Sunday, February 24, 2008

Exit whispers buffet Musharraf

It’s looking like Pervez Musharraf's days as president of Pakistan may be numbered.

A story in yesterday's London Sunday Telegraph had Musharraf talking with insiders about resigning within the next few weeks. His office denied the report today, but Musharraf has to see the writing on the wall. The opposition parties won big in last week's elections and are forming a coalition government. Musharraf stepped down as head of the army last year, so he can't count on the backing of the military either - his presidency has little popular support.

The opposition though will not have a large enough majority in the parliament to impeach Musharraf, but they could reinstate the supreme court justices Musharraf dismissed last year (Musharraf declared a state of emergency supposedly to because of terrorist threats, but then used the emergency to dismiss the supreme court - just as they were about to rule on the legality of his presidency). The court, if restored, could just dismiss Musharraf. Or he could choose to resign on his own.

“He may have made many mistakes, but he genuinely tried to build the country and he doesn’t want to destroy it just for the sake of his personal office,” said an official close to the President.

Meanwhile pro-Taliban militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are reaching out to the new Pakistani government. Fundamental religious parties representing the area also lost big in last week's elections. Now they are asking for an end to military action in the territory in support of the War on Terror. Musharraf's defeat was seen in part because of his backing of US policy in the War on Terror, now the opposition has called for a new strategy of economic development and incentives to fight extremists in the border region rather than fighting them with troops and guns.

A cease-fire in 2006 in the Northwest Frontier territories with these same militant groups though failed to end tribal support of pro-Taliban groups and US officials believe it provided the Taliban in Afghanistan with a safe haven where they could flee from NATO operations in southern Afghanistan and regroup.
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