Sunday, August 05, 2007

Signs of Bhutto-Musharraf Compromise In Pakistan

Written from Redwood City, Calif.--

The former and exiled Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was on CNN this morning talking rather freely about a possible compromise that could fortify Pakistan as an ally of the U.S. in the war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It could be a ray of light in what has been an intensifying atmosphere of crisis.

Bhutto, 54, who recently reportedly met with Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf in the Gulf states, indicated she is willing to return to Pakistan and assume the role of Prime Minister, with Musharraf as President, but she said that, first, Musharraf should agree to step down as chief of the Army, because, she said, his holding both the presidency and army command "blurs" a necessary distinction in a more democratic state.

Of course, as we all know, in the U.S., the President is also commander in chief of the Armed Forces.

But that notwithstanding, the return of Bhutto could well fortify both the Pakistani government and the war against Al Qaeda and Taliban inroads not only in border regions but throughout the country.

Wolf Blitzer, the CNN interviewer, asked Bhutto whether she would acceed to a U.S. strike on Al Qaeda forces within Pakistan. She said, as other Pakistanis have, that this would be a breach of Pakistani sovereignty. But she added that she would support an alliance of Pakistan, Afghanistan, NATO and the U.S. to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the entire region.

This has elements of promise. The Musharraf dictatorship, to say the least, has been fraying at the edges, and doubt has grown that it can last in its present form. A Bhutto return, if contingent on a continued alliance with the U.S. and the West, could be an improvement in the situation. Bhutto served as both the 12th and 16th prime minister of Pakistan in 1988-89 and 1993-96, the first Muslim woman to head a post-colonial state. She was deposed and exiled on charges of corruption, which she denied.

Coincident, the Washington Post reports this morning, in an article by Karen de Young and Joby Warrick, that the Bush Administration has in recent months developed a more demanding attitude toward Musharraf, not satisfied that he has fulfilled pledges to fight the terrorists in the Waziristan province which have been crossing over into Afghanistan to subvert the regime of Hamid Karzai.

This increasingly is a vital theatre of the War on Terror. Also, there are signs in Washington that the Democrats are more willing to fight the war in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre than in Iraq. That it is possible to make progress is manifest in a story in the New York Times this morning about British successes in pacifying an Afghan province west of Kandahar, although at the cost of 64 British lives this year.

Just this past week, no less a dove on Iraq than Sen. Barack Obama, indicated he would favor trying to destroy the terrorists in the Pakistan border regions.

War is often a series of complicatred readjustments. This may be one in the offing, and, if so, should be welcomed.

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