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by Omar Ali

The political crisis in Pakistan is primarily a creation of military rule. Because the army cannot maintain its dominant position in the face of "normal politics", its agencies work overtime to derail such politics and to undermine any popular leadership. They also encourage local mafias with a view to undermining national parties (since those parties can potentially mobilize the people against the army). The only hope for Pakistan lies in immediately throwing army rule in reverse.

1. Immediate formation of a neutral caretaker regime. This should be a technocratic regime with a very limited and well defined temporary mandate.  Justice Wajihuddin should head this government as caretaker president.
2. An immediate application should then be made to the restored Supreme court to provide appropriate legal cover for this exercise, obtaining the necessary time limited  legal cover for this purpose.
3. The army, under professional leadership, should publicly and explicitly announce its support for this exercise. General Kiyani can be a transitional chief for this purpose.  IF these steps are taken (and they are all possible if the army high command is willing to play its part in saving the country) then the caretaker regime will have instant credibility and habitual conspirators and military agents will be discouraged from launching any adventures.
4. The caretaker regime will form a new election commission (Nawaz Sharif has already suggested Justice Rana Bhagwandas as the CEC, this should be acceptable to all except the habitual conspirators). The EC will then announce a schedule for fresh elections.
5. These short term steps will immediately and completely change the political atmosphere in the country.  The PPP, the PML-N, the ANP, the JUI, the JI and the PTI are all real parties that hope to win significant support in real elections and all these parties can be expected to adjust to the changed atmosphere by moving beyond backroom conspiracies and destabilization and to the extent that the caretaker arrangement is fair and credible, they may all cooperate to stabilize the situation by playing by the rules. The MQM has real support in some pockets, but also has an undemocratic side that may feel threatened by the prospect of rule of law. Their response is harder to predict. The Q league is not a real party and should evaporate the moment their handlers in the military withdraw from the arena. The jihadists who work for the ISI will have to be defanged by the new ISI. The jihadists who are sincerely jihadist and no longer work for the ISI will have to be negotiated with by the new regime. Such negotiation will probably result in ceding some areas in the northwest to local jihadi control with ground rules for cooperation and coexistence being worked out. That will be tough and the negotiations will have to be backed up by willingness to use force to defend the settled areas but not to unnecessarily intervene in the local affairs of the Islamic Emirate. The jihadists will have to figure out how they will deal with the Karzai regime and the US. If they want to fight them, they should expect countermeasures. This is not an easy conundrum, but since the current "government by secret agencies" model is clearly NOT working, we have to give an open negotiation with a democratic govt. a chance. Some confrontation with truly extreme and nihilistic Islamists is inevitable but the current paradigm is the worst possible way of handling that.
 The successful operation of a truly neutral caretaker regime, truly free and fair elections and above all, the restoration of a real judiciary under the leadership of the honorable chief justice will itself go very far towards changing the entire atmosphere in Pakistan and the longer constitutional rule is allowed to run, the more stable the arrangement will become.
The people of Pakistan should not be underestimated. Our nation has learned many lessons from decades of military misrule and given half a chance, they can prove the naysayers wrong and may show the world that we can indeed function as a nation of laws. That half a chance can only come if the army high command agrees to pull back from its present disastrous course.

Save Pakistan.
Arrest Musharraf. NOW.

Omar Ali

 Dr. Ali is a Pakistani-American physician, currently Assistant professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.



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