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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 8-Sep-2008
Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, wins Pakistan presidency

Web Log - September, 2008

Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, wins Pakistan presidency

The backdrop is Pakistan's fury over US armed forces assault into Pakistan's tribal areas

As Pakistan's government continues to appear to disintegrate before `our eyes, the Parliament elected Asif ali Zardari as President by a large majority.


President-elect Asif ali Zardari, flanked by daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa, speaks to his party colleagues and supporters at the Prime Minister's House on Saturday evening. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: dawn.com)</font>
President-elect Asif ali Zardari, flanked by daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa, speaks to his party colleagues and supporters at the Prime Minister's House on Saturday evening. (Source: dawn.com)

Zardari's rise to power is nothing short of breathtaking. He married the leader, Benazir Bhutto, of the Shia-based Pakistan's People's Party (PPP) in the 1980s. When Bhutto became Prime Minister in 19881990 and again in 19931996, Zardari became embroiled in numerous financial scandals, and was jailed from 1997-2004 on various charges, including corruption and even murder. There was an almost zero chance of his ever achieving high public office in Pakistan, but that changed with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last December.

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Zardari successfully formed a coalition with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. But the coalition was united only as long as their common enemy, then-President Pervez Musharraf, was in power. Once Musharraf resigned, the coalition dissolved, leaving the government in chaos and the country rudderless.

American-led ground assaults into Pakistan

Saturday's election occurred against the backdrop of increasing Pakistani fury against Americans for American-led Nato ground assaults into Pakistan's tribal areas. The attacks occurred on Wednesday morning in Taliban strongholds in North Waziristan.


Pakistan's tribal areas. Nato ground assaults were made into North Waziristan. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: cfr.org)</font>
Pakistan's tribal areas. Nato ground assaults were made into North Waziristan. (Source: cfr.org)

The occurrence of the Nato assault, which has not been confirmed by Nato or Americans, is still widely believed in Pakistan, and is causing sharp political conflicts.

The assault is considered to be a major test for Zardari and his new administration.

Thus, Zardari's first action, after becoming President on Saturday, was to confirm the closing of the major supply route through Pakistan for supplying the Nato forces. This route runs from the port of Karachi, in the far south of Pakistan, to the outskirts of Peshawar and through the Khyber Pass to the battlefields of Afghanistan.

However, that much now appears to be only half the story. According to news reports on Sunday, Pakistan's Ministry of Defence and Ministry of the Interior were taking opposing positions on the closing of the Nato supply route. It's now claimed that the closing of the Khyber Pass route was only a "temporary disruption" caused by terrorist militant activity, that only about 20 trucks were held up, and that now they're free to go.

It's really hard to know what to make of this except that it's one more sign of the total disintegration of the Pakistan government.

And that's not Zardari's only problem.

Suicide attacks are becoming commonplace. On Saturday, a suicide blast in Peshawar killed 35 people.

Inflation is rampant and the economy is stagnating.

Even more significant is the increase in tensions between Sunni and Shia groups. Kurram province in the tribal areas is now the scene of massive fighting between Sunni and Shia tribesmen. The clashes are between the Shia Turi tribe and the Sunni Bangash tribe. The Bangash tribe are allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who triggered the violence starting around April, 2007.

There are severe shortages of food and medicines in Kurram, and the death toll in the last month has risen to 700.

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out how fragile Zardari's government is. Even Zardari's life must be considered in danger as a Shia leader, after his wife was killed last December by a Sunni terrorist.

Zardari himself is well aware of the perception of that Pakistan is disintegrating. In his acceptance speech on Saturday, he said that the democratic process needs total commitment from all political forces.

"Pakistan's democracy is being closely watched and there are arguments being made about its inability to hold," said Zardari. "It's a challenge, not only for me and for the democratic forces, but also for the people of Pakistan. We have to prove wrong the perception that Pakistan and democracy cannot go together. I want to tell all those doubting our nation's commitment for a representative political order, that ours is the nation that has made the biggest sacrifices for the cause of democracy. Ours is the nation that has looked dictatorship in its eyes.... Ours is the nation that braved the might of the state, yet fought on the streets for their right to determine their own destiny."

But few people believe that Zardari has the political and popular strength to pull the country together. One opposition party, Awami Tehrik, condemned atrocities unleashed by the Nato and American forces, and said that these barbaric actions were clear proof that the new government was pursuing the imperialist policies of Musharraf government, and that all the decisions were being taken in Washington.

Others talk about a return to 'politics of revenge, retribution and blatant self-interest' of the 1990s.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we seem to be seeing the major change in public opinion that I've been describing.

Before the recent resignation of Pervez Musharraf as President, the entire Pakistani population appeared to be in a state of total denial about what was going on. The "logic" was this: The reason for the suicide bombings was that Musharraf was cooperating with the Americans, and the suicide bombings were really targeted at the Americans. And so, the fantasy reasoning continued, when Musharraf goes, then the violence will disappear automatically.

The euphoria surrounding Musharraf's resignation dissipated almost immediately, thanks to several suicide bombing attacks immediately following the resignation. The biggest occurred in the town of Wah, just outside of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. Two suicide bombers simultaneously attacked two separate entrances of a large manufacturer of munitions at shift change time. 70 people were killed.

What I believe is happening is that these terrorist attacks are now causing the Pakistani people to panic, and are part of a continuing "regeneracy." The term "regeneracy" is a term from generational theory, and it refers to the point where a population's civic unity is regenerated for the first time since the end of the previous Crisis war.

(For information about the term "regeneracy," see "Basics of Generational Dynamics.")

In the case of Pakistan, the unity appears to be regenerating separately on the Sunni and Shia sides of the population. This will cause increasing political conflict on the two sides, leading to armed conflict. There is already plenty of Shia vs Sunni violence going on in Kurram, as we described. And in India, where the Hindus historically have sided with Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims, protests and violence are continuing in the disputed Kashmir and Jammu provinces.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, a re-fighting of the massively genocidal war following the 1947 Partition is coming with absolute certainty. This war will involve numerous ethnic groups, but underlying it will be Sunni Muslims versus Hindus + Shia Muslims. (8-Sep-2008) Permanent Link
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