MARGARET WARNER: President Pervez Musharraf, regarded as a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, entered a new phase in his power today, being sworn in as a civilian president without his army chief of staff’s hat, and pledging to end emergency rule on December 16th.
For what these changes mean, we turn to Stephen Cohen, who served on the State Department’s policy planning staff in the 1980s. A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, he’s written extensively on Pakistan.
And Shuja Nawaz, a former Pakistani journalist and long-time international civil servant at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, he’s author of a forthcoming book about the Pakistani military.
And welcome, gentlemen, to both of you.
Stephen Cohen, these changes in the last 24 hours, being sworn in as a civilian without his army uniform, declaring a date certain to end emergency rule, how big a change does this represent for Musharraf and for his country?
STEPHEN COHEN, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution: Well, for Musharraf, it represents a critical turning point in that he’s finally abandoned the army and given up his army uniform, which is where most of his power came from. Now I think the test is whether he can maintain influence in Pakistan simply by being the president.
The army will have to carry out any commands or orders he makes, especially since the civil service in Pakistan is notoriously weak. So I think we’ll see him as a politician now, not simply as a soldier.
In fact, there may well be changes on the military side, because with the new army chief, you may get a different approach to the war on terrorism from the Pakistan army’s point of view.
Musharraf relaxes control
MARGARET WARNER: And, Mr. Nawaz, explain to us what it really means when he says he's going to lift emergency rule. I mean, will that be a complete rollback? What about civil liberties? What about the judiciary?
SHUJA NAWAZ, Pakistani Journalist: It means that the old constitution comes back to life, and it means the right of the citizens to assemble, freedom of speech, freedom of association. And that's critical, because December 16th is about the time when the election commission will have posted the list of the candidates, and they can start campaigning, and they would need to have all those rights in order to campaign.
MARGARET WARNER: And this is for the January 8th parliamentary elections?
SHUJA NAWAZ: Correct.
MARGARET WARNER: But then the judiciary, Stephen Cohen, he sacked, of course, many senior figures, including the chief justice. He didn't say anything about restoring the judiciary. What about that?
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, I think that one of his major concerns and one reason he moved against the judiciary early on was that the judiciary was acting way out of context, in terms of either Pakistani judicial behavior or even Western judicial behavior. Some of the judges were attempting to govern Pakistan from the bench. And while I agreed with much of what they said, in terms of right or wrong, this was far in excess of what the judiciary tried in Pakistan before.
Second, he's trying to rope them in. He wants to have a system where he can maintain or that he and the military can maintain control over the civilian side, whether they be the politicians, the judiciary, or the press.
Halting the spread of instability
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Nawaz, a great concern for the United States, as they watched things unfold in the last month, was that, with the declaration of emergency rule, the protests, the arrests, that Pakistan was really sliding into instability. Now, this is not only a key ally in the war on terror, but a nuclear state.
Do these developments mean, at least, that Pakistan has pulled back from that brink?
SHUJA NAWAZ: Yes. Pakistan really was being supported on a pogo stick, because you had one person who had all the control in his hands. Now it goes back to an old familiar form of government, which is a troika, the president, the army chief, and the future prime minister.
And a key element in this will also be the extent to which the judiciary, even though the Supreme Court has been stacked with people that Musharraf wanted, can assert some independence after the elections.
MARGARET WARNER: What do you think this means for stability, the key U.S. concern?
STEPHEN COHEN: I like them better for it. If it was a system with a man on a pogo stick, it's now a system with a man on stilts. In a sense, you have to president and the army. We don't know yet who the prime minister will be. It may be Benazir; it might be Nawaz; I doubt either will make it. Or it could be a third person, a politically neutral person, perhaps the present interim prime minister, Mr. Soomro.
So I think then there will still be an attempt to work on differences between them. But now you get two powerful politicians in the country, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir, and they're going to seek part of that political pie. I think they will run for office. There's going to be suspicions about how free the election is. There could still be problems in the streets of Pakistan, although I suspect that the army can contain this through the paramilitary forces.
