After Pakistan election, Musharraf has few good options
Pakistan's president lost his final base of support in Monday's parliamentary election.
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For now, the power shift is making American foreign policy officials scramble. In the long run, however, it could work to America's benefit, experts say.Skip to next paragraph
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"Putting together a bilateral relationship that is based on broader institutional ties is healthy, as is having a civilian government in Islamabad," writes Mr. Markey. "Only popular parties can mobilize support for policies that hit at the roots of extremism and militancy."
The remaining question is what will happen to Musharraf. Among those who have come into personal contact with him, there is a sense that he will understand the depth of his current predicament.
"He is an intelligent man. He will know he is not in a position to dictate things," says Mahmood Shah, who helped coordinate Musharraf's policies in the tribal belt as former secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. "Even if he tries to cling to power, it will be very difficult," Mr. Shah continues.
The coming days or weeks will be a test of whether Musharraf's legendary survival instincts have their limits, say others. "He will first try to see if he has any future working with these political parties," says Ikram Sehgal, editor of Defence Journal. "If it is not tenable, he will lay out a plan to say good-bye."
"He knows very well that the Army will not support him" if he challenges the parliament, Mr. Sehgal adds.
Should Musharraf prove confrontational, however, Zardari has said he would not rule out impeachment. This is particularly bad news for Musharraf, since Zardari's PPP has generally been more tolerant of Musharraf than Sharif's PML-N, which has categorically refused to work with Musharraf, partly because Musharraf overthrew Sharif in his 1999 coup.
The process of impeachment is relatively simple, requiring only a two-thirds vote in the general assembly and the Senate. The Senate is still filled with Musharraf's allies, since it is not up for reelection until next year. But senators might be tempted to abandon Musharraf if his situation looks untenable. The Army, however, would be loath to see its former leader humiliated in such a way and could step in to convince Musharraf to go, if it came to that point, says Sehgal.
Credit for allowing a fair vote
Among Pakistanis, there has been some grudging respect for Musharraf after the election – offering him credit for allowing a vote that undermined his own authority.
"I think he should stay," says a man eating ice cream along a Lahore side street, declining to give his name. "If he had fair elections, he should be given a chance."
But this man is in the vast minority. For Sajjid Hussain, standing nearby, the results from Monday's elections were welcome news. But there remains unfinished business, he says: "I will be happy when Musharraf steps down."