Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Musharraf's Shaky Future

Pakistan may be facing an ugly future when and if Pervez Musharraf's reign ends, and at the current rate, that may be sooner than we hope, according to the Los Angeles Times report today.
Musharraf's supporters are widely blamed for bloody street fighting this month in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, which killed more than 45 people, many of them workers for opposition political parties. And the general's once-polished speeches and public statements lately have taken on a tone that alternates between shrill accusations and near-tearful pleas for understanding.

Longtime political allies are beginning to distance themselves from the 63-year-old Pakistani leader. And although top generals appear to be standing by him, even government ministers are silent in the face of withering criticism of his rule, or offering only tepid support.

"His position has become untenable, unsustainable," said author and analyst Ahmed Rashid.

"I don't see how he can hang on," said journalist Zahid Hussain.

Musharraf faces stark choices, analysts say. He could hunker down and try to ride out the crisis, or move to declare martial law. He could seek to strike a deal with opposition figures, who are likely to spurn him. Or he could step aside.
Having twice survived assassination attempts several years ago, staying in power under martial law will present challenges and could lead to much wider strife.

Of course, the bleak scenario envisioned from our end is having a Taliban-style rule in power armed with nukes, though that may not be the future.
The conventional wisdom has always held that Musharraf is a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalists, and that without him, the country could slide into a chaos that extremist groups would exploit.

But opposition parties insist that free and fair elections could instead empower a moderate, Western-leaning regime. Islamist parties won only about 12% of the vote in the last elections, in 2002, and many believe they would draw less support now.

"There's this perception that if Musharraf goes, in come the Taliban," said Sherry Rehman, a lawmaker with the Pakistan People's Party, the political home of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, now living in exile. "That's really not the case."
Read the rest.

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