When the judicial crisis in Pakistan first began, Washington held the opinion that Musharraf was likely to weather it and therefore Washington could maintain a narrow policy of strong support for him. However, US officials began to revisit these calculations as the volume of the protests increased and especially when Musharraf attempted to muzzle the media through new governmental powers to rescind television broadcasters' licenses and seize stations that violated government regulations. The efforts to institute the draconian measures were both signs of Musharraf's political vulnerability and determination to retain power.
Today's Pakistan has its own set of challenges, including Talibanization in FATA and Swat, simmering insurgency in Baluchistan, and the recent amassing of hundreds of Islamic extremists in a Mosque in Islamabad, threatening country-wide suicide attacks unless Islamic laws are adopted in the country. It is true that Pakistan's economy was in the previous regime thanks both to sound economic policies by the Musharraf regime and US assistance. But ethnic, sectarian, and religious extremist challenges continue to plague the country.
Those supportive of a return to democracy argued that restoration of civilian rule will broaden the popular support base for countering extremism and terrorism and energize civil society around parties that support secular democracy. This should have been a compelling argument for the Bush Administration, which acknowledges the importance of promoting a worldwide freedom agenda to counter al Qaida's support for the creation of an Islamic Wahhabist Caliphate through the violent overthrow of established regimes.
Also compelling is the argument that a wholesale, unfettered opening of the Pakistani system to democracy, without sufficient buy-in from the Pakistani military, could create political chaos that Islamists would seek to exploit.
US-Pakistan relations after Musharraf
The characteristics of a post-Musharraf regime largely depends on the way he departs from the political scene. If he sticks to retaining his office of Presidentship , we are more likely to see him exit abruptly. In this scenario, political parties and civil society would intensify their demonstrations and Musharraf would become politically isolated and have to rely increasingly on repressive state powers to sustain his rule. Senior Army leaders would then have to pressure him to step aside. This would translate into a quick departure amid heightened public anger with both Musharraf and his U.S. supporters, making it easier for an anti-U.S. General or religious leader to rise to power.
If, on the other hand, Musharraf adopts a conciliatory approach and begins a process to restore civilian rule, power will change hands in a smoother, more predictable fashion.
US policy makers worry that a civilian-led government in Pakistan would be less committed to the fight against terrorism and to continuing Pakistan-India dialogue. These concerns are largely unfounded. Considering that Musharraf's decision to support US counterterrorism efforts was taken to safeguard Pakistan's own supreme national interests, it is probable that had a leader of a mainstream secular party been in power at the time of 9/11, he/she would have made the same decision as Musharraf about abandoning official support to the Taliban and supporting the US-led war in Afghanistan.
In any new political order, the military would retain a major role in decision-making on security matters, meaning that counterterrorism operations would proceed without major interruption. The Pakistan military also would want to maintain its strong ties with the U.S. military, due at least in part to the large-scale military and economic assistance programs from the U.S. A civilian-led government with broad support from Pakistani society can even strengthen Pakistan's support for countering terrorism, especially if its mandate included the halt of the Talibanization of society . US diplomats are in constant contant with Musharaf and Zardari to ensure the satisfaction of their interests in Pakistan. The Pakistani people have demonstrated that they are willing to stand up for the preservation of their democratic institutions and the U.S. cannot afford to ignore their voices.