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Teleconference: The Situation in Pakistan

Presider: Gideon Rose, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations
Speaker: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
November 6, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations

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OPERATOR:  This is a recording for the Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 at10:30 a.m.Eastern Time for conference leader Gideon Rose.  Excuse me, everyone, we now have our speakers in conference.  Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen-only mode.  At the conclusion of today’s conference we will open the floor for questions.  At that time, instructions will be given if you would like to ask a question.

            I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Gideon Rose.  Mr. Rose, you may begin.

GIDEON ROSE:  Hi, everybody, and welcome to another conference call.  The situation in Pakistan is pressing and interesting and going south rapidly, and we’re fortunate enough to have with us today Dan Markey, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow forIndia, Pakistan and South Asia to help us navigate the show of what’s going on.   From 2003 to 2007, Dan held the South Asia portfolio on the State Department Policy planning staff.  He’s written about this for foreign affairs recently and he can give us, not just a sense of what’s going on, but also how it’s perceived inside the system of the US government.  So without further ado, let’s get going. 

            Dan, why don’t you start by giving us a very brief summary of what exactly is happening.  What’s, take us up to the present right now.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes, over the past couple of days, as I’m sure all of you know, we’ve seen the first, the beginning stages of the aftermath of the declaration of emergency rule in Pakistan.  Sorry, the actions taken by the government were preceded by a sense, on their part, that there was going to be a ruling against President Musharraf and now we’re basically, at least from Washington’s perspective, in a bit of a wait and see mode.  We’re watching as the lawyers take to the streets, all the other political parties have, many of their leaders are rounded up and arrested, but they haven’t yet followed on to any sort of a mass movement.  And I think that the question is how this is going to break, one way or the other, on that issue, in terms of the street protests and violence and so on.  Yes.

GIDEON ROSE:  Why did Musharraf do this? 

DANIEL MARKEY:  Well, I was in Pakistan the week before the decision was made.  It was very clear that his top people were quite concerned that the court was going to rule against him. And by that, I mean that he had been elected – an indirect election as President again, but he still was maintaining his role as army chief and there was some question as to the constitutionality of this.  The court, for a long time people had thought would rule in his favor, but those who were reading the tea leaves thought it was shifting the other way, and they decided to take a preemptive action against the court and basically shot it down.  The only way they could see to do this was declaring emergency rule, and of course, they’ve justified it on the basis of a wide array of other things, including, especially the security conditions throughout the country, but the primary motive had to do with preserving his chance to be president. 

GIDEON ROSE:  Okay.  How is this being perceived inside the USgovernment?  You were there, I mean, are they reading the same papers we’re reading, getting the same information and looking at it in the same way?  Or did they come at this with a slightly different perspective?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes, I think for the most part they’re seeing similar things.   There is definitely, I would imagine since I’m no longer there, but there are two camps within the government broadly speaking.  There are those who have for a long time, questioned our commitment to Musharraf.  I would say this is a pretty small group, primarily confined to those who see the freedom agenda and the press for democracy as primary and the other issues as secondary.  And then there’s a much larger group, and I think a more influential group, that is tied to Musharraf and has tied itself to Musharraf for some time now, and I think is very reluctant to move away from him, because they see that as imposing costs on their ability to continue on with existing operations, his military operations, intelligence operations, with a working relationship that we’ve, we, the US government, have gotten relatively comfortable with over, you know, a period of seven years.

So that’s how it breaks down.  I think that right now the hope still is very strong that something can be pulled out of this.  And I kind of fall into this camp, which is that the hope is that we can still kind of get to elections in a January, February, timeframe.  And, but that’s going to take a Herculean effort on everyone’s part to kind of roll back this emergency rule and get back to kind of where we were before that and move along in a steady process in that direction.  That’s a – that hope is getting slimmer every day that we don’t actually take concrete steps to get there. 

GIDEON ROSE:  Is this the sort of classic example of a sort of friendly tyrant dilemma in which we have no choice but to stick with the, an SOB, but our SOB?

DANIEL MARKEY:  There is a great deal of truth to that.  It’s not entirely that way.  There is a problem in characterizing Musharraf in quite those terms, but by choosing to go down this path in terms of Marshall Law, emergency rule, he looks more like the dictator and tyrant every passing day, particularly when we see, you know, TV images of lawyers being beaten and hauled off and arrested.  This does him no favors.  But his sympathizers and loyalists to him would suggest that, you know, look at the alternatives in Pakistan and look at the extent to which he, under his rule or most of his rule, has taken steps to open up the process, at least in terms of media and that side of things, to a more vibrant civil society than had been before him under technically, or at least nominally, democratic rule.  So that’s the story and they’re sticking to it.  But it’s undercut with every day that you know, that he shuts down the media, closes down the Supreme Court and so on. 

