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Analysts Say Hopes for Pakistan Political Truce Slim


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is heading to Pakistan late this week to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. The U.S. is hoping to cool the rising political temperature brought on by General Musharraf's imposition of a state of emergency. But as VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, General Musharraf has already rejected U.S. calls to lift emergency rule.

Analysts say hopes that U.S. intercession can change the deteriorating political situation are dim, and become dimmer with the passage of time as both General Musharraf and his chief rival, Benazir Bhutto, harden their positions.

Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, says General Musharraf would have to repudiate all that he has done since imposing emergency rule earlier this month, and that such a move is not likely.

"The state of emergency would have to be lifted, the constitution would have to be put back in force, the Supreme Court justices would have to be reinstated," he explained. "Essentially, at this point, to have any hope of going forward where General Musharraf would have a continuing role, he would have to completely undo everything that he has done to date. And I don't see any sign that he's going to do that."

General Musharraf says parliamentary elections will be held by January 9. But U.S. officials say free and fair elections cannot be held with emergency rule in place.

Opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned home from self-imposed exile last month under the outlines of a broad, still-imprecise power-sharing arrangement, partially brokered by the United States, between her and President Musharraf.

But she has been prevented from leaving her house to lead marches or rallies. She now says she cannot work with General Musharraf and has called for his resignation. Most analysts say that position now makes the chances of a bringing the two sides together virtually nil.

The United States has viewed General Musharraf as an "indispensable" ally in the battle against terrorism. Larry Goodson, a professor in security studies at the U.S. Army War College, says that has caused the United States to ignore General Musharraf's shortcomings.

"I think the problem we have in Washington is that we have always settled for the short-term strategic partnership rather than the long-term 'let's build a better Pakistan that is able to be a more stable, functioning place in the world,'" he said. "And I suspect that in the midst of a crisis like this we will hold our noses, nudge him on the margins while convincing ourselves that we're nudging him in important ways and continue to tell ourselves that he's an important ally in the war on terror and we just have to deal with it."

But Teresita Schaffer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, says there are powerful voices in the U.S. government who want to hang on to General Musharraf. But, she adds, there is also a growing realization in other quarters that General Musharraf's actions have made him a liability for the United States.

"I think his moment has passed," she explained. "And I suppose it's possible in theory that he could put together enough power simply by repression to stay on top, although that's becoming increasingly problematic, but what would that be worth to the United States?"

The key question, analysts say, is if the top ranks of the Pakistan Army feel that their military chief and president has become an embarrassment to them.

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