Like all military dictators who have preceded him, Musharraf loathes the idea of surrendering his powers. To make the situation worse he is surrounded by self-serving advisers who also have much to lose in a change scenario.
Struggling for political survival Musharraf has sought to enlist Bush’s support by re-energising military confrontation against extremists in the western borderlands, he has humiliatingly flown to Dubai to negotiate a power-sharing deal with one of his hated rivals, and come close to declaring a state of emergency within the country.
But so far nothing has seemed to have worked for him.
With the clock ticking away and general elections to be held be held between September 15 and October 15, he appears to be heading towards a no-win situation. Especially as an activist Supreme Court seems likely to impose a legal obstacle against his attempt to get re-elected from the existing assemblies, as well as permitting the return of Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan.
Faced with such a bleak state of affairs Musharraf may easily be persuaded to declare an emergency (or still worse declare martial law), both of which will likely lead to national upheaval and ensuing chaos. But then the desperation of narcissistic dictators have no bounds.
Following is an article from the Financial Times worth reading. It quotes a diplomat in Islamabad as saying:
“He’s really not a great strategist…He’s a commando who, when he’s in a fix, likes to blast his way out.”
It is this reliance on ‘blasting his way out’ that does not bode well for the next few weeks to come.
The Financial Times: Final reckoning days away for Musharraf
By Jo Johnson
Published: August 13 2007 16:29
Confronted by the gravest crisis of his eight-year rule, Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, faces an ever-shrinking menu of options. In recent weeks he has spent much of his time shut away in his military camp in Rawalpindi, surrounded by self-interested advisers, increasingly intolerant of criticism and displaying signs, diplomats say, of growing paranoia.
But as the general toys with ideas such as imposing a state of emergency that would suspend elections and extend his rule, the reality is that he has just days left to find a way out of his labyrinth before a constitutional crisis paralyses Pakistan.
If Gen Musharraf sticks to his guns and proceeds with his plan to seek a new mandate from the existing state and national legislatures – themselves the product of rigged 2002 elections – he is likely to find his ability to govern severely impaired.
Challenges to his legitimacy are likely to hit him on two fronts: in the courts, from a judiciary emboldened by the reinstatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry, chief justice; and on the streets, from a newly-courageous civil society.
Presidential elections, via an indirect electoral college, must be held between September 15 and October 15. The constitution forbids a general from holding political office while still serving and also for up to two years after retirement. In December 2003, Gen Musharraf finessed matters by persuading a coalition of Islamic parties to back an amendment exempting him from the restriction, initially for one year. When the December 2004 deadline to step out of uniform expired, the exemption was extended until the end of 2007 by a rubber stamp parliament endorsed by the Supreme Court. Today it is a different story.
“This is going to be a battle,” says Shafqat Mahmood, a political analyst. “Back then, the Supreme Court was not free ... If the court now decides to disqualify him from contesting, it could lead to full martial law.”
Gen Musharraf acknowledged at the weekend that he had last week come close to declaring a state of emergency, only relenting after a 2 am telephone call from Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state.
Washington is keen for the isolated general to broaden his political base through an alliance with Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People’s party, and to reduce his dependency on religious parties.
Relations between the government and those religious parties were disrupted by last month’s raid on Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, or red mosque, which has prompted outrage among Islamists and a surge in suicide attacks.
“With all the suicide attacks, the sense of crisis is very acute now,” says Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based security analyst. “[The Islamic parties] want to show that [Gen Musharraf] can no longer count on them as intermediaries with the jihadis or govern effectively without them.”
Co-opting Ms Bhutto into government increasingly looks like Gen Musharraf’s best chance of securing his political future. The two met in secret in Abu Dhabi late last month, but have yet to agree the terms of their cohabitation. Under one scenario, Gen Musharraf, in return for the PPP’s support in the presidential election, would seek election as a civilian, drop corruption charges against Ms Bhutto, change the law that prevents her from seeking a third term as prime minister and allow her back to campaign for the parliamentary elections.
If Gen Musharraf refuses to put on civvies, a deal will be more complicated. Ms Bhutto is under pressure from her party to insist he steps out of uniform but many believe she might soften.
All bets would be off under an emergency. It still cannot be ruled out: the pro-Musharraf ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), a rag-bag of deserters from the PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N), has much to lose from a return of the exiled former prime ministers.
An emergency that would derail a deal with Ms Bhutto, head off a challenge to the PML(Q) from Nawaz Sharif and postpone parliamentary elections for a year therefore has its appeal. It also could appeal to Gen Musharraf’s military instincts.
“He’s really not a great strategist,” says a diplomat in Islamabad. “He’s a commando who, when he’s in a fix, likes to blast his way out.”
The coming weeks will present a new set of challenges, starting with the Supreme Court’s imminent hearing of a petition demanding that Mr Sharif, the target of Gen Musharraf’s 1999 coup, be immediately permitted the right to return. If that petition is accepted, the temptation to impose an emergency will undoubtedly return.
Declaration of Emergency