The Benazir/Nawaz ‘Charter of Democracy’ seems to have caught Musharraf and his supporters on the hop.
Noticeably as Musharraf openly derided the Charter as “a political gimmick”, his weakness became all the more demonstrable. As the Daily Times reported, not only did he announce that that items such as wheat, rice, sugar, ghee and pulses would be subsidised but that he would go on a countrywide tour to tell people about his government's 'beneficial' endeavours. In other words his 2007 electoral campaign is all of a sudden underway.
Then an obvious attempt was made to sabotage the emerging Benazir-Nawaz accord when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi announced last Saturday, “Benazir is in direct contact with General Musharraf. She has talked directly to President Musharraf on the telephone 12 times.” This claim was vehemently denied by PPP politicians, but who really knows what is happening behind the scenes as the stakes begin to mount?
However it does appear that Musharraf’s main prop – the ISI-engineered ‘civilian government’ – is slowly beginning to unravel. Apparently many of the PML heavyweights have panicked and want to make a deal with Benazir to save their skins.
As an Arab newspaper reported yesterday:
ISLAMABAD • Many stalwarts of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League are trying to convince the powers that be to cut a formal deal with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, sources in the party said here yesterday.
The senior PML leaders want aides of President General Pervez Musharraf to initiate a direct communication channel with Bhutto through political people instead of back channel contacts that have not yielded desired results.
Nasir Chattha and Manzoor Wattoo pleaded a rapprochement with Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party when they met Musharraf over the weekend, the sources said. Wattoo has already been in contact with Bhutto’s aides in Pakistan, they added.
“I have told the president that our contacts could be handy if he decides to open up direct communication channels with Bhutto,” a source quoted Wattoo as telling his party leaders recently.
Wattoo, he however added, is yet to receive any favourable reply from Musharraf. On the face of it, the question of a rapprochement with the PPP seemed to have died down in the ruling party and government’s camp.
This was especially in the wake of recent meetings between Musharraf and influential government and party personalities from across the country in which majority voiced against the PPP and ruling PML collaboration.
Informed circles, however, believe that “uniformed political managers” of the regime were holding in-depth discussions on two major issues these days, i.e. chances of a political collaboration with the PPP and launching of an “acceptable face” from within the rank and file of the ruling PML, for the upcoming general elections.