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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who's for president?

Who's for president? The jockeying for president has begun in earnest. Bilawal Zardari, the son of Benazir Bhutto and PPP chairman, said in the southern port city of Karachi that Musharraf's replacement should come from the PPP. The PML-N counters that the person will be chosen through mutual consultation, while independent observers say that Asfandyar Wali Khan, the chief of the Awami National Party (ANP), which governs North-West Frontier Province, is the man for the job.

If Musharraf's exit was a part of the American game, the US needs to make sure that its third asset in the country, along with the political parties and the military, is close to Washington. Asfandyar fulfills this criterion. He is a grandson of "Frontier" Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, whose family has always been close to Delhi and Kabul and he would be the best connection in helping shut down the war theater in Afghanistan. As a Pashtun nationalist, he and his party are opposed to the Taliban. Asfandyar was a flagbearer of the red revolution in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but he switched sides soon after September 11, 2001, after he visited the US under an international visitors' leadership program. In 2006, he was again invited to the US for talks on the US's anti-terrorism policy and he visited Central Command headquarters for briefings. But the most significant visit was in May this year, after the important February polls that ushered in a civilian government, when Asfandyar spent time with officials at Central Command in Tampa, Florida, as well as a week in Washington meeting top State Department officials. This is believed to have been in preparation for his new role in the Pashtun lands that span Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Pashtun areas controlled by the Taliban-led insurgency in these countries.

Gul comments, "Yes, he could be the one, but Asfandyar failed to uphold his promised role to control militancy in the tribal areas without [resort to] military operations. During the period his party [ANP] has governed North-West Frontier Province, military operations have been conducted in Khyber Agency, Bajaur [Agency] and South Waziristan. "In my opinion, Nawab Attaullah Mengal, a Baloch politician, should be the president of the country, given the recent mistreatments done in Balochistan province in the name of military operations," Gul said.


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