It's awfully hard not to say "I told you so...."

But Pakistan is the real concern, not Iraq, as the election results
show. See article below, from the 19/10/02 issue of The Economist:

Pakistan's election

Oh, what a lovely ally
Oct 17th 2002 | LAHORE
>From The Economist print edition


An anti-American grouping makes important gains that are likely to
embarrass President Musharraf

Get article background

“AMERICANS are the killers, the butchers, the murderers,” observes the
mild mannered but plain speaking secretary-general of Pakistan's
Jamaat-i-Islami party, Syed Munawar Hassan. The views of Mr Hassan and
his party are not new. Like much of the Muslim world they are convinced
that the United States and Israel have formed a tag team for the purpose
of oppressing Muslims, a belief fanned into fury by the American bombing
of Afghanistan, Israel's assaults on Palestinians and now the threat of
war against Iraq.

Until now, such views could be treated as dissent, blasting Pakistan's
pro-western policies without injuring them. Pakistan has been among the
most valuable members of the American-led coalition against terrorism.
Last week's general election may have changed that. The MMA grouping of
religious parties, including Jamaat-i-Islami, stormed from the fringes
of Pakistani politics into the centre, positioning themselves to govern
two of Pakistan's four provinces and winning more seats in the national
parliament than they have ever done. There is a chance that this group
will be part of the coalition in charge of the central government.

Opposition to Pakistan's anti-terrorist alliance with the United States
was the centrepiece of their campaign and will be their top priority in
government, says Mr Hassan. The two provinces they look set to govern,
North West Frontier Province and Balochistan, blur into Afghanistan.
They are prime hunting grounds for refugee members of al-Qaeda,
including, perhaps, Osama bin Laden. George Bush and Pakistan's
president, Pervez Musharraf, must now be wondering what the religious
parties can do to sabotage the hunt. They are not the only ones in
shock. The days of freedom of expression in parliament are behind us,
laments Aitzaz Ahsan, a leader of the centrist Pakistan People's Party.
He recalls that in 1999 a handful of fundamentalist senators so
intimidated their colleagues that only four voted for a resolution
condemning honour killings of women who had eloped. Will tradition now
smother modernity?

India, Pakistan's perennial enemy, is also worried. Its foreign
minister, Yashwant Sinha, called the gains of the
religious parties a bad signal. How much closer will fundamentalists get
to controlling Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons? The rise of the
religious parties is the sum of some fears, not all of them. It brings
an illiberal, anti-American element to the centre of Pakistan's
political arena, which cannot but complicate the war on terrorism.
General Musharraf, who tried, though not very consistently, to curb the
influence of religion in public life in the three years since seizing
power in a coup, will probably stop trying.  Concessions to India over
the disputed state of Kashmir, never
imminent, are even less likely. But there is little danger of Pakistan
becoming a rogue Islamist state, an Iraq with a hankering for martyrdom.
Some of the religious parties are pro-Taliban, but are more worldly and
pragmatic than their defeated Afghan brothers. Access to political power
will make them more so. They must contend with many
other forces, including rivals in the fragmented parliament, the armed
forces, which can veto almost anything politicians do, pressures from
the United States and divisions within their own ranks. Pakistan is in
for a period of uncertainty, perhaps even instability, but not
revolution.

The elections knocked Pakistan askew. The idea had been to restore
democracy after three years of military rule without bringing back the
habitual sins of corruption, political vendettas, masochistic economic
policies and clashes between civilian and military authorities, which
often ended with the army taking over. To this end, General Musharraf
first secured his own position as president by holding a referendum in
April, which almost no one but he regards as legitimate. He then amended
the constitution to give the president the power to dismiss parliament
and to give the armed forces a permanent role in government through a
National Security Council, headed by the president and including the top
generals and elected officials. Finally, he tried to engineer the
election so that the parliament it produced would acquiesce in all of
this.

Criminal proceedings against Pakistan's two pre-eminent politicians,
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both former prime ministers, kept them
out of the country. A split was arranged in Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim
League; PML(Q), the bit friendly to General Musharraf, got extra help
from the administration and won more seats than any other party. The
election had serious flaws, said observers from the European Union. Not
serious enough, though, to deliver a comfortable result for General
Musharraf. The religious parties were supposed to do well (a decent
showing would make the general look all the more indispensable to the
West as a bulwark against extremism), but not too well. As things turned
out, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), the six-party religious
alliance, won enough seats in parliament to deny the general's allies,
PML(Q) plus assorted others, a reliable majority.

