands."
Despite his exhortations, national confidence and morale appear to be at an all-time low. The leading Pakistan commentator, Ayaz Amir, notes: "Our circumstances are not promising. Indeed, the entire nation seems depressed. Abandoned to fools and knaves, sold to the United States and therefore not our own masters." Writing about law and order on September 30, 2007, another eminent writer, Ardeshir Cowasjee, lamented: "We are unfortunate in that 170 million people cannot produce a competent and good leader. Uneducated as the majority remain (the percentage of the illiterate rises by the day with the spiralling birth rate) we can only vote for the best of the worst lot. Such is our fate." Khalil Ahmad of the Lahore-based Alternate Solutions Institute observes "Pakistan’s economy is only just keeping afloat, it ranks low on any score-sheet…" These assessments are elaborated further by Husain Haqqani:
Musharraf’s apparent electoral victory, moreover, will bring brief respite to the beleaguered autocrat. Well aware of the fact that a civilian president in Pakistan is highly vulnerable, he will look to consolidate his position in the immediate future. While contending, "No, I am not feeling vulnerable," in reply to a question whether quitting the post of Army Chief would weaken his position, Musharraf said his aim was to develop a new working relationship between the President, the Prime Minister and the Army Chief. How such a troika can function without the usual confrontation, given the history of power relations in Pakistan, is a question that can only be answered in the future. Even a simple working co-ordination between these ‘three pillars’ will be hard to accomplish, and the power aspirations of the new players, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, and Benazir Bhutto, a potential Prime Minister, will certainly impact on the present and uncertain balance. The loss of direct command of the Army could well be expected to undermine the absolute control Musharraf currently exercises, and his position as a ‘civilian president’ may encourage other actors and forces to intervene more decisively.
Benazir Bhutto, a former Prime Minister and Chief of the Pakistan People’s Party, has played a significantly dubious role in the events leading up to the sequel to Musharraf’s military presidency. Musharraf reached an understanding with his one time bete noire Benazir on October 4, 2007, securing her party’s tacit support in the presidential election in return for a legislation giving her indemnity against long-standing and serious charges of corruption. The deal would grant indemnity to all those who held public office or were in Government service between 1985 and November 17, 1999, against whom cases were registered but who are yet to be convicted. The National Reconciliation Ordinance 2007 (NRO) promulgated on October 5 has to be transformed into a law within three months by the National Assembly. With this promulgation, "all cases constituted against the holders of public office from January 1, 1986 to October 12, 1999, will be withdrawn and terminated with immediate effect. The ordinance also seeks to terminate all cases initiated in foreign countries by the government during this period, clearly benefiting Benazir Bhutto. The NRO has also clipped the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) regarding arresting parliamentarians without the prior permission of a newly formed Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics." The NRO amended three specific laws including the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898, The Representation of People Act of 1976 and the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 to "provide certain safety valves for politicians." Daily Times has reported that the NAB is planning to withdraw almost 507 cases of corruption, worth millions of dollars, against various politicians, government servants, businessmen, and ex-armed forces officers. The NRO does not apply to Nawaz Sharif since he was convicted of a crime and because the cases against him date from 2000.
The idea of a ‘national reconciliation’ ostensibly underlying these legislative initiatives is merely selective appeasement. No other political party or dissident group is on board in the exercise and Musharraf was clearly excessive in his optimism in insisting that he had every reason to believe that, following the next general election, all moderate parties would work together in the "greater national interest." Unsurprisingly, on October 4, Musharraf justified his decision to seek a second term by claiming that it was required to ensure a smooth transition to what he called "true democracy."
Benazir Bhutto, who is expected to have an unimpeded return to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, unlike the other Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will now be a key player in what she also claims is "a transition towards democracy." While there is no authoritative indication on the status on Benazir Bhutto’s demand for removing the constitutional bar on Prime Ministers holding office beyond two terms, speculation is rife that, after elections to the National Assembly (scheduled to take place in January 2008), she could be the Prime Minister, thereby completing the supposed "democratic" turnaround in Pakistan.
But her presence as a Musharraf ally has already invited vicious disapproval from the jihadi factions. The Waziristan-based Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, who reportedly has 35,000 armed men under his command, has threatened suicide attacks against Benazir Bhutto, declaring, "My men will welcome Bhutto on her return. We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses. They are only acceptable if they wear the Pakistani glasses."
