running out of options and ‘ultimately will end up losing power’:
Musharraf's Political Dilemma
May 08, 2007 02 00 GMT
…The government is watching how the protests have increased from the thousands to the tens of thousands since the crisis began a little under two months ago, and more important, the fact that the protests have not fizzled out.
But Musharraf also is being advised to cautiously handle the crisis or risk exacerbating the situation. One of the signs that the battle over the judiciary has gone badly for the government is that Punjab province and its provincial capital, Lahore, have now moved to express solidarity with Chaudhry.
Historically this province has been the support base of authoritarian governments and has proven to be decisive in turning against unpopular governments. Already there is resentment against Musharraf in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, as well as the North-West Frontier Province, although for different reasons.
Therefore, strong-arm tactics are not an option in resolving the matter. This is why Musharraf and his allies are maintaining that they will abide by whatever decision the judiciary makes, even if it amounts to Chaudhry's reinstatement. But undoing the decision to sack the top judge will not end the crisis -- it will only exacerbate it because an emboldened civil society and judiciary will not allow Musharraf to seek a controversial second term from the same electoral college, especially while he is president and military chief.
Consequently, Musharraf has at his disposal few options, none of them good. He can follow the advice of those advocating a hard-line approach and end up like former Pakistani military dictator Field Marshall Ayub Khan, who was driven out of office amid protests in 1969; or he can cut a deal with the main opposition group, the Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and share power. Musharaf has been, to a great degree, an unorthodox military leader and is known to opt for pragmatism in the face of a difficult situation, and he is likely to go for the latter option. But doing so will just delay the pace at which he will lose power, since stepping down from the military in the current circumstances could erode his position to the point that he might not complete the second five-year term he is seeking.
Some would argue that because he fears losing power, Musharraf might not cut a deal and tough it out. This cannot be completely ruled out. But regardless of which option he chooses, Musharraf ultimately will end up losing power. He can only choose between a fast and complete loss of power, or sharing it -- a move that could lead to a decent exit.