As Political Crisis Deepens, U.S. Special Forces Secretly Train Pakistani Commandos

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Wednesday’s ruling by Pakistan’s Musharraf-installed Supreme Court to bar former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shabaz, the chief minister of Punjab–the country’s most populous and powerful province–from elected office, has widened that nation’s growing political chasm.
The faux alliance between the two main parties of the capitalist grift, President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), forged in the wake of the reemergence of Pakistan’s pro-democracy movement in 2007, has definitively broken down, hurtling the country further along the bumpy road of political crisis.
Sharif, every bit as corrupt and venal as Zardari, for tactical reasons hitched the PML-N’s political wagon to the mass movement launched by lawyers’ groups, democracy activists and the labor movement to restore Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Choudhry to office.
The Sharif family, rich Punjabi industrialists, came to prominence during General Zia ul-Haq’s military dictatorship during the 1980s. Sharif, a right-winger with close ties to the Saudi monarchy, spent a comfortable exile in Riyadh after being deposed by Musharraf. Indeed “democracy champion,” the late Benazir Bhutto, had initially welcomed Musharraf’s 1999 coup.

As socialist critic and historian Tariq Ali points out in The Duel, “neither Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, nor Zia’s protégé, Nawaz Sharif, showed any ability to govern the country in interests other than their own. Clientilism, patronage, and corruption on a gigantic scale were the hallmarks of their weak regimes.”
Dismissed by Musharraf when the General-President imposed emergency rule on November 3, 2007, Choudhry had challenged the Army, Police and intelligence agencies’ practice of disappearing, torturing and murdering dissenting citizens. In the wake of the Court’s removal and a clamp-down on independent media (described by analysts as a “coup within a coup”), the democratic secular movement launched by outraged lawyers and broad sections of the citizenry offered a potential opening for progressive political change in Pakistan.
Seeking to deflect popular opposition against Musharraf, the PPP and PML-N forged an unprincipled alliance based on their common desire to abort the popular movement against the dictatorship along “traditional,” i.e., clientilist lines that would leave privileges in tact, while divvying up the spoils between the two parties; real power in other words, would remain in the hands of the comprador elites.
Sharif, as the World Socialist Website points out, “was viewed warily by Washington” because of his “intense personal hostility to Musharraf–who, it needs be remembered, had originally wanted to execute shim–and because of his connections to the Islamic fundamentalist right (sections of which are sympathetic to the Taliban.)”
The motivation for Zardari’s judicial coup against the PML-N bigwigs, the brothers Sharif, was intended to preserve the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a corrupt deal struck by Bhutto and Musharraf–under the watchful eyes of Bush administration “fixers”–whereby Musharraf would be “reelected” President in return for absolving the gross criminality and corruption of Bhutto and other PPP leaders. Sharif had been cut out of the deal, a point of considerable contention between the aggrieved parties.
Choudhry, under the “fix” worked out between Zardari and Sharif, would be restored to office, but Zardari, ever-fearful of provoking the all-powerful General Headquarters (GHG) of the Army which opposed judicial scrutiny of their actions under Musharraf, including the sordid NRO, reneged. This set the stage for the current confrontation.
But in a country viewed as a strategic ally of the United States, democracy, especially when it escapes “management” by elites favored by America, is always an iffy proposition. While the Obama administration has largely remained silent, it is well-known that the new regime in Washington, at least for the time being, has hitched its wagon to the Zardari government. Indeed, Army Chief of Staff General Asfaq Parvez Kayani, was in Washington this week for “comprehensive multilateral talks.” The General told U.S. Congress members that the Army would not intervene in political affairs.
Kayani, a former chief of the shadowy Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), vowed that GHQ “would not intervene even if the political situation deteriorated further,” according to Dawn. The Karachi-based newspaper also reported that “on Thursday, General Kayani was inducted into the US military’s international Hall of Fame in a small yet refined ceremony at Fort Leavenworth.”
As a result of the Court’s action Wednesday, massive protests have broken out in cities across the country. The main highway between the federal capital of Islamabad and its twin city, Rawalpindi, the site of Army Headquarters, were cut by thousands of protesters who burned tires–and police vehicles.The News reports,


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