Pervez Musharraf, the most adroitly pro-American, pro-market, anti-anti-India, and (finally) anti-jihadist ruler of Pakistan in the country’s history, was facing the crisis of his life before Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan.
Sharif was the Prime Minister of Pakistan whom Musharraf overthrew in 1999, who has now returned on a private jet provided by the Saudi royal family.
It is odd that the Saudis have chosen this moment to kick sand in Musharraf’s face. $90+ oil has bought the Saudis unprecedented domestic tranquility, and has allowed the Saudi royal family to dramatically curb the influence of the Wahhabi clergy, liquidate al-Qaeda’s Saudi node, publicly align with the United States on a practical as well as a symbolic level, and implement a slew of liberal reforms — with popular support. The timing of their choice to knife Musharraf was hardly born of political necessity.
Saudi tentacles in Pakistan go back to the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. Along with the United States, the Saudi royal family funneled huge amounts of money through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) to the Afghan mujahideen. Over the course of the 1980’s, the ISI became indistinguishable from its rabidly Islamist clientele. Although large parts of the agency are loyal to the Musharrafian army regime, too many ISI officers aren’t. Now that Musharraf is bleeding and the sharks are circling, the ISI has become the locus of resistance to Musharraf within the government bureaucracy.
Today, a huge attack on ISI headquarters incinerated at least 30 army officers and injured dozens more. It’s not clear exactly what organization was behind the attack, but a good guess would be anti-Musharraf ISI or other military governmental malcontents from NWFP (North West Frontier Province), Pakistan.
A different Times article suggests that Musharraf grudgingly acquiesced to Sharif’s return after Saudi, UK, and American pressure. Perhaps he isn’t facing as existential of a political crisis as everybody else thinks he is.
The next month will be decisive for Pakistan’s future and Musharraf’s survival. It is easy to oppose ‘a dictator,’ especially in this country, but the secular alternatives to Musharraf are not up to the job.