Friday, December 28, 2007

Will Musharraf Go Gently Into That Good Night?

Bhutto's End Could Mean Musharraf's As Well
Ruth David, 12.28.07, 1:47 PM ET Forbes

In stepping down as head of the military, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf bet his future on gaining political legitimacy. Following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the chances of that occurring have diminished sharply.

In a nation marked by personality-centric politics, Bhutto’s violent demise Thursday has led opposition leaders to declare that holding parliamentary and provincial elections as scheduled on Jan. 8 would be a farce. Bhutto's longtime rival, the ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has vowed to boycott them.

“With Bhutto’s death, the Bush administration’s game plan to widen political support for Musharraf’s war on terror through a deal with Bhutto’s party has fallen flat,” said G. Parthasarthy, a retired diplomat who served as India’s ambassador to Pakistan.

“If Pakistan holds elections on schedule, Sharif will boycott them and Bhutto’s party will be rudderless. Then the pro-Musharraf party [Pakistan Muslim League—Quaid-e-Azam] is likely to win, but the entire exercise will lack credibility and the democratic process will suffer,” he said.

Musharraf, 64, must now rely on Pakistan’s powerful army to survive, he said. “If his popularity continues to erode, the army could well say thank you very much, it’s time you went,” Parthasarthy said.

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