GIDEON ROSE:  Okay.  What should they be doing that they’re not doing?

DANIEL MARKEY:  What should we be – we theUS?

GIDEON ROSE:  We the US.

DANIEL MARKEY:  My sense is that the Administration at this stage has taken an approach which is publicly scolding and voicing some serious displeasure with the steps that have been taken.  But there’s not a lot, or nearly enough in the way of, as far as I can tell, ongoing, high-level communication about precisely what it is that we would like to see out of the Musharraf government.  In other words, they are, they, Secretary Rice, probably the President, are – have been saying, this is not a step we’d like to see, but what exactly would we like to, you know, to have happen in the coming days, weeks, months.  And from my point of view, the thing that we should be pushing for is a time, you know, a timetable for, by this day, you know, such, the – some of the prisoners will be released.  By this day we will get all of the media back up and running.  By this day the election commission will have a plan for holding free and fair elections, and by this day we’ll actually in fact have public debates and, you know, a capacity for the political parties to participate in getting ready for elections.  If we don’t see anything like that, there’s no way in 10 weeks we’re going to have elections.  And then we’re really going to have a problem.

GIDEON ROSE:  Okay.  With that, we got a lot of people on the call.  Let’s start open to Q&A from our audience.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  At this time we will open the floor for questions.  If you would like to ask a question, please press the star key, followed by the one key, on your touchtone phone now.  Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received.  If at any time you would like to take yourself out of the questioning queue, press star, two.  Once again, it is star, one, to ask a question.

            Our first question comes from Bill Varner from Bloomberg News. 

 

BILLVARNER:  Hi, good morning, can you hear me?

GIDEON ROSE:  Yes.

BILLVARNER:  So what timeframe are we talking about when you say we don’t see anything like that?  If we don’t see anything within a week, ten days, a month, I mean, is there a sort of a point of no return, which – once you get by that, boy, this is really going to – go then, go even further downhill.  How do you sort of handicap it in terms of the time?

DANIEL MARKEY:  That’s a question we need to be asking.  I think my answer would be – over the next couple of days Benazir Bhutto is apparently meeting with Musharraf’s top advisors and they’re going to try and hammer out some mutually acceptable arrangement.  TheUS government needs to be, you know, fully apprised of that, aware of it, helpful if there’s any way that we can try to move it along and sort of grease the skids between these two, basically rivals, who may be willing to cooperate for their own reasons.  So if we don’t see process, progress sorry, in the next few days on that agenda, and if in fact it breaks down and you see Benazir making statements that are far, you know, more fiery and getting her people out into the streets, I think we’re heading in a really bad direction.  So that’s the first thing that we really need to be looking for in terms of a timeframe.

            And then I think publicly there should be a release of a roadmap of the type that I was describing, you know, within the next two weeks.  Otherwise, how could – there are massive logistical issues related to holding an election of this sort, particularly under, with the level of national violence that Pakistan has seen, I don’t think that can be resolved in anything under six weeks.  So, you know, after a month, we’re done. 

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from David Jackson from USA Today.

DAVID JACKSON:  Thank you.  I was just wondering if you could assess President Bush’s relationship and support for Musharraf over the years and what this incident does to his freedom agenda?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Well, my sense is that President Bush has had a good relationship with Musharraf, at least in terms of, at the level of accepting that President Musharraf has been helpful, at the level of seeing it as essential to US policy as, you know, maintaining a tight partnership and working together.  I have no indication that there’s a great deal of personal warmth between the two of them.  I think they’re, you know, at times they’ve had some, but I don’t see a great deal of it.  I would contrast that, for instance, with what I believe was a much closer relationship between President Musharraf and Colin Powell, for instance, who had a bit more of a kind of personal understanding as one, as a former General, one as a current General.

             I would say in terms of the broader question of how this fits into the Bush’s freedom agenda, it’s obviously, at least today, it’s a black eye for that agenda, there’s no question about it.  It’s a setback.  I think everybody in the Administration sees it that way and finds it disappointing.  I think they’re hoping to kind of extricate themselves from this in the way that I’ve described and eventually getting to elections, but this really does compromise that side of the agenda.  And it sets in sharp belief that all of the tensions associated with, you know, working with an undemocratic leader in this war on terrorism and all of the balancing act that’s being played.

DAVID JACKSON:  Do you think it could possibly recover if, like this roadmap that comes through you talk about, could the -?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes, I think, I can imagine a very, you know, this is a – I’m a little skeptical at this stage, but I can imagine a fairly rosy outcome four months from now.  We could have something that looks a little bit more democratic in terms of broader based political participation, including Benazir Bhutto’s PPPparty.  We could have Musharraf kind of gradually eased aside as now a civilian, then at that point, a civilian president and no longer army chief.  And we could have an army that was moving towards the barracks and taking care of business rather than being highly politicized as they have been.  That’s the rosiest scenario.  There’s still a slim chance that we can get there, and I think that’s what I hope the Administration is pushing for at this stage.

