And Arafat’s successor is… Musharraf!

Musharraf gets a new job on his refueling stop

Washington was a refueling stop (no pun intended) on Musharraf’s long trip home from Latin America. His stated intention, and this is a grand one, was to press President Bush to pay more attention to the disputes involving Muslims — in Palestine, Kashmir etc (how those two places have come to be mentioned in the same breath!).

In his opening statement, Mr Bush said that Gen Musharraf could play a role in the creation of a Palestinian state and in restoring peace to the Middle East.

“And thirdly, there’s a relationship in which I can call upon my friend to help deal with international issues, such as the development of a Palestinian state, one in which the aspirations of the Palestinian people are met and listened to, because democracy has taken hold.”

He said some in the world do not believe that a Muslim society can self-govern but “the Pakistan people have proven that those cynics are wrong”.

President Musharraf, he said, can help in world peace by reminding the sceptics what’s possible. He said for resolving the Palestinian dispute, “a world effort” is needed. A future Palestinian state, he said, needs to have an independent judiciary, a civil society that has the capacity to fight terrorism and allows for dissent.

“And President Musharraf can play a big role in helping achieve that objective,” he added. “None of us can make the Palestinians adhere to this point of view, but we can help convince them.” [Dawn]

President Bush has made a strange choice — the present Pakistani state lacks an independent society, a civil society that has the capacity to fight terrorism and allows for dissent. It is puzzling how President Bush thinks Gen Musharraf can deliver those goodies to the Palestinians when they are denied to his own countrymen.

And as for that trifling matter of A Q Khan, where Musharraf has been less than forthcoming in allowing international investigators get on with their work…

But a senior administration official said Saturday that Mr. Bush had raised the issue only obliquely, asking Mr. Musharraf to assure that there is continued cooperation. The official said Mr. Musharraf “didn’t seem aware that there was any problem,” and promised to look into it. [NYT]

But in steering the conversation towards the World’s Big Problems, President Bush had little time to bring up the issue of restoring democracy in Pakistan, although Gen Musharraf managed to squeeze in his agenda on the F-16s. Bully for them.