M Ziauddin: Failed state in the making as military rule faces collapse

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In their single-minded fixation to turn General Musharraf into a Hosni Mubarak of Pakistan, the US and the West appear to have ignored the socio-political differences between the two societies. Egypt was a monarchy before it fell into the hands of military dictators. Pakistan had been a democracy.

The blatant way he deported the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to cost Musharraf his remaining supporters.

And his confrontation with the bar and bench appears to have deepened further. Musharraf's own ruling party is in total disarray. His army is caught up in a no-win situation in the tribal areas with the embarrassing kidnapping of nearly 300 soldiers by the militants this month. Until recently, the militants even found the capital, Islamabad, a safe place to operate.

Making matters even more difficult for him is the desire of the US to see him enjoying his dictatorial powers for the sake of continuity but with some visible progress on the way to democracy. This is so manifestly contradictory that any attempt towards achieving this goal is bound to fail.

Musharraf does not know any other way to rule the country than through his uniform. So he does not want to give up his uniform.

And he does not want to give up the mullah-military partnership he has so successfully run since 2002 with the MMA, the religious alliance, while he seems to have sold to the US the idea that after him there would be an Islamist deluge with nuclear devices falling into their hands.

Nor does Musharraf appear interested in any deal which would allow Benazir Bhutto to share power (no matter how little) with him. With a lot of satisfaction he has seen the popularity of Bhutto's party collapsing to its lowest point ever as he deliberately prolonged the power-sharing talks.

All this is tightrope walking. And even a mild breeze might topple the whole structure, with the US and the West having on their hands a country in the grip of anarchy. A failed state in the making?

The writer is a special correspondent and former editor of Dawn newspaper