DAVID JACKSON:   Yes, they say the story’s not over yet, so.

DANIEL MARKEY:  I think, I think they’d like the story not to be over yet, and they may be more patient than most people on the outside of the Administration for hoping that, that way, in part because they’ve been invested in it. 

DAVID JACKSON:  Right.  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Jonathan Beale from BBC News.

 

JONATHAN BEALE:  Yes, hi.  I just wondered if you could fill us in on – I mean the fleet (sp?) department is saying that they’re carrying out this review of aid toPakistan .  Can you see the Bush Administration cutting off any aid, given that most of it goes to kind of terrorism work, and they’ve already said that they don’t want to do any harm to protecting America?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Right.  Well I think a review has to be conducted at two stages.  At one level, they need to figure out what legally might be required of them, if there are any steps that would be needed, they’d need to take because of congressional limitations on providing assistance to a non-democratic country.  I don’t think that there are probably going to be too many things they’ll find from that.  I mean, a lot of the kind of coup sanctions have been waived by the President in the past and probably will be, continue to be waived.  So I don’t think that’s going to really change in the short term. 

            With respect to the broader review, I think they want – they would love to find things that could be a symbolic gesture but not necessarily undermine the broader relationship or anything having to do with the operational relationship with Pakistan.  But in some ways, those would be half measures that if taken, would do rather, you know, almost nothing to change the behavior in Islamabad and simply, you know, be an annoyance and undermine the relationship.  So I can’t imagine they’re going to find too much helpful, not in the next, you know, weeks to a couple of months.  After that, they have much broader options and that would signal a fundamental turning away from Musharraf as a leader and hoping to put our eggs in a different basket.

JOHNATHA BEALE:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Alim Remtulla from Medley Global Advisors.

ALIM REMTULLA:  Hello.  I was just wondering where does this leave the army, public sentiment for the military that are at an all time low and they’re sustaining heavy losses in the tribal areas?  I was just curious if the rank and file is still firmly behind the top brass?

DANIEL MARKEY:  You know, that’s an excellent question.  You know, for some time now there have been serious questions about which way the army, at least at the lower levels, is leaning.  It’s clear from a number of news reports that we have in terms of, you know, this hostage-taking event that took place in the last couple of months, several hundred troops were captured by Taliban or other militants and held hostage.  And it looks like they surrendered.  The level of morale at the lower levels is reportedly rather low.  There have been other stories about how Pakistani army has been told not to wear their uniforms out in public when they’re not on, when they’re not actually doing army business because they may confront problems with local population.

You know, this is a real problem, and many of those in the army still don’t believe and haven’t believed that the mission that they’re undertaking in the tribal areas against militant groups is a mission that’s inPakistan’s interest.  They still believe that it’s only for the United States or the West or outsiders, and they’re not sold on it.  And until that sentiment changes, until there’s a recognition that the battle that they’re fighting is a battle for Pakistan, you’re going to have a problem in the army in terms of morale. 

            Now whether that’s going to actually translate into an unseating of Musharraf by the larger army, I don’t buy that yet.  The problem is that what you need is a fissure between, within the top army brass, the officer corp; it’s not enough to have unhappy soldiers at the bottom.  That can be controlled by army discipline.  So I think the broader question is going to be a more political one.  And it’s going to be whether a significant portion of those people who are in top positions in the army see Musharraf as more a part of the problem than part of the solution and decide to ease him out.  Right now he’s, you know, he’s appointed all of these top people himself.  They owe their jobs in part to him, and so he’s been careful about appointing loyalists who won’t take that step.  So I don’t think it’s going to happen too soon, but if we see increasing unrest and popular street protests that really get out of hand, and the army is forced into making decisions about whether to fire on its own people, especially people in major urban centers, that could happen. 

ALIM REMTULLA:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Janine Zacharia from Bloomberg News.

JANINE ZACHARIA:  Hi, Dan.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Hi.

JANINE ZAHARIA:  Hi.  Two things, why on earth would Musharraf listen to a timetable that the – of demands that the USoutlines when they could not persuade him, even at the highest levels, not to go ahead with this emergency rule?  And the second thing; I was hope, could you just, more of a historical, reflective question about other times in the past when, you know, the Pakistanis have sort of snubbed the US, for example, going ahead with nuclear tests in ’98 and et cetera?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Right.  Let’s see, hold on one second – the answer to the first one in terms why, you know, why on earth, as you say, would Musharraf be wiling to follow this?  The answer that I would give is simply that I think he actually was on that path to begin with.  In other words, he wanted to move towards elections.  He and his advisors have wanted to have him find a way to gradually ease into a civilian presidential role and they were, in fact, willing to head forward with that.  And he felt that the Supreme Court was a fundamental obstacle to his plan for gradually getting to national elections.  Now, those who are more skeptical of Musharraf would say, this is being far too charitable, reading of his motivations.

