Well, This Is What the State Department Wanted in Pakistan

It's clear that the State Department wanted former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf out of power and replaced as the leader of Pakistan by the late Benazir Bhutto, a long time favorite of the Western intelligentsia. This was despite substantive allegations that Ms. Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, had looted Pakistan during her previous two reigns as its Prime Minister. And it was also despite the fact that Bhutto midwifed the Taliban and its elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the same group whose offshoots and associates eventually assassinated her late last year:

It was under Bhutto's watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency's dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein's monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.

But Bhutto remained a favorite amongst elite foreign policy types, and it was she to whom the State Department turned to run against Musharraf when they felt that the then-President of Pakistan had outlived his usefulness to them.

After Bhutto was murdered, her husband became the de facto leader of her political organization, the Pakistan People's Party. That party was victorious in the recent parliamentary elections, and formed a coalition government with the other victorious party - the Pakistan Muslim League headed by another former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Amidst the reports of Sharif pulling out of the coalition government yesterday (Sharif Maneuvers for Power in Pakistan), the government of Pakistan seems to be rapidly turning from being reasonably stable and reliable under Musharraf to being an unstable nuclear-armed country with close ties to our enemies. As Sharif is considered by many to be a true partner with Islamic fundamentalists such as the Taliban, his ascension to full power and the Pakistani presidency is not a development that would be widely welcomed.

To offer an example of the damage that Sharif is capable of doing, during the late 90s he assisted the Taliban by proposing that Pakistan be ruled under sharia law and become, essentially, an Islamic state. He was successful in establishing such a "state within a state" in the tribal districts along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border, which have subsequently become the new home base of the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and Al Qaeda. Before Sharif got any further in turning Pakistan into a nuclear-armed Islamic fundamentalist country, he was removed from power in a coup by Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani military in 1999.

That leaves as the only barely acceptable candidate for the leadership of Pakistan, either as president or within parliament, the late Ms. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

But there's a bit of a problem with that scenario -- as we're just finding out. The Financial Times reports that Mr. Zardari isn't quite mentally healthy, a vital qualification if one wants to be the leader of a nation with nuclear weapons: Doubts cast on Zardari's mental health.

Asif Ali Zardari, the leading contender for the presidency of nuclear-armed Pakistan, was suffering from severe psychiatric problems as recently as last year, according to court documents filed by his doctors.

The widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was diagnosed with a range of serious illnesses including dementia, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in a series of medical reports spanning more than two years.

Did anyone in the State Department ever stop to think, during their promotion for elections to get their friend Benazir Bhutto back in charge of Pakistan, that perhaps Pervez Musharraf was the best we could do for the time being given the alternatives?

I should hope that the State Department knows what it's doing. Unfortunately, based upon past experience, I'm acutely aware that it does not. It operates in its own reality, accountable and largely answerable to no-one. President Bush had his chance to change things during the aftermath of 9/11 -- when the country would have whole-heartedly supported a virtual colonic of the entire foreign policy and intelligence establishment. Neither President Bush, nor then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, did so - and we are all worse off because of it.

But back to Pakistan for a moment. What's going to happen? Historically, the real power and stability within Pakistan has been the Pakistani military. When internal Pakistani politics become troublesome (if not outright dangerous to the outside world), it's the military who inevitably takes charge. That's a good thing, since they are the ones now in charge of the nuclear weapons.

What we might see, sooner rather than later, is another coup by the military in Pakistan. And perhaps that's what we should all be hoping for.
It's clear that the State Department wanted former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf out of power and replaced as the leader of Pakistan by the late Benazir Bhutto, a long time favorite of the Western intelligentsia. This was despite substantive allegations that Ms. Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, had looted Pakistan during her previous two reigns as its Prime Minister. And it was also despite the fact that Bhutto midwifed the Taliban and its elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the same group whose offshoots and associates eventually assassinated her late last year:

It was under Bhutto's watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency's dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein's monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.

But Bhutto remained a favorite amongst elite foreign policy types, and it was she to whom the State Department turned to run against Musharraf when they felt that the then-President of Pakistan had outlived his usefulness to them.

After Bhutto was murdered, her husband became the de facto leader of her political organization, the Pakistan People's Party. That party was victorious in the recent parliamentary elections, and formed a coalition government with the other victorious party - the Pakistan Muslim League headed by another former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Amidst the reports of Sharif pulling out of the coalition government yesterday (Sharif Maneuvers for Power in Pakistan), the government of Pakistan seems to be rapidly turning from being reasonably stable and reliable under Musharraf to being an unstable nuclear-armed country with close ties to our enemies. As Sharif is considered by many to be a true partner with Islamic fundamentalists such as the Taliban, his ascension to full power and the Pakistani presidency is not a development that would be widely welcomed.

To offer an example of the damage that Sharif is capable of doing, during the late 90s he assisted the Taliban by proposing that Pakistan be ruled under sharia law and become, essentially, an Islamic state. He was successful in establishing such a "state within a state" in the tribal districts along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border, which have subsequently become the new home base of the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and Al Qaeda. Before Sharif got any further in turning Pakistan into a nuclear-armed Islamic fundamentalist country, he was removed from power in a coup by Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani military in 1999.

That leaves as the only barely acceptable candidate for the leadership of Pakistan, either as president or within parliament, the late Ms. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

But there's a bit of a problem with that scenario -- as we're just finding out. The Financial Times reports that Mr. Zardari isn't quite mentally healthy, a vital qualification if one wants to be the leader of a nation with nuclear weapons: Doubts cast on Zardari's mental health.

Asif Ali Zardari, the leading contender for the presidency of nuclear-armed Pakistan, was suffering from severe psychiatric problems as recently as last year, according to court documents filed by his doctors.

The widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was diagnosed with a range of serious illnesses including dementia, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in a series of medical reports spanning more than two years.

Did anyone in the State Department ever stop to think, during their promotion for elections to get their friend Benazir Bhutto back in charge of Pakistan, that perhaps Pervez Musharraf was the best we could do for the time being given the alternatives?

I should hope that the State Department knows what it's doing. Unfortunately, based upon past experience, I'm acutely aware that it does not. It operates in its own reality, accountable and largely answerable to no-one. President Bush had his chance to change things during the aftermath of 9/11 -- when the country would have whole-heartedly supported a virtual colonic of the entire foreign policy and intelligence establishment. Neither President Bush, nor then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, did so - and we are all worse off because of it.

But back to Pakistan for a moment. What's going to happen? Historically, the real power and stability within Pakistan has been the Pakistani military. When internal Pakistani politics become troublesome (if not outright dangerous to the outside world), it's the military who inevitably takes charge. That's a good thing, since they are the ones now in charge of the nuclear weapons.

What we might see, sooner rather than later, is another coup by the military in Pakistan. And perhaps that's what we should all be hoping for.