General Musharraf's other potential partner is the People's Party of
Miss Bhutto, which agrees with him about fighting terrorism but, like
the MMA, rejects the constitutional innovations that place him above
parliament. He seems to face a choice between a party with a hostile
ideology and one that is merely hostile to his ambitions. Just what will
emerge from the parliamentary scrum is uncertain. The price the People's
Party will set for joining the government, which may include dropping
cases against Miss Bhutto and her husband, who is in jail, may be too
high for General Musharraf
to meet. Other coalitions are quite possible. A friends-of-Pervez
government, including everyone but the MMA, the People's Party and Mr
Sharif's faction of the Muslim League, might eke out a majority, though
it would be too slender to last.

The current parliament, however, is unlikely to deliver stable
government. Avowed foes of military rule have about half the seats. Even
seemingly compliant civilian prime ministers have a way of turning on
the generals once they sniff power. The current political line-up seems
doomed to constant bickering over position and policy, which may end
with the president dismissing parliament or even with the politicians
getting rid of the president. None of this would be new for Pakistan.
What is new is that the religious right will have a big say in what
happens.

The official line, from the government, headed by General Musharraf
until he gives way to a prime minister, from the religious parties
themselves and from potential coalition partners, is that the MMA will
use power responsibly. It is not fundamentalist or militant, merely
religious, says Pakistan's information minister. Some Pakistanis compare
it to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu-nationalist party that rules
India. The MMA downplays its radicalism, eager to be seen as a savvy
player in the give and take of parliamentary politics. Even on its top
priority, ridding Pakistan of  American terrorist-hunters, the party
sounds reasonable. It's a process, says Mr Hassan of Jamaat-i-Islami,
not a switch button. Parliamentary polish does not quite obscure the
MMA's rough pedigree. Some of its constituent parties have a soft spot
for the Taliban. One leader said that if the United States molested Mr
bin Laden Americans in Pakistan would be attacked. Largely non-violent
themselves, their advocacy of jihad has underwritten violence in
Afghanistan, against Indian rule in Kashmir and even against other
Islamic sects within Pakistan. In their commingling of violence and
respectability they are typical of Pakistani institutions, including the
army. Fazlur Rahman, issuer of the threat to kill Americans, heads the
most powerful faction of the Jamiatul Ulema-i-Islam (JUI). Its madrassas
(religious schools) educated the Taliban and supplied legions for its
army. Its fierce creed, a puritanical brand of Sunni Islam, developed
during the 19th century in the Indian town of Deoband, spawned even
fiercer groups.

Sipah-i-Sahaba, a Punjab-based group started by former JUI men in 1985,
has a record of killing Shia Muslims. It spun off an even more violent
group, called Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which is suspected of involvement in
recent attacks on westerners and foreigners. Sipah-i-Sahaba is banned,
and too disreputable for the MMA, but its leader, Azam Tariq, won a
parliamentary seat in the southern Punjabi city of Jhang, boasting in a
campaign brochure of loving the great soldier, Osama bin Laden. Mr
Rahman is more politician than warrior. He was chairman of the
foreign-affairs committee of parliament and an ally of Miss Bhutto, and
has been named by his party as a candidate for prime minister.

His nickname, Maulana Diesel, testifies to a reputation for commercial
acumen, which some suggest can be exploited in the cause of moderation.
Like many stalwarts of the religious right, he is thought to be partly
beholden to the armed forces, which, through its Inter Services
Intelligence agency (ISI), has used religious parties for tasks as
diverse as promoting Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, fighting Indian
rule in Kashmir and clipping the wings of political parties at home.

Jamaat-i-Islami, the driving force behind the MMA, has had nothing to do
with the narrow ideologies that spawn violence among Islamic sects;
though it was a pioneer of promoting jihad in Afghanistan and in
Indian-administered Kashmir. Qazi Hussain Ahmad, its leader, is more
moderate than Mr Rahman, but perhaps less yielding. He is generally
considered the MMA's weightiest leader.