But my sense in talking to people around him and, you know, maybe they’re spinning me, but the sense I got is that they really wanted to move forward with this, and they believed that the Supreme Court was being, you know, was really the obstacle that needed to be removed.  And if they could just get past that and they could get back to the business that was at hand, which is this transition to greater democratic opening.  And if you talk to them at length you’ll see that they say, “When Musharraf first came into power, he was very much of a – basically a military dictator.  He gradually moved step by step away from that, and he was going to take the next step before all of this came up, and we didn’t see any other way than going to emergency rule”.  So that’s my best answer for the first one.

            In terms of historical precedent, you know, it’s pretty clear that when Pakistandecides that they want to take steps that are not ones the United States wants it to take, they go ahead anyway.  This has been true, as you pointed out, in the nuclear case.  It’s true with respect, broadly to some of the adventures that they’ve had in terms of stirring up trouble with India. These are obviously things theUnited Stateshas not supported and yet Pakistanhas decided to move ahead.  I think what that suggests to me broadly, is that this is a country that, in many ways, is motivated by internal concerns, by its own interests, naturally by its national interests.  But obviously Washington has more leverage than most, just about any other country, maybe China would be an exception to that in the Islamabad, but not enough leverage to really get them to rethink what they believe to be in their fundamental, national interests more in this case than in Musharraf’s personal political interest.  So there are real limits to US leverage this stage.

JANINE ZACHARIA: Thanks.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Paul Eckert from Reuters. 

PAUL ECKERT:  Thank you, Daniel.  Back to the aid question a bit.  I know in your foreign affairs piece a couple months ago you did review the history of sort of US cutting off aid and, you know, imposing sanctions on Pakistan and how that tended to embitter the generals.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes.

PAUL ECKERT:  And I think you – that cut relations.  I wanted you to sort of weigh the risks between going too far in that direction, if the United States was pondering that with its aid review and what Congress wants?  And also, the risk of doing nothing and then being alienating even more of the Pakistani civil society that is already fairly hostile to the United States?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Right.  Well it depends how a cut-off would be implemented.  I could imagine a situation where the cut-off was implemented in such a way that if Musharraf left, or was forced out personally, then the assistance could be resumed even if a new army chief was in charge of Pakistanafter his departure.  This wouldn’t necessarily have a lasting negative implication for relations with the Pakistani army, and you could imagine kind of resuscitating those relations within weeks or months after Musharraf’s forced departure.  So that might not be the worst thing.  I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s obviously, it’s going, there are going to be short-term costs to the transition and you don’t quite know who’s going to end up on top in the army if Musharraf goes and what kind of a turmoil that could bring.  That, those are the concerns that I would see.

            But it’s a possibility that you could structure sanctions in such a way that they were kind of Musharraf linked rather than really cutting off aid to the Pakistani army.  So that might deal with some of those concerns.  What was the other question, I’m sorry?

PAUL ECKERT:  The risk of doing nothing.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Right.

PAUL ECKERT:  And then being seen as less than Musharraf and alienating the public.

 

DANIEL MARKEY:   Yes, this is, this – unfortunately, I hate to say it, but I think maybe Washington is already so far along that path that the continued costs of being linked with Musharraf are, at least for weeks or months, are relatively marginal.  You know, it’s already the case that most Pakistani liberal observers see Washington as a big part of the problem because Washington has supported, for so long, Musharraf’s regime.  And those who dislike Washington for other reasons are not going to be swayed if Washington were to pull away support from Musharraf.  So I think we’ve, in many ways we’ve already made our bed and the, you know, the implications will be clear, especially if this really falls apart; if Musharraf is forced out and then you get a group that, in charge, that was, you know, felt that Washington had really been on the wrong side of history, and we’ll pay a price for that.

GIDEON ROSE:  Let me take a two figure (sp?) here, Dan, it’s Gideon.  There were reports at one point, I think it was in a Fema Hirsh (sp?) article, about contingency plans for going in and getting nuclear material, if there was a kind of domestic crisis and chaos in Pakistan.  Is that something anybody can talk about?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Not a lot.  I would, I would say from what little I know about and what, even less I can say, is that is an incredibly difficult operation to undertake.  And that is something that I think would – that would signal such a crisis in US confidence in terms of army command, leaving aside whether Musharraf is on top of it or not, and that would potentially be the sign of a complete, you know, a sense that there was a complete breakdown in order within Pakistan.  And not only do I hope that we’re not there, I’m pretty convinced that we’re not there and we’re not likely to be there anytime, at least, we have to see several stages of breakdown in terms of the army’s capacity to manage the situation before we’d get to that position.  It would be a desperate and I, as I say, exceedingly difficult operation to undertake. 

