Pakistan crisis could block Musharraf’s bid for another term: study

Washington/Islamabad: The worsening crisis in Pakistan over the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry could block President Pervez Musharraf’s bid to seek a second term, a study by a Washington-based think tank has said.

More so, since Musharraf wants to retain his military uniform and seek re-election by the same electoral college, comprising members of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures, says Strategic Foresight (Stratfor).

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The think tank, which had earlier said Musharraf could be cutting a deal with exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, now says that this could only delay his departure from power.

It says that strong-arm tactics are not an option in resolving the current crisis in Pakistan, The Daily Times reported Sunday.

Whichever way the crisis over the March 9 suspension of Chaudhry on charges of misuse of office to promote his son goes, Musharraf’s losing power is inevitable, it says.

The news intelligence service points out that while Musharraf and his allies are maintaining that they will abide by whatever decision the judiciary makes, even if it amounts to Chaudhry’s reinstatement, undoing the decision to sack him 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.

Stratfor writes: “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 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.”

According to the analysis, 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.