Archive for August 15th, 2008

On Friday, talk of Musharraf’s impending impeachment/resignation continued to dominate media coverage of Pakistan. This morning, [EST], the AFP reported that the Pakistani president’s aides “are in talks with the government to secure a deal under which he could quit to avoid facing impeachment or criminal charges.” Although Musharraf’s spokesman Rashid Qureshi condemned what he called “malicious” Western media reports that he would stand down, “allies and officials from the ruling coalition both indicated that he was considering his resignation,” reported the AFP. Key ally and former deputy information minister Tariq Azim told the news agency, “Talks are underway and many people are interested that the issue is settled amicably without going into the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf.”

According to the Associated Press coverage today,

Musharraf’s spokesman said reports the former army chief’s resignation was imminent were “baseless” but it was clear he has little support. The last of Pakistan‘s four provincial assemblies passed a resolution against him and a key ally acknowledged the president lacks the support to survive a vote in parliament.

The political uncertainty adds to an already volatile environment in Pakistan, the news agency reported. Officials said Friday that 10 days of fighting in a tribal region near the Afghan border have killed hundreds and displaced more than 200,000. The AP emphasized, “It was one of the bloodiest episodes since Pakistan deployed troops along the border in support of the war on terror nearly seven years ago.”

Although coalition officials claim they could present the impeachment motion within a week and the process could subsequently be over by the end of the month, “officials in the president’s office say impeachment could drag on for months because the procedure is not laid out in the constitution.” Musharraf, it should be noted, would be the first Pakistani president to be impeached in the country’s 61-year history. However, added the AP, “Much depends on whether Musharraf decides to fight, and whether his rivals can stomach granting him immunity and the freedom to stay in Pakistan if he quits.”

Despite indications from members of the PML-Q (including Azim, as well as the party’s secretary-general Mushahid Hussain) that the president may resign, an article in the International Herald Tribune today cited Dawn TV’s interview with the party’s chairman Chaudhry Shujaat, who said Musharraf told him in a meeting Friday that he would deal with the charges “in a democratic spirit and in accordance with the Constitution.” Shujaat added, “Let them bring the charges…So far they haven’t brought any charges.”

However, both politicians and Western diplomats “said Friday that they doubted Musharraf could prevail, and they predicted he would step down before impeachment proceedings began.” The IHT added, “They termed the statements by Shujaat as a bravura performance and a last stand.” Several media sources also cited reports that said the army did not want impeachment to go ahead “because charges against Musharraf, a former army chief, would reflect badly on the military.”

The rumor mill, it seems, keeps puttering away on the “will-he-won’t-he” question. However, all sides seem to understand that a drawn-out impeachment process will only further cripple Pakistan, a country already facing an insurmountable number of issues. Therefore, what seems to be at work here is the well-known game theory model, known as Chicken (similar to the prisoners’ dilemma). The principle of the game is as follows: while each player prefers not to yield to the other, the outcome where neither player yields is the worst possible option for both players. In other words, if two cars are driving towards one other at full speed (i.e. “chicken”), Driver A or Driver B must eventually swerve their car or both will die in the collision. However, if Driver A swerves their car before Driver B, they risk being called “chicken,” or a “coward.”

Applied to this context, it seems that neither the coalition government nor Musharraf are prepared to cave first. However, if both parties continue to remain on this path, and the impeachment process continues with Musharraf holding on, we may see further negative ramifications for Pakistan’s volatile environment. The solution? Both sides must reach a conclusion that lets Musharraf have a safe and dignified exit from power and allows for the coalition government to finally tackle the issues that are really important to Pakistan. [Image from AP]

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