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from James Kitfield from the National Journal Magazine.

JAMES KITFIELD:  I’m curious whether you could put your perspective on, from Pakistan’s neighbors right now?  If this thing does get worse, and you’re sitting in Afghanistan or India, what are your concerns as you watch this crisis develop?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes, it’s interesting.  On the Indian side, I was in New Delhi a couple of weeks ago before going to Pakistan, and while I was there, for the first time, I heard a number Indians, you know, a number of them raised the question of what would happen if Pakistan really unravels?  Would we see tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of Pakistanis trying to stream across the border intoIndia and can you image how fundamentally destabilizing that would be for us.  There are real concerns on that side of the border about Pakistan as a weak and potentially failing state in a way that in the past, mainly the concerns revolved around Pakistan as a rival or a challenger state or a threatening state, aggressive state.  The sense in most circles in India has really shifted in the past couple of years.  In many ways, that’s a healthy thing because now India recognizes that Pakistan’s weakness is notIndia’s strength.  But in a way they are starting to get very, very edgy about what could happen if Pakistan unravels. 

            They, unfortunately, you know, don’t have a tremendous amount of leverage, politically in this environment.  One of the things that they’ve done that I think has been quite helpful, that the Indians have done, is maintaining a sense of calm along the Indo-Pak border and taking gradual steps, slow, but gradual and moving in the right direction to easing the tension still further.  So that’s what they have been able to contribute to ease the pressures on the Pakistani state, allow it to turn toward its other threats.

            InAfghanistanthe problem is even worse.  Afghanistan is obviously completely dependent on Pakistan’s ability to control the militants along their shared border in terms of making progress inAfghanistanand fighting against the Taliban and so on.  So if Pakistan becomes and is, at the moment, completely preoccupied by its domestic internal and political problems, then that means Pakistan’s not focusing as much on, in any way, on really fighting that issue and it imperils Afghanistan.  I think Afghanistan has to see its own security in a context of a stronger Pakistan, not a weaker one.  But again, they also, likeIndia, they have even less leverage in trying to influence the situation in Pakistan.  There’s really almost nothing that Kabulcould do right now to help.

JAMES KITFIELD:  If I could follow up, if, how does this whole crisis affect Musharraf’s ability to sort of go into the tribal areas and root out the militants to confront Al-Qaeda, et cetera?  They’ve been doing some of that as you said, but it seems to me that this potentially could weaken the motive for him to do that further.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes.  Well, there a lot of ways you can play this out.  In the immediate term it’s very clear that he and all of his top people are completely preoccupied with managing this emergency rule.  And if you’re preoccupied with that, it’s hard to run military operations, at least forceful and aggressive ones, in the tribal areas.  So this is a distraction in the near term.

            Whether, if he can kind of play this out a little bit further then he – if the United States responds very negatively to his steps on emergency rule, and you can imagine that he would say, well then I’m not going to press as hard maybe in the tribal areas.  I’m not convinced of that because I think in many ways he sees those operations as partially in his interests.  And you can also play it the other way, which is that he would seek to curry favor in Washington by pressing the military operations more forcefully in the tribal areas, to try to show that he is, in fact, a, the indispensable man.  So, you know, it remains to be seen, but you can see that there are cross-cut and, you know, different motivations that might push him in different ways. 

JAMES KITFIELD:  Thanks.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Jim Landers from Dallas Morning News.

JIM LANDERS:  I’m focused on what’s been happening in the tribal regions and in SWAT, and I guess I’ve got a lot more anxiety about what’s going on there in this atmosphere than we’ve heard about so far.  Is that just a US perspective on this without putting on the lens that Pakistan looks at it with?  Or, I mean, it sounds to me like SWAT has basically the site of a little fundamentalist insurrection that’s succeeding, and that there isn’t any Pakistani military appetite for doing anything about it? 

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes.  I wouldn’t say there’s no appetite for doing anything about it.  I mean, the military has taken operations and has, you know, gone forward.  Obviously there have been concerns about their use of bombing campaigns and so on, but you are absolutely right.  This insurrection, if you want to call it that in SWAT, is incredibly troubling.  Pakistanis outside of that area sees this as something completely new, unprecedented and a threat to the rest of their country, at least the Pakistanis that I tend to talk to.  And they are incredibly concerned about what this says about the prospects for the future.  Those people I’ve talked to in the NWFP, North West Frontier Province, government, the local government, which is now in an interim phase in their cabinet; they see this as something that they are incredibly worried about and are demanding for more forceful government action and can’t quite fathom why harsher steps haven’t been taken yet by the government.

