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How Musharraf Survives

The devastating Kashmir earthquake is once again testing the skills of one of the world’s great political survivors. General Pervez Musharraf, president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has few friends and many enemies. Pakistan’s major political parties oppose him. For the religious right and the mullahs, he is an agent of America, the great Satan, and has thus betrayed the cause of Islam.

Somewhere out there, gunning for Musharraf, are Islamic militants furious at being dumped after they fought his covert wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Many in Musharraf’s own army despise him for the same reason. For Pakistan’s small and embattled liberal and left-wing forces, he is yet another military dictator who seized and holds power by force, undermining the development of democracy.

So how does Musharraf survive? In large part, he can thank 9/11. Faced by a United States bent upon bloody vengeance, Pakistan’s military establishment scurried to join the US-led coalition and take up arms against its own creation, the Taliban. Only a few senior officers with an Islamic bent resisted this straightforward betrayal. They were soon marginalized, drawing praise from Washington.

With US help, an economy that had nearly run aground was suddenly righted by a wave of international aid and loan write-offs. Even more important was a decision, taken in the hope of choking off funds to extremist groups, to require all expatriate Pakistani earnings to be remitted through official banking channels.