Any sense of general optimism is absent on the threshold of Musharraf’s second innings because the framework of Opposition that militates against him, both in person and on a range of specific policy issues, is wide and growing. In the run up to elections and earlier, General Musharraf has successfully manipulated the system, including the judiciary during his legal battles, to perpetuate his rule. While he may, with some help from USA, succeed in clinging to power, his diluted authority and augmenting lack of legitimacy will radically diminish his capacity to administer and could, in the worst case, render him a lame-duck, contributing directly to greater instability. Based on a majority of current indicators, Musharraf’s second tenure could be considerably worse than his first.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 1-7, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Intelligence agencies in States not strong enough to fight terrorism, says Union Home Minister: On October 3, 2007, inaugurating a two-day conference of directors-general and inspectors-general of police in New Delhi, the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said that the intelligence agencies of States were not strong and adequate enough to meet the challenges of terrorism. Patil said special branches in States should be strengthened where men and officers are retained for sufficient periods with enough incentives to keep them motivated. Expressing his concerns about the low police-population ratio in the country, he said, "Police-to-population-ratio in India is very low. Therefore, conscious efforts are needed to improve the situation by augmenting the state police force and filling up vacancies at different levels." He further said that the presence of terrorist sleeper cells in mega cities was one of the major concerns of the government. These sleeper cells, which were often funded with fake currency, had the capacity to become active at their will, Patil said. These cells had developed an effective mechanism to go under the radar of intelligence agencies, he added. Times of India, October 4, 2007.
Constituent Assembly elections suspended: The alliance of seven political parties has decided to suspend the Constituent Assembly elections slated for November 22. After consultations on October 5, the leaders decided to suspend the election after the parties failed to break the deadlock that emerged after the CPN-Maoist stuck to their demands for declaring a republic through the parliament and proportional representation formula for the polls. They have now agreed to announce a new date for the election after further consultations among themselves. "The seven party leaders (of the coalition government) have agreed to postpone the constituent assembly elections for an indefinite period," Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chanda Poudel said. Nepal News; Times of India, October 5, 2007.
65 militants and 20 soldiers killed in North Waziristan: Security forces (SFs) assisted by heavy artillery and helicopter gun-ships killed 65 militants but lost 20 soldiers in two encounters at Mirali and Miranshah in North Waziristan on October 7, 2007. The fighting began on October 6-night when militants ambushed an army convoy in Mir Ali, 24 kilometers east of Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan. The SFs subsequently launched an operation against the militants, said military spokesperson Major General Waheed Arshad. Official sources said that at least 45 militants and 20 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military convoy and gun-battles in the Hasu Khel, Milgan and Khati villages of Mirali sub-division. According to a Reuters report, 65 militants were killed in the clashes. Daily Times; Dawn, October 8, 2007.
General Pervez Musharraf wins presidential election: General Pervez Musharraf has won the 14th presidential election held on October 6, 2007. However, the results cannot be officially declared since the Supreme Court had ordered a day earlier that the official notification of the results be withheld until it decides on all the petitions challenging his candidacy. Musharraf bagged 98 per cent (671) of the total votes polled (684), and also secured 57 per cent of the total of 1,170 votes from Parliament and the four Provincial Assemblies. According to the unofficial count, just 257 senators and Members of National Assembly cast their votes in the 100-member Senate and the 342-member National Assembly. Musharraf secured 252 and Justice (Retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed bagged two votes while three votes were declared invalid, according to the announcement by the Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (Retd.) Qazi Mohammad Farooq. In the 371-member Punjab Assembly, 257 members polled their votes, with 253 falling in favour of Musharraf, three for Ahmed and one declared invalid. In Sindh, 104 votes were cast out of a total of 168. Musharraf secured 102, and two went to Ahmed. In the 124-member North West Frontier Province Assembly, 34 votes were polled, with 31 members supporting Musharraf. One member voted for Ahmed and two votes were declared invalid. In the 65-member Balochistan Assembly, all the 33 votes were cast in Musharraf's favour. The News; Dawn, October 7, 2007.
Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani nominated as new Army chief: President General Pervez Musharraf on October 2, 2007, promoted Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani to the rank of four-star general and nominated him as his successor as chief of army staff. Kiyani will replace the outgoing Vice Chief of Army Staff General Ahsan Salim Hayat and assume office on October 8. He would succeed Gen. Musharraf when the latter quits the post of the army chief. Musharraf had given a commitment to the Supreme Court that he would doff his uniform before he takes oath of the office of the President for the second term. The News , October 3, 2007.
Suicide attack kills 16 persons in NWFP: On October 1, 2007, a suicide bomber disguised in a woman’s burqa (veil) blew himself up at a busy police check-post in Bannu in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) killing at least 16 people, including four police personnel. Police officer Asar Islam told, "A man disguised in a burqa got out of an auto-rickshaw when police stopped the vehicle for a search at a checkpoint. He then blew himself up." Daily Times, October 2, 2007.