I don’t, I think that there is very clearly a divide in terms of what the army thinks is possible, what costs or price they’re willing to pay for these operations, and whether they think there’s some other way to resolve it without sort of a much more forceful occupation and heavier fighting.  So I think we’re in the middle of a really challenging problem for them, and I think there seems to be a mixed opinion and mixed approach to how they’re going to deal with it.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Paul Owens of The Orlando Sentinel.

PAUL OWENS:  Hi.  Good morning.  I wanted to get back to the aid question.  Do you think there is any benefit in not necessarily cutting aid, but in the process of reviewing it, making it more explicit, some conditions for maintaining it?  I would think that would have some leverage with Musharraf since it goes, most of that aid is military aid and that’s his power center. 

DANIEL MARKEY:  Well, the issue of conditionality has been raised again and again and again.   And most recently in terms of the, Congress’ decision to move forward with legislation that does put some sort of conditions on the future of assistance, including progress in democratic transition, progress in fighting the Taliban and so on.  The problem is that in the short term, conditions are not likely to bite in any way that would be all that meaningful.  They would be more symbolic than anything else, and I think the – and they would also potentially, especially if they’re on the military side, have the downside from the US perspective of disrupting or potentially disrupting ongoing operations or having some sort of negative repercussion with the Pakistanis if they were to say, well if you cut that assistance, then we will cut cooperation on X, Y, or Z issue with you in the near term.

So it risks a kind of a quid pro quo back and forth, which is not helpful to the United States either.  And so it’s tough to see where, at the margins, these things are likely to make any difference in the near term.  It’s really, there’s a fundamental decision that will have to be made in the next couple of months as to whether the United States really wants to back away from dealing with Musharraf.  Half measures in the next days or weeks are unlikely to really solve that problem.

PAUL OWENS:  I just, this seems to be kind of a – there are some, we’re talking about carrots; there don’t seem to be any sticks.  Are there any other sticks other than this military aid that are available to the United States?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Well, there’s the diplomatic stick and there’s the, but, no.  I mean that’s always been the problem with dealing withPakistanis that any stick that you think that you might be able to use on them, also undermines cooperation on things that we care about.  You can imagine very targeted sanctions perhaps against top military leaders or those who are right around Musharraf, to try to get them to move away from power, but those are precisely the people that in some ways we’re dependent upon in making tough decisions on pushing our agenda in fighting against militants and terrorists.  So, alienate them at your own peril. 

PAUL OWENS:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Meredith Buel from Voice of America.

MEREDITH BUEL:  Yes.  Good morning, gentlemen. 

DANIEL MARKEY:  Hi.

MEREDITH BUEL: Two questions if I could.  First, today’s news, in a telephone address to lawyers in Islamabad, the ousted Chief Justice of the Supreme Court today urged them to continue to defy the state of emergency imposed by President Musharraf.  And he said the message that should be conveyed to the people is to rise up and restore the constitution.  Then his cell phone was cut.  Curious as to whether you think there’s any significance to the fact that he was able to send this message out?  And do you think that it will have any impact on the current situation there?

            The second question was to follow up on the nuclear question.  And that is, you seem to indicate there’s no immediate reason for concern about the security of the country’s nuclear weapons program.  But you said there could be a series of steps that could happen that would create concern.  If you can be just a little bit more specific about what we should keep an eye on, with regards to that issue, that would be helpful?  Thank you.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes, I had read about the Chief Justice’s phone call.  I mean, my initial response is, there are a lot of people who support him and some, or one of them got him a phone and was able, somehow, to have him speak out.  And it suggests to me the lack of capacity on the Pakistani government’s part maybe, to keep somebody like, even somebody as high a profile as the Chief Justice, to keep him quiet, even if that’s something that they pretty clearly want to do.  Now that’s the sort of, the non-conspiratorial view of this. 

            A more conspiratorial view would be that there are those who really don’t want Musharraf’s emergency rule to work, and they extend well into Musharraf’s own security forces and intelligence forces and so on.  And they very clearly made it possible for the Chief Justice to speak out and to send the message that this emergency rule might come unglued and that the Chief Justice might rise again and come back into his role.  So, you know, it depends on which way you’d like to lean in terms of your interpretation.  My sense is that the first interpretation is quite plausible and the second one is also, you know, there’s a chance of it. 

            With respect to the nuclear weapons, the steps that I would imagine that would have to happen in order to be very deeply concerned about this, is that you would have to see a very clear sign that the Pakistani army ranks and especially officer corp have become divided over who should be in charge.  And under those conditions you would have to, and I think the United States is pretty well tied in with the strategic plans division, which is the sort of the nuclear weapons command within the Pakistani army.  And if the United States were, under those conditions, to see that split within the army corp, officer corp, then to start to hear different messages coming out of different parts of the army and then to lose contact with the commander in charge of the strategic plans division, who’s now General Kidwai, then we would have to seriously consider the types of steps that Gideon was talking about.  Because we would have no certainty at that stage as to who precisely was in charge of the weapons.

