Musharraf to Leave Army?

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It appears General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is leaving the army. In an anticipated power-sharing move with longtime political rival, Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf will step down and run for president as a civilian.

The Washington Post reports:

Musharraf, a coup leader who has kept his uniform while running the country for nearly eight years, has long resisted the idea of leaving the army. But as he faces parliamentary elections and Supreme Court challenges that threaten to knock him out of office entirely, some of Musharraf’s aides say he would be willing to retire from the military if it enables him to extend his political career.

Such a move is considered a prerequisite if he wants a power-sharing agreement with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, a longtime rival but also a potential partner who could help Musharraf win reelection. In Pakistan, the parliament and provincial assemblies elect the president.

The Hindu‘s Nirupama Subramanian draws attention to Bhutto’s willingness to negotiate and bargain with Musharraf:

Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto said on Saturday she had presented a “comprehensive package” to the government but had not got a response yet to her proposals. She said she was leaving open a large window for the two sides to reach an understanding.

Addressing a press conference in London, Ms. Bhutto did not say a single critical word about Gen. Musharraf, but took a swipe at fellow opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, without mentioning his name, by saying she did not leave the country under any “deal” with the government guaranteed by a foreign country.

In contrast to Bhutto, Sharif is taking a much more confrontational stance. Writing in Pakistan’s Daily Times, Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi provides this insight:

Sharif’s confrontation path is hazardous, but this option is in line with the anti-Musharraf mood of the politically active circles and civil society groups in Pakistan. These circles have gained confidence from the lawyers’ movement that they can bring about political change through collective action. As they favour liberal democracy, they will view Sharif’s return as another blow to centralised and authoritarian rule from the presidency. Sharif is expected to enjoy the support of the All-Parties Democratic Movement (APDM), which has superseded the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) after the PPP opted for negotiations with Musharraf. However, the disposition of Maulana Fazlur Rahman is not yet clear. He will wait and see if Sharif returns and launches a protest movement.

In a democratic political system, leadership and policy changes are brought through the vote and the ballot box. However, in authoritarian and semi- or non-democratic systems, political changes are often unpredictable. These are often triggered by the policy and management blunders of over-confident rulers.

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