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Vol. 72/No. 34      September 1, 2008

U.S. ally Musharraf steps down in Pakistan
(front page)
Threatened with impeachment by opposition politicians, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf resigned from his post August 18. Many within the U.S. ruling class are concerned about the repercussions this will have on the stability of Islamabad as a key ally to Washington in its “war on terror.”

Musharraf’s resignation comes after a long campaign by opposition parties to oust him. By August 13, three of four Pakistani provincial assemblies passed resolutions demanding that Musharraf resign or face impeachment.

Musharraf’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, was largely defeated in parliamentary elections in February, giving control to an opposition coalition of the Pakistan People’s Party, led by Asif Ali Zardari, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, led by Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan’s parliament and the four provincial assemblies will elect the new president within 30 days.

Sharif wants Musharraf tried for treason for violating the constitution. On Nov. 3, 2007, Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s constitution, dissolved the Supreme Court and four provincial high courts, arrested hundreds of opposition leaders, and shut down privately owned news media.

Martial law imposed to meet widespread protest couldn’t stem the tide. Musharraf kept his post as president, but resigned as chief of Pakistan’s military on November 28.

An aide to Musharraf claims he obtained immunity from the coalition government prior to stepping down as president, but Law Minister Farooq Naek insisted there is no such deal, according to the Associated Press.

Zardari is expected to run for the vacated office but has not publicly said so. He, along with his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, had previously faced multiple charges of political corruption and got those charges dropped when Musharraf arranged amnesty for Zardari and others charged with government corruption.

Already the “coalition” government is showing signs of fracture. On August 18, Sharif walked out of a meeting in protest after People’s Party representatives failed to restore Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had been removed by Musharraf. Sharif threatened that the Muslim League would leave the coalition government unless Chaudry is returned. Zardari supports the chief justice imposed by Musharraf in November largely because Chaudry might reverse the amnesty granted to Zardari under Musharraf.

Officials within the U.S. government are uneasy about a new president given the strategic role Pakistan plays in U.S. imperialism’s regional goals, as well as control over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The same day Musharraf stepped down, Taliban fighters killed 20 French and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. The following day, several people were killed in two separate Taliban attacks in northwest Pakistan.

The same week, missiles fired from Afghanistan struck a tribal area in Pakistan, killing at least eight people. Pakistani military officials had few details. Agence France Press reports that there have been a series of missile attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks attributed to U.S.-led forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan.

“We’ve said for years that Musharraf is our best bet, and my fear is that we are about to discover how true that was,” an official for the Bush administration told the New York Times.

Musharraf has been viewed by many in the U.S. ruling class as an unstable, but staunch ally in the war in Afghanistan. The Musharraf regime, which first took power in a 1999 military coup, had initially been a protector of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. As Washington launched its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, determined to overthrow the Taliban and establish a stable client regime there, Musharraf came out as a firm ally of the U.S. government and pledged support to the military assault.

During this time, Pakistan has received billions in military aid from Washington and has conducted joint military operations with U.S. special forces against the Taliban on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  
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