MEREDITH BUEL:  Thank you very much.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Jonathan Sheinberg from CBS News.

JONATHAN SHEINBERG:  Just curious about the, there was some reports that Musharraf had said that there are a number of terrorists, or quote-unquote, terrorists that were released by the Supreme Court earlier, a news story, and that was one of the main reasons that he had imposed the emergency law.  I’m wondering if there’s any accuracy to that or if you could speak a little bit more about that decision?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Yes.  As I said before, I don’t, I think that it’s pretty clear that the fundamental driver for this decision and certainly for the timing of this decision was the concern on Musharraf’s part and of those around him that the court was going to rule against him and his presidency.  And a lot of other issues have been raised; these are things that the Musharraf government has had problems with the Supreme Court and especially the previous Chief Justice, Chaudhry, ever since March.  That’s been very clear.  They’ve, they haven’t liked the way he’s ruled on a number of issues, including some business issues of apparent, apparently business issues that were near and dear to the heart of the Prime Minister himself, and others within the ruling government.  They haven’t been happy with his ruling, as you pointed out, on some of the detention issues.  It was very clear that the Chief Justice wanted to, was pressuring the government of Pakistan to come forward with information about a number of detainees, disappeared people, people who they had basically taken off the streets, or other people claimed that the government of Pakistan had taken off the streets, and then they no longer knew where they were and they weren’t receiving justice through the courts. 

            There is some question about precisely who these kinds of people were.  Some people claim that most of them, the lion’s share were, in fact, linked up in the war on terrorism and were people that the government ofPakistanhad detained for reasons similar to why we would detain people and put them inGuantanamo.  But then there were others who had been detained, which were much more questionable.  Some suggested that they were linked to secessionist movements in Baluchistan and these had nothing to do with the war on terrorism and were completely illegitimate.    Some suggested that they were simply people who had kind of been in the wrong place at the wrong time or were upsetting the government for other reasons.

            The truth of the matter is, we don’t know a lot about who exactly these people were because the government wasn’t forthcoming with information.  I believe there was one who, one release that was ordered by the court, and who was basically considered to have been, one of the individuals associated with Al-Qaeda, and I believe if it was Naeem Noor Khan but I’m not sure about if that was the correct name, but it, that’s my recollection, who had been involved with computer, had sort of his own computer and all kinds of links throughout Al-Qaeda and he was released.  I think that the Pakistani government believed it was the fault of the courts.

JONATHAN SHEINBERG:  I’m sorry, what did you say the fellow’s name was again?

DANIEL MARKEY:  I believe it was Naeem Noor Khan, is that – does that sound right?  I’m – I don’t follow this very closely.  This isn’t something that I consider that I follow very closely.  He was the computer whiz, the young Pakistani computer whiz.

JONATHAN SHEINBERG:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Gary Thomas from Voice of America.

GARY THOMAS:  Good morning.  I’m wondering where Benazir Bhutto emerges in this landscape, in the fact that the state of emergency was declared while she was out of the country, yet she was allowed to come back unhindered?  And her criticism seems to me at least, has been somewhat muted.  It’s not been fiery rhetoric.  I’m wondering if she has sort of a designated role as kind of a pressure valve for some of the criticism?

DANIELMARKEY:  I’m not sure what you mean by pressure valve.  What – can you…?

 

GARY THOMAS:  In other words, is she, you know, she’s a rallying point for criticism, allowing her to speak out perhaps…

DANIEL MARKEY:  I see.

GARY THOMAS:  It takes off the heat from some more vociferous quarters.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Right.  I wouldn’t see it that way at this stage.  I would see it much more that she still thinks she can be a part of the game.  She still thinks that she can be dealt back in if she manages her relationship with Musharraf correctly.  That she thinks that, by working with the government, she can help to move the country away from emergency rule and back to elections and that she will then find herself in a position of power, whether Prime Minister or otherwise, when all is said and done.  And that that, for the moment, is her best bet for continuing to be relevant to the politics there.

            One of the issues that she has is that, because she’s a fairly, in Pakistani terms, liberal and cosmopolitan leader of a relatively secular party, moderate party, she fears the prospect of massive expansion of street protests and otherwise, a real destabilizing situation in Pakistan, maybe as much as Musharraf does because it doesn’t really serve her interests or her party’s interests to see this really go up in flames.  She has a strong interest in a kind of a managed transition towards democracy because that suits her purposes in terms of her larger agenda, in terms of running the country and keeping it on a path that’s more towards, what Musharraf calls, enlightened moderation, and what I think she would call a kind of progressive agenda.  So she, I would say she’s less as a tool, as a pressure valve and more of she’s doing this for her own interests in being a part of the political outcome.

