Financial Times: ‘What impact will Pakistan’s elections have?’

‘What impact will Pakistan’s elections have?’, a Q&A with Tariq Ali and Stephen Cohen for the Financial Times, February 13, 2008

Will the elections reflect the true will of the people? Also, how important is Musharraf – the person himself and not Pakistan – to the US. Is the US currently looking at him as a threat or a friend? (Raghavendra Jagtap, Minneapolis)

Tariq Ali: Very few people in Pakistan believe that the elections will be fair. The interim government is packed with Musharraf cronies, the Election Commission likewise. The only question is whether the results will be cleverly or crudely rigged.

If the latter there could be trouble on the streets. I think Washington has mixed feelings about Musharraf, but with the killing of Benazir Bhutto, the choices are limited. Certainly he is not regarded as a threat. He made Pakistan’s military and air force bases and the country’s air space available after 9/11, helped the US to take Kabul painlessly and suffered three attempts on his own life as a result.

Stephen Cohen: I’ll take on the second part of this question. Musharraf’s importance is critical from the perspective of a few key US leaders, who probably exaggerated his competence and his “sincerity” as an ally against radical Islamic terrorism. I’d say that more Americans now see him as a liability, and this begins with the US military who have encountered Pakistan-based Taliban. read more`