It looks like Pervez Musharraf is planning to step down as army chief before the upcoming elections in Pakistan. He’s also going to allow former leaders who have corruption charges hanging over their heads — namely Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif — to return and context in those elections.
Today, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistanâ€™s minister for railways, said at a news conference: â€œThere is no more uniform issue. It has been settled and the president will make an announcement.â€ The news conference was reported by the state-run news agency reported.
Sheikh Mansoor Ahmed, the deputy secretary general of Ms. Bhuttoâ€™s Pakistan Peoplesâ€™ Party, said he believed that the agreement had been made. â€My personal information is that President Musharraf has agreed to take off his military uniform before the presidential elections,â€ he said. â€œAn announcement in this regard will be made very soon. Within the next 72 hours, everything will be clear.â€
In an apparent confirmation, Ms Bhutto told the independent Aaj television channel: â€œEighty to ninety percent of the issues have been settled. Ten to 20 percent have yet to be decided,â€
â€œSome matters relating to a balance of power between the parliament and presidency are still pending,â€ Ms Bhutto said in the television interview. (link)
Obviously, this story could change dramatically in the next few days as the details are announced. There will then probably be another gap to see if Musharraf really does what he promises, and then again as we watch and see how the elections go. In the meanwhile, it’s never too early to start gossiping and speculating wildly. Here are my early, completely wild speculations:
1) This agreement could easily fall apart. The language in these early reports is very sketchy. Wait until it comes out of the horse’s mouth directly.
2) Or perhaps, the agreement is for real. Musharraf realizes that neither Sharif nor Bhutto are likely to beat him in an open election, especially if he pits one against the other and the opposition parties are divided. By seeming to give away power, he stands to gain the stamp of democratic respectability on the world stage. That would mean at least five more years in power, and no more whining from Benazir Bhutto about this and that.
3) The agreement is for real, but it might not be as good as it sounds; small matters such as the balance of power between the parliament and the presidency might not be so small. If he throws in a “nuclear” option, the idea of “power sharing” might turn out to be merely a tease.
4) Musharraf has a very friendly cousin who can step in to run the army. The name will be announced the day after elections are held.
5) He’s giving up the uniform, but his business suit is khaki-colored and comes with a gun holster. It’s also made of 100% kevlar, and in large block print on the back it says, “IFTIKAR CHAUDHURY CAN BITE ME.”
Feel free to add your own reasoned analysis and/or wild speculations as to what it means.