[Guest post by DRJ]
Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf today relinquished his position as Army Chief and the Times of India reports he may lift the state of emergency in the next 48 hours:
“Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who quit as the Army Chief on Wednesday, is expected to end the Emergency he imposed earlier this month “within the next 48 hours”.
Musharraf would make “major political announcements”, including the lifting of the Emergency and freeing of detained persons, while addressing the nation after being sworn in as a civilian ruler for a second presidential term on Thursday, Dawn News channel reported.
Besides the withdrawal of the Emergency “within the next 48 hours”, all journalists, lawyers and rights activists detained under emergency regulations would be freed soon, the channel quoted sources as saying.”
I think Musharraf’s political actions correlate with Pakistan’s recent military action in the tribal areas. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan, and it’s believed that Osama bin Laden may be in the tribal areas. This adds a compelling reason for the US to encourage Musharraf to take action in the tribal areas, likely with a threat to end US financial assistance to Pakistan if he refuses.
Recent military actions have resulted in militants trapped in the Swat Valley and many insurgent deaths. Musharraf’s credibility with elements of the military would be damaged, perhaps beyond repair, when he ordered the Pakistani military to mount a serious attack on the tribal areas. Musharraf’s resignation as Army Chief in favor of a hand-picked successor and US ally might be the best result he could hope for under the circumstances.
The next question is what’s happening in the Swat Valley and the tribal areas. The Pakistani military may have intentionally or unintentionally lured local insurgents into the Swat Valley. The military sealed the Swat Valley, killing many insurgents. These may not be al Qaeda or bin Laden’s protectors but they were a buffer that has virtually disappeared in a fortnight.
What’s next? By all reports, Pakistan has pulled thousands of troops from its border with India and put them into the tribal areas. US and Afghan troops wait on the other side of the tribal areas. The vise is tightening. It remains to be seen if the Pakistani military will close the vise.