GARY THOMAS:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Khanh Nguyen from Radio Free Asia.

KHANH NGUYEN:   Good morning, sir.

DANIEL MARKEY:  Morning.

KHANH NGUYEN:   I have two questions, I hope you don’t mind.  First question is that, just to follow up Benazir Bhutto.  Do you see at the end that there will be a government with Mr. Musharraf as President and Madam Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister?  The second question that I, that you mentioned aboutChina.  I wonder will Beijing take apprentice (sp?) of the situation right now to get closer to President Musharraf?

 

DANIEL MARKEY:  Good questions.  On, with respect to the Musharraf plus Benazir, yes, I mean I think there is still this possibility out there that the two can come back together and be players in the next era of Pakistani politics.  But as I said at the outset, I think with every passing day of emergency rule and rising protests, it makes the two of them coming together as a coalition in some sense, that much harder because the public opposition to Musharraf will grow, and her capacity to manage that opposition will shrink.  So they have to, they have to move quickly to cement a relationship between them to make that work. 

            You know, there is another possibility that she could essentially back away from him, take her chances with the rest of the opposition and hope that at the end of the day, she rises to the top of that.  But that’s going to be a tough game for her to play as well.

            With respect to China’s influence, this is always a fairly difficult game to play because China is very quiet about its relationship with Pakistan, at least in terms of public diplomacy.  But it’s clear that the relationship, particularly when it comes to military acquisitions on Pakistan’s part, and now increasingly in terms of Chinese investments in Pakistan in terms of Pakistani infrastructure, especially the Gwadar port that China has a strong interest in Pakistani stability.  And, you know, I think Chinawill, Beijing will have to assess where they think stability is most likely to come from.  And my sense is that they will believe that Musharraf is the answer to that question for some time to come and probably even longer than Washington believes it.  So I don’t anticipate seeing a real shift out of Beijing anytime soon. 

KHANH NGUYEN:   Thank you, sir.

OPERATOR:  Again, if you would like to ask a question, press the star key, followed by the one key now.

GIDEON ROSE:  If we don’t have any more, Dan, do you have any further closing thoughts?

 

DANIEL MARKEY:  No.  I think, I think as I tried to say, the real issue right now is trying to seize what limited time is left to put out a roadmap towards, back towards elections, and all of the other possibilities, as far as I can tell, are a fair bit gloomier, if not outright disastrous.  So I’m hopeful thatWashingtoncan manage to impose itself, whether through friendly coercion or otherwise, to move Musharraf and hopefully to bring along Benazir Bhutto in that direction. 

GIDEON ROSE:  Okay. 

OPERATOR:  Mr. Rose, we have one more question.

GIDEON ROSE:  Okay.

 

OPERATOR:  Our last question comes from Carol Murphy from Free Lance Press.

CAROL MURPHY:   Good morning.  I would just like to ask Mr. Markey if he were a fly on the wall and Amon Selassi (sp?) and Osama bin Ladin were talking about the pros and cons for them of developments since Saturday in Pakistan, what do you think they’d be saying to each other?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Interesting conversation to contemplate.  I don’t know them well enough to have any clue, but my guess is that they would be pleased.  Anything that imposes greater turmoil within Pakistan gives them larger breathing space and more of an opportunity to undertake their operations without being hassled by the Pakistani military or intelligence or otherwise of something that they feel is, this a winning outcome, anything that could conceivably really provide an opening to more extreme groups within Pakistan, a political opening, for them to really exploit.  And by that I mean, street protests and even greater violence, that’s the sort of thing that they could really feed off of and probably would be looking for ways to promote, in terms of their own levels of rising, raising the heat from their own side, trying to further distract and demoralize the Pakistani army.  And maybe attack also the elements in Pakistani society, like as they did apparently, or may have done, against Benazir Bhutto and Karachi, they would want to push that agenda as well.  So, weakness in Pakistanis to the Al-Qaeda’s benefit.  I think they would certainly understand that and look for every opportunity to exploit it.

CAROL MURPHY:   No down side?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Downsides, hard to see anything at this stage, despite the fact that Musharraf and his team claim that they’ll be using this opportunity under emergency rule to hit Al-Qaeda harder.  It’s not clear how they were limited in the past, in terms of their operations.  It’s not clear how this step will fundamentally alter their capacity to go after them just as hard as they would like, would have liked to in the past.  So I don’t see any downside, no.

CAROL MURPHY:   Okay.  Thank you.

GIDEON ROSE:  Okay, I’d like to thank everybody for attending and thank Dan for his commentary, and we’ll all watch and wait and follow what’s going on.  Thank you, all.

OPERATOR:  This concludes today’s conference.  You may now disconnect.

Transcript provided by Conference America, Inc., 2007.

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