Monday, August 25, 2008

Could Army return to power in Pakistan?

Monday's collapse of the parliamentary coalition that forced Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, to resign under pressure raises the prospect of another military intervention, like the one that brought Musharraf to power in 1999. Fortunately, Gen. Ashfaz Kiyani, Pakistan's first post-Musharraf army chief, has shown little desire to involve himself in the country's ragged politics. But that could change, especially if Musharraf, who led the army until last year, decides to try a comeback. Musharraf resigned last week rather than face impeachment charges being drafted by the coalition government, led by Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People's Party, the widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who leads the Pakistan Muslim League-N party. But Sharif pulled his party out of the coalition Monday to protest Zardari's reluctance to reappoint 60 judges ousted by Musharraf last year, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudry, according to the Associated Press. The political turmoil also could hurt the country's battle with Islamic militants in its autonomous tribal regions, which border Afghanistan. Pakistan-based militants are believed to be training and assisting insurgents battling U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the AP said. The United States has provided more than $10 billion in military aid to Pakistan to help it fight the militants.

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