As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Zardari Blinks

I didn't think it would turn out this cleanly, and it probably hasn't. But the Pakistan crisis has at least been delayed, as the government decided to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This led Nawaz Sharif to call off the "Long March," as this was its goal. Some reports are calling this the first triumph of diplomacy for one Hillary Clinton.

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appears to have succeeded in persuading warring political leaders in Pakistan to soften their attitudes towards each other, the US media reported on Saturday.

Various US television and radio networks noted that soon after Secretary Clinton called President Asif Ali Zardari, a presidential spokesman announced in Islamabad that the government will restore the deposed judges in the light of Charter of Democracy and will file a review petition in the Supreme Court to undo the disqualification of Sharif brothers.

A spokesman for opposition leader Nawaz Sharif later described these decisions as ‘a corrective measure,’ the US media noted.

If true, that would be great, and another sign of a positive foreign policy from the Obama Administration. However, the fact that local police in Punjab apparently refused to honor the house arrest for Sharif forced Zardari to recalculate and give in to demands to save his political skin. Plus, as Juan Cole notes, Pakistan's political strife is not over.

The Punjabi population resents Zardari's imposition of 'governor's rule" or a Federal take-over of the province, which has an elected provincial legislature in which the PMLN is the leading party. And, the Sharifs are not going to put up with being excluded from politics, and Zardari and his courts tried to do.

Those issues have to be resolved before the political situation can calm down. Moreover, Iftikhar Chaudhry is himself an iconoclast, and what if he indicts Musharraf or even Zardari? Or maybe Dick Cheney. If Chaudhry is worried about Pakistanis who were made to disappear without habeas corpus or formal legal proceedings, as part of a 'war on terror,' I have suggestions for perpetrators he should look into, who now live in Texas.

So, good news, but not an end by any means.

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