Its other constituents make strange bedfellows. Shias and Barelvis, an
easier-going sort of Muslim, have both been victims of savage Deobandi
attacks and answered in kind. Yet they have shown up in the MMA. The
fusion of these and other groups is something of a miracle, brought
about, some say, by the army, which wanted a counterweight to the
mainstream political parties besides PML(Q). It betokens moderation. Or
maybe, its adversaries hope, an eventual falling out. Their rising stake
in democratic politics could tame them further.

This is what General Musharraf counts on when he declares that Pakistan
will remain a key member of the coalition against terror. If the United
States attacks Iraq, the MMA can express Pakistan's rage from the
podium, making it less likely that people will do so with guns. Despite
the brave face some Pakistanis are putting on it, the MMA's success has
put it in a position to slow down, if not derail, the initiatives that
have made General Musharraf a popular figure in Washington.

By just how much depends on the outcome of the multi-sided tussle now
taking place in Islamabad, the capital. Fighting al-Qaeda is mainly the
job of the central government. The brunt is borne by such agencies as
the ISI, by the army and by centrally run militias such as the Frontier
Constabulary. Some 60,000 Pakistani troops and a handful of Americans
are ranged along the border with Afghanistan, most in the federally
administered tribal areas of North West Frontier Province, which are
governed by the centre to the extent they are governed at all. If the
MMA tries to undermine the fight against terrorism, the government has
hinted that General Musharraf's National Security Council will block it.
One message this sends out is that Americans ought to love the council,
even though most Pakistani parties want to dismantle it. But the MMA can
make trouble. Even if it sits in opposition, the MMA chief ministers of
the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan will occupy two seats
on the 13-member council. It could get more, through such offices as the
speakership of parliament and the chairmanship of the Senate.

Most MPs from the tribal areas are MMA men who may, some analysts worry,
provide havens for foes of Afghanistan's American-backed government. In
Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, newspapers report that a dozen local
Taliban were freed from the district jail on instructions from newly
elected MMA representatives. This could be a taste of sabotage to come.

And what of those nukes? The prime minister will head the National
Command Authority but de facto control of the weapons rests with the
armed forces, says Hasan Askari Rizvi, an expert on the Pakistani
military. The army will not countenance an extremist as prime minister;
if he rashly ordered deployment of nuclear weapons, says Mr Rizvi, the
military would disobey.

If the MMA's anti-American agenda is blocked, its domestic wishlist may
become more important. It has called for the implementation of sharia,
Islamic law, which it says can be done within the framework of the
revived constitution. The party wants to banish interest from bank
lending. Its aversion extends to the financial-aid programmes within
Pakistan that are underwritten by the IMF and World Bank. Whether the
MMA sits in government or opposition, it is hard to see a revival of a
programme to modernise madrassas, which General Musharraf had already
put on a slow track. In the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan
state schools may come to resemble madrassas rather than the other way
around. Pakistani liberals now fear a chilling effect that will close
minds, hinder reasonable expression and make women timid.

Prelude or interlude? Those who fret about fundamentalists taking over
used to be reassured by the religious parties' consistent failure to win
more than a few seats in elections. That comfort is no longer available,
but that does not mean that Pakistan is succumbing to fundamentalism.
The MMA's success arises in part from a fleeting alignment of
circumstances: the hobbling of the mainstream parties, the Afghan war
and the fragile alliance itself. It won a tenth of the popular vote, not
much more than religious parties had won in previous elections. The
difference was that this
time they pooled votes rather than splitting them.

The vote for the MMA is not a vote for beards, burqas, and jihad, wrote
one columnist, but rather a vote against imperialism and indignity. And
against political fat-cats, some of whom shifted from the mainstream
parties to General Musharraf's PML(Q). The new affection could be
strengthened by war in Iraq, or weakened by incompetent government,
which would not be surprising with so many newcomers in the assemblies.
Blacking out cable stations could alienate people. People love to see
Indian movies, even in the villages, says Haji Muhammad Adeel, a
candidate whose pro-American party was decimated by the MMA. After one
or two years will everything return to normal? Not quite. General
Musharraf has had three years to set Pakistan firmly on the road to
modernisation. The elections confirm that he has failed.


--
Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

“We do not think that there is an incompatibility between words and
deeds; the worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences
have been properly debated…To think of the future and wait was merely
another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just
an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a
question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.”
– Pericles about his fellow-Athenians, as quoted by Thucydides in “The
Peloponessian Wars”

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the
author solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the
author’s employer, nor those of any organization with which the author
may be associated.

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