Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oh, Pervy you're simply darling!

I gained something of a new insight In talking to a South Asia friend of mine recently: Musharraf isn't such a bad cookie in the grand scheme in the politics of the region.

Yes, he's served as nothing less than a dictator of one of the most politically volatile countries in the region in wearing both the uniform of head of state and chief military officer.

Ay to the fact that nuclear materials passed through his borders via the likes of AQ Khan and his associates, making the world a far more dangerous place.

Indeed, he's been ineffective in holding together a federal state fraught with all sorts of sectarian divisions. If anybody has doubts about this you're more than welcome to read Pamela Constable's pieces in the Washington Post, or better yet schedule your holidays in North-West Frontier Province or Balochistan.

Then there's the Red Mosque incident, his mishandling of the Supreme Court, and on and on.

And he's only 4 feet tall. That won't do.

Well, this pal of mine was insistent that Musharraf was at least less corrupt than the twin kleptocrats of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. He maintained that the country hasn't fallen prey to the sort of perennial religious revolution that existed in the subcontinent starting in the mid-19th century and leading up to the disastrous rule of Ayub Khan.

His most compelling argument was one of alternatives, though. If Musharraf doesn't survive the country's state of emergency, it is almost certain that another military cadre will assume the helm. Elections may usher in enough Bhutto cronies to make the government appear to have the vestments of civilian rule, but that's about it.

Basically the best forecasts are for a sick and twisted version of the power-sharing arrangement that exists in a place like India, where in place of Sonia you have Benazir, and in the place of Manmohan Singh you'll have some Joe Kahn that rose just sufficiently enough through the ISI or the army that he knows where to attach his epaulets.

Clearly the situation south of the Khyber Pass is not tenable in its present form, but I'm not sold that there aren't better alternatives. True, few in the West want the next Mullah Muhammad Omar to be calling the shots in Islamabad, but a one-eye tribal chieftain who's not hellbent on suicide bombings isn't all bad either.

In fact, I suggest that a presidential exploratory committee be launched for Imran Sharif, a 90 year-old baker, specializing in unleavened bread, from Nok Kundi. He's pleasant, wise, and would at the worst be accused of negligence when gun-running jihadists reigned over the countryside. Hell, when bombs started raining down on Bombay he could honestly say he was sorry. And his state dinners would serve actual comfort food, and not the chez crap that made Bush the First vomit.

Perhaps not. It is a tragedy when somebody like Musharraf represents the last, best hope for your country.

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