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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Pakistan's Governance Challenges

Council on Foreign Relations

August 13, 2008
Author: Jayshree Bajoria

The political crisis in Pakistan deepened this month when the country's democratically elected government announced its decision to seek impeachment (BBC) for President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf, the country's army chief until last November, seized power in a 1999 coup and has retained office through two controversial votes. The new coalition government, which came to power in February elections, is seeking to impeach him on charges that include violating the constitution, damaging the economy, and unlawfully dismissing senior members of the judiciary. Musharraf's alliance with the Bush administration in its global "war on terror" and his crackdown on the judiciary and media have made him unpopular in Pakistan. The new government has sought to marginalize him but Musharraf is determined to put up a fight (VOA).

Experts say Musharraf's isolation has left a power vacuum in the political corridors of Islamabad. Musharraf, as army chief and president, was arguably the most powerful leader in the country, but now it is unclear how much control the civilian government wields. Its rule so far has been marked by spiraling food and fuel prices (PDF), rising militant violence, and deteriorating relations with neighbors. Critics say the government has done little but argue about Musharraf's fate and the deposed judges' reinstatement.

Musharraf's decline poses a problem for Washington, which has given him unstinting support throughout his period of tumult. Irfan Husain, a columnist for Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, says the biggest challenge for the United States today is "who to talk to in Pakistan." Husain says there are many centers of power "[a]nd it's very difficult to find someone who can speak for the whole country." Experts worry the army and the intelligence services continue to play an important role in the country's counterterrorism and foreign policies.

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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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