Musharraf’s fate looks sealed, say analysts

February 22nd, 2008 - 9:45 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 22 (IANS) Despite Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s repeated assertion that he would work with the new government, there is near consensus among analysts that his efforts may be in vain. “I stand ready to work with the newly elected parliament,” Musharraf wrote in an article in Washington Post, in which he essentially praised himself for conducting free, fair and transparent elections in Pakistan.

But only the president seems to think so.

The decision of Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader, and Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), to join hands to form the new government is expected to be one of the biggest nails on the coffin of Musharraf’s public career. The PPP has won the largest number of seats to the National Assembly - 87, with the PML-N is second with 66.

The writing has been on the wall since the results for the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies started to roll in from Feb 18 night.

The message was understood by former members of the cabinet, who lost their deposit in the anti-Musharraf wave.

One of Pakistan’s colourful politicians and former federal information minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, told reporters Wednesday: “I can’t see Musharraf and political parties working together.”

Ahmed’s loss in the elections marked the end of a six-time winning streak to the National Assembly. He blamed it on the security action on Lal Masjid and rising prices of basic items like food and gas.

Almost the same words were used Friday by another politician on the other extreme of the political spectrum - former Pakistan cricket team captain and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Imran Khan. He also could not find any way that the democratic forces could work with President Musharraf. “The verdict of the people is to release the judges and remove Musharraf. They should follow the verdict,” he said.

Khan boycotted the elections, under the aegis of the All Party Democracy Movement, in protest against the detention of the chief justice and seven judges of the Supreme Court, who had passed a judgement squashing the emergency declared by President Musharraf Nov 3, 2007.

TV anchor and political commentator Nusrat Javed says he cannot see the president surviving long in office, especially since the parties have made the independence of judiciary their number one priority for formation of a coalition government.

“It was President Musharraf who threw them out. I cannot see him remaining long in the scene, with the parties determined to bring them (judges) back,” said Javed. His show on Aaj Television had been banned by the government and the channel taken off air, following the declaration of emergency.

Meanwhile, Musharraf has already shown that he will likely tighten the screws on Zardari, when Tuesday lawyers on behalf of the Pakistani government urged a Swiss court to prosecute him in a 10-year-old case of money laundering. This development came after there were indications that despite feelers from presidential aides, Zardari would go ahead for an alliance with Sharif, a bitter detractor of Musharraf, who had deposed him in a military coup in 1999.

Sharif had again indicated at his joint press conference with Zardari that Musharraf should resign. “Nation has given out its verdict. The sooner he accepts the verdict, the better for him,” he said Thursday night.

In terms of hard numbers, a PPP-PML(N)-ANP coalition does not have the two-thirds majority in the new National Assembly required to impeach the president. Out of the 342-member house, the coalition will amount to about 210 seats, including the reserved seats for women and minorities. The Pasthun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) has 10 seats in the National Assembly.

One of the ways, suggested by analysts, is when the US administration and other western countries look beyond Musharraf for help in the “war on terror”, which will be the message for him to leave the stage.

According to former director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Ahsad Durrani, unless the president leaves, “things will not be back to normal”. “It is important that the new dispensation should have a fair start. It can’t happen as long as he is still there. If it was anybody but Pervez Musharraf, he would have left his seat long ago by last year,” he said.

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