Early-2007: President Musharraf asks the Americans “for help in bridging his differences with Bhutto.” Enter Condoleezza Rice, the 66th US secretary of state. Richard Boucher, the longest-serving assistant secretary of state, was made the ‘point man’ from the US side in “exploring a deal” between Musharraf and Bhutto.
In early 2007, Condoleezza Rice thought that it was “a long shot, but if the two rivals could come to a power-sharing arrangement, it would shift the weight of politics towards the moderates and undermine the Islamists, as well as Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who, more so than other prominent figures in Pakistani politics, was suspected of maintaining close ties with the militants.”
Richard Boucher began “shuttling back and forth between the parties – usually meeting Bhutto in London – Richard got them close enough to make a face-to-face meeting possible.”
July 2007: Musharraf and Bhutto meet in the UAE “but their discussion was inconclusive.” There were three issues. One, when would Musharraf take off his uniform? Two, Benazir would have to be “immunized in the multiple corruption cases.” Three, a constitutional amendment enabling Benazir to become PM for a third term.
August 8, 2007: Ambassador Patterson makes an urgent telephone call and informs Condoleezza that the “embassy had been tracking reports that Musharraf might declare emergency rule.” In the White House, President Bush and Condoleezza talk “about the need to keep Musharraf from doing something stupid.”
In the middle of the night, Patterson makes another urgent call informing Condoleezza that Musharraf is “going to make an announcement before the day is over” and asks Condoleezza to talk to Musharraf right away. At 2am, Condoleezza calls up Musharraf and speaks with him for fifteen minutes saying that “you will have no credibility, and I don’t see how you can run for president after you’ve imposed a state of emergency.” Lo and behold, Musharraf did not declare a state of emergency; Condoleezza “talked Musharraf out of declaring a state of emergency.”
October 3, 2007: Condoleezza Rice calls up Musharraf at 4:47pm. At 5:47pm “I got back to Bhutto with his response. At 6:18pm I talked to Musharraf again. At 6:53pm I called Bhutto. That continued every half hour until 11:28pm, with nine more calls back and forth.” Benazir Bhutto told Condoleezza that “she didn’t trust Musharraf” adding that “I’m taking this as a US guarantee that he will.”
October 4, 2007: There was a deal between Musharraf and Benazir.
November 3, 2007: According to Condoleezza, “This time no amount of intervention on my part...could stop him from declaring the state of emergency.” Condoleezza told President Bush “He’s done”. Condoleezza told President Bush, “I’m on the hook for him to take off his uniform and allow Bhutto to run for prime minister. He made a direct promise to the secretary of state of the US. If he backs off that now, we’ll have no relationship at all in Pakistan-even if we have one with Musharraf.”
“Now the state of emergency allowed Bhutto to back away from the deal. My dialogue with him is over,” said Bhutto. Condoleezza called Bhutto to “reconsider but she was firm.”
Key takeaways: One, the Americans play a role in making and breaking governments in Pakistan. Two, the Americans want the ‘weight of politics towards the moderates’. Three, our leaders don’t trust each other and routinely seek US guarantees. Four, the Americans help ‘immunise’ corrupt politicians.
Question: How many times has Mark Lyall Grant visited Islamabad over the past few weeks (Remember, Condi Rice, Richard Boucher and Mark Lyall Grant were the architects of NRO 2007)?
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.
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