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Any Further Confusion In Pakistan May Harm War On Terror

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It is not yet clear as to who will lead Pakistan in future, but confusion at the official level has increased the problems of Pakistanis and tribesmen. There is possibility that terrorists may use the situation for achieving their own motives. Majority of people, who are against terrorism, want that President Musharraf should stay as president at least till the elimination of terrorism. Any abrupt change can result into bloody revolution on the pattern of Iran.

In his comment on the situation, promiment journalist and editor of Dawn newspaper Zaffar Abbas wrote that Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi continue to remain in the grip of frenzied political activities with various power-brokers on both sides of the divide being involved either in last-minute wheeling-dealing or making last-ditch efforts for a favourable outcome for their respective groups.

The grand show put up by the joint, elected force of the PPP, the PML-N and the ANP has certainly put President Pervez Musharraf on the defensive, yet little or no agreement has been reached on some of the key issues facing the future coalition partners.

Meanwhile, all does not look hunky-dory in the newly victorious groupings. So, the crisis remains.

With his opponents openly asking him to step down and even some well-wishers suggesting a kind of ‘graceful exit’, President Musharraf may well be under tremendous pressure. Yet signals emanating from the president’s camp indicate that despite the heavy odds, he is determined not to throw in the towel — at least not in the initial few rounds.

During the last few days, General Musharraf’s camp office in Rawalpindi — the former Army House — has seen a flurry of activity, particularly in the late evening. At some of these meetings, PML-Q bigwigs and a few remaining trusted aides of the president have reportedly been putting their heads together to discuss various options to counter a post-election onslaught by the winning parties.

For some of them, particularly the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, it’s simply a matter of their political survival. The president’s own position is no different: according to trusted sources, he knows full well that the slightest mishandling of the situation may push the so-called ‘moderates’ (read: the PPP) within the ‘future coalition’ towards the ‘radicals’ (the PML-N), who are quite clearly out for his blood.

Yet even most of the president’s well-wishers admit that his options are quite limited. Even if he manages to sail through the initial period of government-making, the difficulties and humiliation that the new situation may throw up -- in the form of statements in the parliament, laws and legislation -- could make life quite miserable for any honourable head of state.

So, what exactly are his options?

One, he steps down and leaves it to the newly-elected parliament to run the show. But that’s easier said than done. Those who know him say that his pride -- and his misplaced belief in his continued popularity -- may not allow him to take such a bold step.

Two, he lets events take their own course and acts only when the parliament tries to undermine his authority.

Three, he uses his trusted groupings among the newly-elected national and provincial assemblies to both block the passage of any constitutional amendments, and to create difficulties in the formation of stable governments in Sindh and Balochistan.

Some of these factors may have provided a breather of sorts for the leaders of the defeated PML-Q, as was reflected in the form of a relatively good turnout at the lunch arranged by Chaudhry Shujaat at his Islamabad residence. Nevertheless, some senior leaders in two of the three main parties of the ‘future coalition’ are not impressed. In their view, General Musharraf is now too weak to exert his authority in any significant way. And with the military leadership clearly exhibiting a neutral stance, the president’s wings have been clipped further. However, some of these leaders privately admit to what can be described as inner- and intra-party issues and conflicts. Some of these issues are trivial in nature but according to more than one source in the PPP and the PML-N, there are fundamental differences on a number of issues that may delay the formation of a stable coalition.

PML-N’s stance

For example, the PML-N’s insistence on supporting the government without sharing power in the cabinet has remained a major bone of contention. The reason -- or excuse -- offered by the PML-N leadership is also difficult to ignore. They are not prepared to attend the cabinet’s swearing-in ceremony, let alone participate as members of the cabinet, mainly on the grounds that they do not recognise General Musharraf as the legitimate head of state.

Meanwhile, Asif Zardari’s concern, as put by one of the top members of the PPP, is also quite understandable. In such a relationship, they view the PML-N as a coalition partner that would take the credit for all the good things and pass on the blame for all the follies or unpopular decisions made by the PPP-led government. So, not without reason has Mr Zardari been quoted as saying that he would like to see the PPP and the PML-N “sink or swim together”. Sources say that even after having put up a grand show in Islamabad, the two sides have been unable to resolve the matter.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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