Musharraf has become a vexing little problem for the Bush administration. Ostensibly a friend to the neocons in the administration, his actions since he grabbed power in a bloodless coup eight years ago have cast a serious cloud of doubt over his sincerity. He is a dictator, to be sure, at times adorning himself in glittering military paraphernalia that would have made Idi Amin blush. But recently, he has made a point of appearing in civilian attire, even as he announced the end of the Rule of Law, the suspension of TV and telephone services, and the arrest and detention of several prominent members of the judicial branch. He is nothing if not savvy.
Pakistan has become openly what many have observed it to be privately for years - namely a dangerous country populated by a combustible blend of democrats, Islamists, terrorists, and tribal people of indeterminate loyalty. A country led by an ambitious and at times ruthless man who, via the army, has held a vice grip on power for nearly a decade and is clearly in no rush to let it go. Musharraf has been torn between his own declining popularity, a judiciary that has grown tired of his continued disrespect of the Constitution, an insurgency within his own country, a leaky border with Afghanistan, tensions with tribal peoples, and a still simmering problem in Kashmir. He's been juggling, but dropping balls over the years.
The return of Benazir Bhutto didn't help matters much. And with some chief justices musing openly last week about ruling his presidency illegal, the stage was set for dramatic action.
“Unless General Musharraf reverses the course it will be very difficult to have fair elections,” [Bhutto] told Sky News television by telephone. “I agree with him that we are facing a political crisis, but I believe the problem is dictatorship, I don’t believe the solution is dictatorship."
And, speaking for Bush, Condi has meekly voiced the opinion that the USA does not support "extraconstitutional measures" (waterboarding, the Patriot Act, and Guantanamo Bay notwithstanding, apparently). Let the good times roll.