Mar 18, 2009

US media lauds Pakistani leadership over restoration

‘One encouraging sign for Washington was the role played in the crisis by the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who let President Zardari know that he could not rely on soldiers to confront the protesters who were threatening to descend on Islamabad to demand the return of Chief Justice Chaudhry,’ the New York Times observed Tuesday.
‘The military acted to avert, to correct and to clear the way for full democracy with the center of gravity where it should be — in Parliament and the people,’ said Jehangir Karamat, a retired general and former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, in an article for, his Web site.
General Karamat called the new military approach the Kayani Model, after General Kayani, whom General Karamat is close to. During the crisis, the army chief had been ‘invisible but around, fully informed and acting through well-timed and effective influence in the right quarter,’ General Karamat wrote.
‘Pakistan’s coup-prone Army did not try to seize power. Instead, the chief of staff prodded Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif to compromise. That is certainly an improvement over the past. But it is also a reminder of the weakness of Pakistan’s democratic institutions,’ the Times observed.
SHARIF EMERGES AS THE BIGGER LEADERMost experts and newspapers here noted that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has emerged as the more formidable leader of Pakistan as a result of the crisis and last week’s events.
One newspaper noted ‘Mr. Sharif, often held in suspicion in Washington because of his leaning toward Islamic conservatives, was more cooperative than had been thought, some United States officials suggested.’
In Washington, there was an awareness that Mr. Sharif’s reputation from the Bush administration of being too close to the Islamists might be overdrawn, and that his relationships with some of the Islamic parties and with Saudi Arabia could be useful, said a foreign policy expert familiar with the thinking of the Obama administration on Pakistan.
The newspaper observed: Mr. Sharif has told people that he got along well with the Obama administration’s special envoy, Richard C. Holbrooke during their meeting at Mr. Sharif’s farm last month.
He (Sharif) speaks admiringly of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he met with former President Bill Clinton while in exile in Saudi Arabia.
Analysts, too, said Mr. Sharif could prove to be a useful partner as Washington tried to talk to what it considered reconcilable elements in the Taliban.
‘Who from Pakistan can talk to a faction of the Taliban? It’s Nawaz,’ anonymity for fear of alienating Mr. Sharif.
Another positive sign was the nature of the support Mr. Sharif garnered after he drove out of his house in a suburb of Lahore on Sunday through barbed-wire barriers, in defiance of a detention order. But the Times observed ‘the way ahead is likely to be messy for everyone, including the United States, and could turn out to be a major distraction from efforts to counter the insurgency, which is spreading closer to the main population areas.’
It also noted ‘there was hope, American and Pakistani officials pointed out. For a country that has more experience with military rule than with democratic government in its 61 years, there was the possibility that the outpouring of civil society on the streets of Lahore over the weekend presaged a strengthened two-party democratic system, and the beginnings of an independent judiciary.’
Applauding President Asif Ali Zardari, for making the right the newspaper observed as a consequence he had become weaker while his arch rival PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif and become even stronger.
But it added ‘Mr. Zardari will have to do a lot more to calm the political turmoil and confront the extremists who threaten Pakistan’s survival.’ The Times asked two rivals to ‘try again to put aside their corrosive rivalry and work to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda and address Pakistan’s many other urgent problems.’

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