Sunday, November 25, 2007

The next phase in Pakistan

And so it begins. It seems the dance is over. The military and the politicos have each tested the waters and each other, discovered their strengths, and been shown their weaknesses. All that remains is the consummation which will take place in the form of elections. The people who could have complicated the bargaining have been released now that the bargaining is over. To sour Bhutto's game a bit Sharif has been permitted to return. There is the usual talk of boycott, but those threats are almost routine. Bhutto is already backing off from an earlier statement of support. So now with their backs covered, the military is finally making its move against the Jihadis. The regular army is now fighting the Jihadis in Swat which is probably the first time since Hashtnagar that the military is (militarily) fighting its own citizens. The next few weeks will be crucial as they will show (a) whether the Pakistani military is capable of this kind of campaign, and (b) if the public will accept the civilian casualties which are bound to mount as the campaign progresses. It is for the sake of the latter that the military needed the accommodation with the politicos. The press may be free in Pakistan in the sense of being able to present anti-government views, but as in the US it can be "influenced" quite heavily by the establishment.

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