Archive for May 19th, 2008

Last week, media coverage in Pakistan was dominated by political developments following the PML-N resignation from the federal cabinet. While news outlets were in-depth in their coverage, I was curious to read the reactions of President Pervez Musharraf to these developments. How would he react to the PML-N exit and the speculations surrounding the future of the ruling coalition? Do these developments help his tarnished reputation or do they serve to villify him further? On Sunday, a feature article in the Washington Post assessed these very questions. Entitled, “Sidelined Musharraf Still Exerts Influence,” the Post’s Pamela Constable and Robin Wright wrote,

Bereft of his uniform, crucified in parliamentary elections and derided in graffiti as America’s pet dog, President Pervez Musharraf has virtually vanished from public life in the past three months…But even from the shadows, Musharraf’s presence has continued to influence the country he ruled as an army general from 1999 to 2007. The issue of whether he should remain in office has already divided the ruling coalition, eclipsed pressing national needs and revived conspiracy theories about American meddling in Pakistani affairs.

The coalition’s split over the judiciary issue has “generated talk of Musharraf as the political beneficiary, chortling at his adversaries’ failures and sensing a chance for political muscle-flexing if not rehabilitation,” Constable and Wright noted. Although virtually no one believes Musharraf will attempt another military coup or dissolve the newly elected Parliament – one can only imagine the public outrage if such a thing should occur – the reported “rift” within the coalition may “lessen the chances of his being impeached by Parliament or legally challenged by the former Supreme Court chief justice he fired last year,” the Post reported.

Do you agree with such an assessment? A Reuters blog on Sunday highlighted an analysis in the Daily Times by Hasan Askari-Rizvi, who suggested a split over the judiciary restoration issue could instead produce further backlash against Musharraf, “particularly given a pledge by the lawyers’ movement to hold a major protest on June 10 to champion the restoration of the judges.” Rizvi added, “The lawyers and many civil society groups are expected to start street protests for the restoration of the judges. Several political parties are also expected to join them…The movement will target the government, especially Musharraf, and Asif Ali Zardari.”

What do you think? Does Musharraf benefit from the reported divisions within this new government and the stunted progress of the judiciary issue? Will he still, as many analysts have predicted, prepare for a graceful exit or use a potential power vacuum for his political advantage? His press secretary, Rashid Qureshi was quoted by the Post saying that “the president’s only desire is to act as the constitutional president and see Pakistan move into a total civilian dispensation…[but as] things stabilize, the right time will come for him to move away and say goodbye.” Moreover, Constable and Wright asserted, “Although Musharraf may have reaped some temporary benefits – or at least some satisfaction – from the current tiff among his civilian adversaries, analysts said he has been permanently weakened by his heavy-handed actions last year and further diminished through his military retirement.” So what are your thoughts? Do you predict a graceful resignation from the former military leader or an attempt to seize power once again? [Image from Reuters]


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