Last tango in Washington

By now, the dynamics set in place by America seem immutable: what Washington wants, it gets. Never mind about the people of Pakistan and what they wanted. Benazir Bhutto made Washington her second home this summer. And it paid off. The State Department turned a brokerage house facilitating political deals between Bhutto and the Pakistan Army led by General Musharraf’s heir-in-chief, General Kiyani. The broker, that is America, stands to reap huge dividends.

The last tango in Washington is over. Now the ‘newly-elected’ President Musharraf; Prime Minister-in-waiting Benazir Bhutto and the Army Chief-in-waiting General Kiyani have been fully “Americanized”.

The winner, that is America, takes it all!

The US punditocracy was pleased to introduce Ashfaq Kiyani as “pro-US” who trained at the US Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He’s billed as “a very capable officer and a partner in the war of terror”.

The Pentagon’s comfort level tanked because the “smart, tough, talented — and pro-Western” Gen Kayani was like one of the boys while at Kansas (what else could he have done amid acres of corn and mid-western sterility slapped with severe winters?) And now comes the political marriage certificate between Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf signed and sworn by that wonkette Condi Rice.

In an interview to the New York Post, Secretary of State Rice admitted that America was pressing General Musharraf “very hard” to allow for free and fair elections. When asked if Benazir Bhutto had a role in the future political set-up, she answered, “Well, I don’t see why not”.

When asked how would the corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto play into the new equation, Condi Rice deflected it by going off on a tangent: “There needs to be a contested parliamentary system, but whether or not she is able to overcome that and whether Pakistanis are willing to allow that is really up to them.”

The reason for her gobbledygook response is now as clear as the blue sky. Washington was working around the clock to get Musharraf to pass an ordinance providing amnesty to Bhutto for her alleged corruption. And Ms Rice was the one pushing the general to go for it before his October 6 presidential election!

Among many in America, Condi Rice is severely castigated for being a ‘yes woman’ to Bush. The role played by her in taking America to war in Iraq is unforgivable. Next year when Condi retires, she wants to return to Stanford University where she was the provost. But an email campaign against her being allowed back is already in swing at the campus. Teachers and students don’t want the ‘trouble maker’ back.

Setting aside diplomatic finesse, the State Department spokesman Sean McCormack openly admitted at a briefing in Washington about the American role in the future political set-up of Pakistan: “We have a lot at stake; they (Pakistan) have a lot at stake. The future course of Pakistan is at stake in this and future elections.” He also affirmed that Pentagon has had “some long-term interaction” with General Kiyani who until recently was head of the ISI. “I’m sure that he’s somebody that our military would be able to work closely with.”

It now appears that Condi Rice has been in contact with Pakistan’s chief spymaster since last November. Rice and Kiyani sounds strange.

After 9/11 America has paid the Pakistan army $10 billion. But remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Lest we forget, only until recently a nasty attack was mounted on Musharraf’s personal dignity and Pakistan’s sovereignty. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in America alighted the soapbox to question repeatedly why Musharraf was not delivering as per his promises and the money he had ‘pocketed.’ Voices of fierce discontent floated from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, traveling across the Capitol Hill, straddling influential think tanks and ending up in print, not to forget the rave and rants of talking heads on television channels this past summer.

Whatever America touches turns to lead. Iraq is in ruins as Americans now mull over hacking it to pieces to bring peace. Afghanistan is already a failed state. Karzai’s colourful capes and hats are beginning to fade, as is his importance to the Bush administration. Last week, a US congressional panel warned that the Bush administration’s Afghan policy had gone under and could be permanently lost.

Pakistan and the ISI got blamed during the House Committee on Foreign Affairs discussion recently. Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher named the Clinton administration, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for creating the Taliban. “Let me repeat that: The Clinton administration, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, created the Taliban,” he said. Rohrabacher also blamed the ISI and other Pakistani officials for engaging in the drug trade and claimed: “The ISI has been up to their necks in the drug trade for 20 or 30 years now.”

See, what I mean.

While Bush administration has brought about an unnatural union between Benazir and Musharraf, don’t be at all surprised that the next White House incumbent (Hillary Clinton?) will oversee its annulment which is bound to occur given the polarization that exists in Pakistani politics today.

While Condi Rice will not be around to witness the annulment, her successor (God knows who) would already have opened channels of communications with General Kiyani inviting him to take over. And mind you, it will all be done in the open — the same way they did with Musharraf and Benazir.

“All too often America has forsaken its long-term interests and, worse, its values in Pakistan and chosen the short-term convenience of backing military dictators. Each time they have failed to develop the country’s freedoms and undermined its democratic institutions,” write Sandy Berger and Bruce Riedel, two top security aides to former President Clinton. “Some say Musharraf is all that keeps Pakistan from an Islamic takeover. Musharraf used that line with Clinton in 2000 but he (Clinton) didn’t buy it then and we should not buy it now. It is time for the Pakistani army to go back to its barracks for good and for us to have confidence in the 170 million people of Pakistan.”

Tailpiece: After Musharraf’s unilateral decision to forgive and forget Benazir Bhutto’s corruption, the government run news agency APP carried a report last week titled “Drive against corruption.” I am reproducing it verbatim: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has launched an awareness campaign to highlight the effects of corruption and to motivate the youth to make a positive contribution towards minimizing corruption from society. In this connection, a function was held at a local school where Alia Ahmed, the NAB deputy director, highlighted the role of youth towards making Pakistan a corruption-free country, stated a news release issued by NAB.

Well-done NAB! You did it! You have at last succeeded in your noble mission of making Pakistan a “corruption-free country”! Keep up the good work.

By: Anjum Niaz, a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu

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