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Musharraf best bet for US: Newsweek
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June 18, 2007 10:52 IST
Last Updated: June 18, 2007 12:05 IST

Arguing that the military is the only institution which works in Pakistan, a leading US publication has warned the Bush administration against abandoning it or forcing President Pervez Musharraf [Images] out.

"We cannot achieve our goals, or help Pakistan gain stability, by turning our back on military. Back in 18th century, Frederick the Great's Prussia was characterised as not a state with an army, but an army with a state. So it is with Pakistan," according to an article in Newsweek magazine's upcoming issue.

The generals are worried about Washington's warm overtures to India and fear that soon they will be abandoned again, the magazine's international editor Fareed Zakaria said in the article.

"Deeply ingrained in the army's psyche is the notion that it was abandoned by the United States in the 1990s, after the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan," it said adding that one explanation for military retaining some ties with Taliban is because they want to keep a "post-American" option to constrain "what they see as a pro-Indian government in Kabul."

"If Washington were to dump Musharraf, the Pakistani military could easily sabotage American policy against Al Qaeda [Images] and throughout the region," Zakaria warned.

"Musharraf may be doomed, though were he to choose between the presidency and his army post, and reach out to the mainstream opposition, he might well survive. Still, it does the United States no good to be seen forcing him out."

Zakaria said it is a simple storyline and a tempting view that Musharraf has abused his authority, faces massive street protests, is a dictator whose regime has not been wholly committed to fighting Islamic radicals and should be nudged out, and asserts that the central front in the war on terror is not in Iraq, but in Pakistan.

"Musharraf has, on the whole, been a modernising force in Pakistan. When he took power in 1999, the country was racing toward ruin with economic stagnation, corruption, religious extremism and political chaos. It had become a rogue state, allied to the Taliban and addicted to a large-scale terror operation against neighbouring India," the article said crediting him with restoring order, breaking with the Islamists and putting in place the most modern and secular regime in three decades.

"Under him the economy has boomed, with growth last year at 8 per cent. Despite the grumblings of many coffee house intellectuals, Musharraf's approval ratings were consistently high -- around 60 per cent," it said.

His recent actions -- dismissing the chief justice of the Supreme Court and attempting to change the Constitution so he could remain president and still run the army -- were "wrong and foolish," the article said pointing out what he was trying to do was not unprecedented.

"Musharraf's predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, the elected prime minister, dismissed his chief justice in 1997 and tried to amend the Constitution in equally egregious ways in 1999. But Musharraf failed to recognise that perhaps as a consequence of his success, ordinary Pakistanis were becoming less comfortable with military rule," the article said.

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