Balance of power still evolving
MARGARET WARNER: So what Stephen Cohen is sketching out, though, it sounds as if Pakistan is to some degree moving away from complete military rule here and that there really will be more of a power-sharing with civilian politicians? Do you think so?
SHUJA NAWAZ: Absolutely. I think this is not democracy. It's the democratization of Pakistan that's taking place. And this is a transition. And whoever comes into power as the prime minister will be in a transitional mode.
This is not the end of the exercise, and that's what Musharraf is hoping. He knows that the opposition is divided, and he's counting on that so that it would give him some leeway in political engineering once the assembly comes into being.
MARGARET WARNER: And you could see those divisions even now. They can't even agree on whether to boycott the elections or not.
SHUJA NAWAZ: Exactly. The APDM, which is the association of the opposition parties, minus a key Islamic party, has said that they want to boycott, but they're also going to boycott only if Ms. Bhutto's party and the other parties that are not agreeing with them join in the boycott.
The army, post-Musharraf
MARGARET WARNER: Now, the other key U.S. interest here is, of course, that Pakistan not only maintain but even step up its struggle against terrorists, both along the Afghanistan border, but also internally. What is this going to mean, these changes mean, for that, and for Pakistan's ability and willingness to do that?
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, Margaret, we'll wait and see, but realistically I think it could be that the new army chief, General Kiyani, was head of ISI. He knows where all...
MARGARET WARNER: The intelligence services.
STEPHEN COHEN: He knows where all the intelligence relationships are. He knows that undercover war as well as anybody else. And if he has the ability and the strategic sense, he will operate more effectively as army chief than he was able to do as ISI.
Now, this will be undoing some of the things he did as ISI chief, as intelligence chief, as army chief. But, again, that's a big question whether the Pakistan army, which has been very good at, in a sense, fomenting insurgency in its neighbors, can turn around and...
MARGARET WARNER: You mean, because it initially helped support the Taliban in Afghanistan?
STEPHEN COHEN: The Taliban, also in India. Whether it can deal with counterinsurgency problems in its own country, that's very hard for armies to do. Our own military took four years to learn how to do that in Iraq. We're not doing it very well in Afghanistan, so I think there may yet -- that's an open-ended question as to whether the Pakistanis can be effective on that front.
MARGARET WARNER: This is your area of expertise, the Pakistani military. What's your view of this? And, also, tell us about General Kiyani.
SHUJA NAWAZ: The Pakistani military is not equipped for counterinsurgency warfare. And it's woefully underequipped, in fact. That's why they've been suffering casualties and they've been using paramilitaries, who've suffered enormous casualties.
I think the big change that's going to be that the army now will have a full-time chief, not a part-time chief. And so the army can now concentrate on operational readiness, on training, and with the help from the U.S. in learning the lessons the U.S. has learned in other parts of the world, in Iraq particularly. I think they should be much more effective.
General Kiyani is a thoughtful man. He is not one to speechifying. He's not one to grandstand. And he will probably work in a quiet way. It will take him a little while. He's going to be appointing senior commanders in the next few weeks, or not few weeks, few months perhaps. And once that happens, he'll be in command.
MARGARET WARNER: And, briefly, does he have, though, the political will to take on the terrorism fight? I mean, is he committed to that?
SHUJA NAWAZ: He has to be, because the army has become the target of terrorist attacks, and there will be pressure on him to do something about it.
MARGARET WARNER: And given Pakistan's history -- a brief final word from you, Stephen Cohen -- is Kiyani a potential rival to Musharraf?
STEPHEN COHEN: I think if Musharraf stumbles badly -- and I think he did that on March 9th with dismissal of the court -- Kiyani may decide that he's a liability, not an asset. And it also depends on the quality of the politicians that do emerge out of this process, whether any sensible people emerge. So I suspect Pakistan is going to undergo considerable political change this year.
MARGARET WARNER: So, bottom line, are we heading for more rocky times or...
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, from an American perspective, it will look calmer and quieter. From a Pakistani perspective, it's going to be exciting.
MARGARET WARNER: Stephen Cohen, Shuja Nawaz, thank you so much.
SHUJA NAWAZ: Thank you.