An interesting month for Pervez Musharraf
Buried in a Newsweek story about the prospects of capturing bin Laden was the following nugget of information about Al Qaeda’s strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan: Qaeda terrorists may have tried to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf with a bomb last week, missing his car by seconds. [bin Laden deputy Ayman] Al-Zawahiri, in the latest video aired ...
Buried in a Newsweek story about the prospects of capturing bin Laden was the following nugget of information about Al Qaeda's strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan:
Buried in a Newsweek story about the prospects of capturing bin Laden was the following nugget of information about Al Qaeda’s strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan:
Qaeda terrorists may have tried to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf with a bomb last week, missing his car by seconds. [bin Laden deputy Ayman] Al-Zawahiri, in the latest video aired by Al-Jazeera on Friday, warned of new attacks. Yet such operations—which require wide networks of operatives, one of whom might be interested in a $25 million reward—could provide intelligence-gathering opportunities to Western agents. The real test of bin Laden’s vulnerability may now come in Pakistan. If the attack on Musharraf proves to be Qaeda-linked—rather than an “inside” assassination attempt, perhaps by members of the Pakistani military—it could backfire against bin Laden by provoking the Pakistani president into decisive action. U.S. intelligence officials say their ability to capture bin Laden and his associates is largely dependent on intelligence assistance from Pakistan, an ally that once supported the Taliban and whose loyalties have sometimes been in doubt. “Most of Musharraf’s actions against jihadis have been reluctantly taken under tremendous U.S. pressure, often preceding or just following a high-level American visit,” says Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani diplomat. One U.S. intel official, asked about a potential breakthrough against bin Laden, responds simply: “That’s going to be a Pakistani thing.”
It’s far from certain if this analysis is correct. As previously noted, Musharraf’s domestic political situation is not great. His latest deal with the Islamic opposition could either be interpreted as a sign of democratization, a concession to hard-line Islamists, or both. However, the failed assassination attempt on Musharraf two weeks ago — the same day Saddam was captured — has not deterred the Pakistani leader’s opponents:
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has narrowly survived a second assassination bid in less than two weeks when suicide car bombers attacked his motorcade, killing themselves and at least 12 others. Officials said on Thursday the two cars used in the attack were driven out of two petrol stations just 200 metres (yards) from a bridge on a main road in the city of Rawalpindi where Musharraf escaped a bombing on December 14…. Authorities suspect Islamic militants, who Musharraf has targeted as part of his contribution to the U.S.-led war on terror, were behind the December 14 attack. Musharraf told Reuters a few days later it could have been the work of al Qaeda and he believed “destiny” had shielded him. The list of Musharraf’s enemies has lengthened since he took a front-line role in the U.S.-led war on terror after the September 11 attacks in 2001. He has angered militants by dropping support for the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, arresting hundreds of members of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network and cracking down on domestic groups, and by edging towards peace with rival India. The attack come just over a week before a regional summit in Islamabad due to be attended by India’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. In September, Arabic television broadcast an audio tape purportedly from al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri urging Pakistanis to overthrow Musharraf for supporting the United States.
Gonna be an interesting 2004 for Pakistani politics!! [Every year is an interesting year for Pakistani politics!–ed. Point taken] UPDATE: Ahmed Rashid has a disturbing analysis of Musharraf’s domestic position in the Daily Telegraph.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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