Beyond Musharraf

WITH the Independence Day rituals behind him, pressure on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to step down has suddenly shot up.

Published: Sun 17 Aug 2008, 12:53 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

The Pakistani and Western news networks are talking of mounting pressure on the General from the governing coalition of PPP and PML as well as Musharraf's own allies and friends including Washington to leave with dignity while he can.

Apparently, even his mentors in Washington seem to have realised that a thoroughly discredited and weakened Musharraf is not of much use. Besides, there is a growing impression in the US establishment that the leaders of the governing coalition will not necessarily go against the formidable geopolitical interests of Uncle Sam in the region.

In fact, some in the US security establishment are reportedly of the view that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a political lightweight and critically dependent on Asif Ali Zardari, the real power behind the throne, may be more pliable when it comes to fighting Washington's war on terror.

It is said that it was President Musharraf who notwithstanding his existential woes has been resisting pressure from Washington to clip ISI's wings. The recent move by Prime Minister Gilani to put the intelligence agency under the interior ministry and then revoking the order should be seen against this backdrop.

However, it is clear even to his dwindling support base that the besieged General cannot go on any longer. And for the first time, the president himself appears to see the writing on the wall and is said to be negotiating an honourable exit. And about time too.

To be fair to Musharraf, unlike the past military dictators of Pakistan, he did not fight for power. It was thrust upon him by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif who in his insatiable hunger for infinite power played havoc with the country's institutions. Before summarily sacking Musharraf as the army chief, on a visit to Sri Lanka at the time, the democratically-elected prime minister had sent another army chief and Supreme Court chief justice packing.

Tragically, the General drew no lessons from Sharif or Pakistan's history that is replete with such examples of reckless power abuse. Ironically, if Musharraf is being driven out of power today, it is precisely because of the kind of impulsive highhandedness that drove Nawaz Sharif out of power. And today it's Sharif's turn to take on his nemesis. How times have changed!

So it's only a matter of days and hours before the General bids adieu. But it's what happens after he's gone that is more important now. Once Musharraf is gone, the governing coalition will suddenly find itself in total control and faced with the challenge of governing a country that is in a complete mess in every sense of the word. And if they fail to deliver, then they will have no one to blame. There will be no excuses left.

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