An Interview with Sahabzada Abdus-Samad Khan

Dieter Farwick at the World Security Network [WSN]:

WSN: What are the most important consequences?

Samadkhan_bioSahabzada Abdus-Samad Khan: Short term: (i) the vacuum created by Ms. Bhutto’s death in a highly centralized PPP party structure will be difficult to fill even if her son becomes a figurehead leader. If her husband Asif Zardari is involved (even behind the scenes) it may lead to fragmentation in the party. If the elections are held and the party remains intact there is a good chance that they may get a majority in any election, as the vote bank will be bolstered by the “sympathy factor” amongst the electorate. As a result a divided Parliament was expected to emerge with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) sharing power following the January elections. This would have been to the advantage of the Musharraf leadership as it would presumably be more malleable and easy to control, may now be an unlikely eventuality. One scenario to redress the situation would be for Musharraf to allow Nawaz or his brother Shabaz to run for election (they are presently barred on corruption charges and the Constitutional ban on a third term; the latter only applies to ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, not his brother). If there is general political fragmentation owing to the removal of the single strongest national opposition leader from the scene (seeing that the PML-N’s power base is largely limited to central and northern Punjab) the crisis of governance seen in the NWFP could well spread to other provinces (ii) the lack of law and order across the country and the consequent deployment of most of the second line forces for internal security duties strengthens the hand of radical Islamist elements who may try and destabilize the political process further and/or go on the offensive in the NWFP and Tribal areas.

Dieter Farwick- Is martial law a tool to stabilize the situation and what role does the military play?

Sahabzada Abdus-Samad Khan: Martial Law is definitely seen as a potential tool to stabilize the country. At least in the short term, if the law and order situation worsens. This is all the more true if a the Army cannot work out a modus operandi with the political parties. In the longer term this will weaken civilian institutions further. Even in the short term martial law is likely to be problematic, as the Army has become very unpopular in the eyes of many.

More here.