Tag Archives: Pervez Musharraf

International Sovereignty and Domestic Politics

In a strong statement issued earlier today, the government of Pakistan reasserted its right to “defend our national territorial integrity,” asserting it would “not compromise on any violation of our sovereignty.”  The statement, issued by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, follows confirmation by an anonymous official at the Pentagon that U.S. special forces crossed into Pakistan to carry out operations against al Qaeda.  The Bush administration has not officially acknowledge the operation, which took place on Wednesday and resulted in the death of up to 20 people, including noncombatants, according to the Pakistani government.

So why all the fuss?  For one, the principle of sovereignty is important for states.  In fact, the weaker the actual sovereignty of the state, the more vigorously the state asserts and defends it.  Pakistan has long had problems asserting control over tribal groups along the northwestern broader with Afghanistan.  And the U.S. government maintains that the Waziristan region of Pakistan is likely home to much of al Qaeda’s senior leadership.  In recent weeks, Washington has become increasingly frustrated with Pakistan’s unwillingness (or inability) to address the issue of tribal support for al Qaeda.  It has launched a number of missile strikes over the past several months (August 13 , March 17, and February 28.  But Pakistani opposition to the strikes seems to be growing.

The question of how the U.S. strike will play out in the domestic politics of Pakistan is just as important.  Now Pakistan is slowly democratizing.  The departure of Pervez Musharraf last month opened the way for the first democratic transition of political power in years.  The national vote for a new president is scheduled for Saturday.  The projected frontrunner, Asif Ali Zardari, is the leader of the more pro-Western ruling Pakistan People’s Party.  But Zadari faces stiff opposition from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and its leader Nawaz Sharif.  Both sides are now using the U.S. raid to curry political favor.  The government maintained that it would continue to cooperate with the United States, but asserted that this mission “was a complete botch up. The Americans went wild upon receiving what has turned out to be very faulty intelligence…The Americans put boots on the ground and got egg on their face.”  The opposition PML-N was equally critical, contending “The US attack on Pakistani soil is totally condemnable. The government must defend our frontiers. America has disregarded all norms of law.”  While Zadari is projected to win, the opposition may be able to use the strike to rally its support.  An ironic turn of events indeed!

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Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The closing of the Beijing Olympics and Barack Obama’s announcement of his Vice-Presidential candidate have been the two most widely covered stories over the past few days.  Here are a few other important stories from the past week:

1.  Growing instability in Afghanistan: A Taliban attack outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, resulted in the deaths of ten French soldiers.  The attack appeared to be part of a coordinated effort by the Taliban against Nato forces in the country, coinciding with another attack against US forces in the southwestern part of the country.  The attacks highlight the shortage of material and soldiers  in the country.  Attending a memorial service for the soldiers, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asserted that he would continue French involvement in Afghanistan, asserting that it was “essential to the freedom of the world.”  Reflecting growing tensions in the country, the government of Afghanistan on Friday accused Nato of killing 76 civilians, mostly children, during operations against Taliban insurgents.

2. The Crisis in South Ossetia: After negotiating a ceasefire, Russia and the west once again appear unable to resolve their differences over Russian withdrawal.  Russia has rejected Nato’s call for a total withdrawal to pre-crisis positions.  Nato has moved to isolate Russia, and in return Russia has cancelled joint military operations with Nato countries.  The crisis gave new impetus to the United States and Poland to sign a missile defense shield.  Demonstrating the link between international security and global political economy, the crisis also helped to push oil prices higher and marked the beginning of a trend of western investors pulling their money from Russia at a rate not seen since the Russian Ruble crisis of 1998.

3. The Rise of Food Neo-Colonialism: In a report issued on Tuesday, Jacques Dious, director general of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, warned that the drive for farmland could result in the development of a neo-colonial system for agriculture.  Driven by record high commodity prices, foreign direct investment in farms and agricultural production has grown dramatically over the last couple of years.

4. The Pakistani Presidential Race: After the departure of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last week, the struggle to find a new president has begun.  Mohammad Mian Soomro, chair of Pakistan’s Senate, has been named acting President and is heading the search for a new leader.  Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has emerged as the leading candidate from the Pakistan People’s Party, the largest party in the parliament.  

5. Unified European Parliament: After part of the ceiling of the European Parliament in Strasbourg collapsed last week, the Parliament was forced to cancel its monthly trek from Brussels to Strasbourg.  The Parliament traditionally moved to the French city of Strasbourg from Brussels for its monthly meetings, despite the fact that the majority of the Union’s administrative and bureaucratic support—not to mention its most important institutions—are based in Brussels, Belgium.  The move, widely denounced by both the EU’s proponents and opponents—costs an estimated €200 million (($350 million) per year.  It is hoped that the forced relocation of the Parliament may encourage a reconsideration of the monthly move, although French opposition may be hard to overcome.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Headlines this week have been dominated by two stories: Michael Phelps’ success at the Olympic Games and the Russia-Georgia War.  With all the attention paid to these two stories, here are five other developments you might have missed.

1.  Russia’s Poland Threat:  After Russia’s move into Georgia last week, Poland decided to permit U.S. interceptor missile bases to be housed there.  The bases, part of the Bush Administration’s strategic defense initiative program, had been frozen due to American resistance to Polish demands that a Patriot missiles battery be stationed in the country as part of the deal.  After the Georgian conflict, the United States appeared willing to give in to the Polish demand.  In response, Russia warned Poland that it was now a target for their nuclear arsenal.

2.  Musharraf’s (Possible) Resignation:  Facing possible impeachment, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf indicated on Thursday that he will be stepping down.  Impeachment proceedings had been set to start early next week.  Musharraf’s resignation was likely intended to avoid that spectacle.  As part of the agreement, Musharraf will avoid prosecution and will be permitted to remain in Pakistan.  His departure, however, signals an important shift in Pakistani politics, a key country in the war on terror.

3.  No Diplomatic Solution in Zimbabwe:  Negotiations intended to resolve Zimbabwe’s longstanding crisis have so far failed to reach a peaceful settlement.  At issue is who will lead Zimbabwe.  Robert Mugabe, the current president, has been in office since 1980 and has increasingly relied on force to maintain his rule.  Morgan Tsvangarai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, won the first round of presidential elections last March before being forced to cancel his campaign in the second round of voting due to political violence.  Despite extensive pressure being placed on the country by South Africa, Mugabe appears so far to be unwilling to share power.  Negations continue, but few are hopeful that a settlement will be reached.

4.  Lugo Wins Paraguay Election:  Continuing a leftward shift in many Latin American countries, Fernando Lugo won the election in Paraguay, marking the end of 61 years of one-party rule by the Colorado Party.  One of Lugo’s first acts as President was to decline his monthly salary of approximately $4000, declaring that “the money belongs to the poorest.”  Evo Morales, the leftist President of Bolivia, said that Lugo’s victory would “deepen democracy” in the region.

5.  Syrian-Lebanese Meeting:  In the face of a declining security situation in Lebanon, the country’s President, Michel Suleiman, agreed to re-establish full diplomatic relations with neighboring Syria.  The agreement, part of a package that seeks to normalize relations between the two countries, marks the first time the countries would exchange ambassadors since both achieved independence in the 1940s.