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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2898

How soon Musharraf will go…?

By M Rama Rao - Syndicate Features

The latest reports from Pakistan speak of a widening gulf between the President Parvez Musharraf, the democratic government and the leaders of the major political parties in the Alliance Government. The differences had been there from day one on a number of issues, which include the restoration of dismissed judges, the constitutionality of President Musharraf’s re- election by the out going National Assembly and on top of it the popular demand in Pakistan for his ouster. But things have now come to a boil which can lead to some major fireworks in the days ahead.

In fact, Musharraf has called off all the contacts with PPP, which had been going on informally between Musharraf’s representatives and the PPP leadership. Several rounds of talks were held secretly as well. The provocation is the comments of the PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari in an interview to PTI. He described Musharraf as a “relic of the past” discarding Musharraf – who ruled Pakistan with an iron hand for 8 years- as a person of no consequence. He said Musharraf was an “un-elected and a non- democratic president”.

Not only this Zardari made it clear said the “bottom-line” was that people of Pakistan want Musharraf to go. If Zardari did not give a straight answer to a straight question whether Musharraf’s days are numbered it could be because of diplomatic considerations. In fact he made it more than clear by implying that if Musharraf’s days are not numbered it would mean that his own days are numbered or the days of the government led by his PPP are numbered.

This has turned out to be a serious provocation for Musharraf who has asked his close aides not to hold any more talks with the PPP leaders. It needs to be noted that during the hectic parleys that went on between PPP and Musharraf’s representatives a number of cases against Zardari were dropped by the courts. Zardari was also cleared of the charge of murdering a retired judge, Nizam Ahmad and his lawyer son Nadeem in 1996.

The fact of the matter is that Musharraf wants to continue as President for his full 2nd. Five year term at all costs. He also wants that his actions during the emergency he had promulgated on November 3 last year should hold good. As a trade off, he is prepared to accept the demands of the new government which included divesting him of the powers to dismiss the government , the National Assembly or a federal government under section 58(2b) of the constitution. He could even agree to the reinstatement of the dismissed judges if his own survival as president was assured.

But his betenoire, Nawaz Sharif would accept nothing short of his stepping down voluntarily or impeachment straight away. This led to differences between the two major coalition partners Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, with all the 9 Sharif ministers in the govt. resigning. Though Nawaz has clarified that his PML-N would not rock the Gillani Government by withdrawing support that was more out of compulsion than conviction.

Zardari wanted to adopt a “working relationship” with Musharraf keeping in view the fact that the coalition government does not have a 2/3rds majority to impeach the president. Obviously, this is not working. The situation has given rise to three pillars Zardari, Nawaz and Musharraf no where in a mood to reconcile. The Army too seems to be keen to mark its presence in the fragile political process by keeping the Indo Pak border live through cease fire violations and providing cover to the infiltrators.

Pakistani intelligentsia and the people at large want a smooth transition from the Military dictatorship to a democratic government, installed after a year long struggle and street fights. They want everyone to acknowledge that the people of Pakistan are capable to address the problems their country is beset with. That sets the course for Musharraf to go, sooner or later. But how soon, it is difficult to say.

After all Musharraf, who as Army Chief dethroned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup, is no novice to the political intrigues. It would be unwise to write him off even in the beleaguered position he finds himself in today. The US factor too will play a part since Washington will go to the farthest extent possible to protect Musharraf whom they have been treating as an ally in the war against terror. But in the present situation, even the options for the US are limited.

- Syndicate Features -

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