Troubled future ahead for Musharraf: NYT

December 28th, 2007 - 1:59 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad, Dec 28 (ANI): The assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Thursday will not only harm the democratic process in Pakistan, but will also aggravate the ongoing conflict between President Pervez Musharraf and the opposition parties.
Hasan Rizvi, a leading Pakistani political analyst, said that Musharrafs troubles are surely going to increase in the near and immediate future.
The Pakistan Peoples Party is the largest in the country, and after Bhuttos death, it has become leaderless. PPP members are already blaming the Musharraf regime for her death.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, the countrys other main opposition leader, is scrambling to reorganise his party after being in exile for years, the New York Times (NYT) reported.
Bhuttos death upends the political landscape in a country that has searched often in vain for political stability since it achieved independence.
According to Pakistani analysts, how the events unfold in the coming days and weeks lies largely in the hands of Musharraf, Bhuttos husband Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif. But, it is Musharraf who faces the largest potential threat, they warned.
Analysts said Bhuttos assassination would hurt Musharraf politically and place him in one of the most difficult positions of his turbulent eight years in power.
Musharrafs main problem at the moment is that there is a widespread perception in Pakistan that he did too little to protect Bhutto or that his government carried out the killing itself.
The PPP has accused the Musharraf regime of exactly that, and Musharrafs own supporters blame the government for lax security.
“The government had a responsibility to ensure that she was safe,” said Ikram Sehgal, a Pakistani security expert, adding that there was a concerted effort to kill her.
The NYT reported that demonstrations are expected to peak at Bhuttos funeral on Friday outside Karachi, Pakistans second largest city. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, could call for restraint or for further protests, it added.
Analysts said that if Musharraf declares an emergency to overcome the protests, he is likely to create stronger popular opposition than he did when he imposed emergency for the fist time on November 3.
Ijaz Gilani, the chairman of Gallup Pakistan, a leading polling agency, said that Musharraf does not enjoy a high degree of support, and added that with Bhuttos killing, his ability to withstand all these negative segments about him is even more difficult.
Analysts said if Musharraf goes ahead with nationwide elections scheduled for January 8, he is likely to counter street protests as well, and added that holding the elections would be seen as taking advantage of Bhuttos death.
On the other hand, Sharif, the other main opposition leader, announced that his party would withdraw from the elections. He has vowed to take on Bhuttos mantle as the main opposition leader to Musharraf.
If both of the countrys primary opposition parties are out of the election, Musharrafs party which trailed them in the recent polls would probably win.
The NYT has quoted analysts as saying that Sharif and PPP leaders could then lead demonstrations, calling for Musharrafs ouster.
Since his return, Sharif has shown more discipline and political savviness than he did during his two tenures as Prime Minister in the 1990s, according to analysts. He has positioned himself as a more vocal opponent to Musharraf than Bhutto.
His clear defiance of an unpopular President has attracted large crowds to his rallies. Sharif could try to harness that popular anger against the government, according to Pakistani analysts.
“This steely determination hes shown since September is a new thing,” said Teresita Schaffer, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
As it has been for decades, the arbiter of power in the end will be Pakistans army, the analysts said. “An awful lot depends on how the army reacts,” Schaffer said.
“Do they clamp down? Are they reluctant to clamp down? Do they blame Musharraf?” asked Schaffer. (ANI)

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