Musharraf to doff his uniform shortly
But he'll keep his suit. The Times Online explains that Musharraf will no longer head the army. But he'll continue to run the country as a civilian president.
President Musharraf of Pakistan has decided to resign as Army chief by the end of the week, it emerged today. ... Today, the court rejected the first five of six legal challenges to his continued rule. After sustained domestic and international pressure, General Musharraf has already said he will quit as Army chief once the court gives him the green light to serve a second term.
Meanwhile it is not just the United States that is trying to shape political developments in Pakistan. The New York Times Musharraf is visiting Saudi Arabia to discuss the Kingdom's preferred alternative to Benazir Bhutto.
In his first trip out of the country since declaring emergency rule, the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the future of one of his main political rivals, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who lives in exile there.
Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has indicated that Mr. Sharif should be allowed to return to his homeland to participate in parliamentary elections, Pakistani officials and Western diplomats said.
The Saudis have argued, diplomats said, that since Pakistan allowed a secular female leader, Benazir Bhutto, to return from self-imposed exile, then Mr. Sharif, a more conservative and religiously inclined leader, should be permitted to come back, too.
General Musharraf toppled Mr. Sharif in a bloodless coup in October 1999 and sent him into exile soon afterward. He has become one of the general’s fiercest critics, and his return to Pakistan could present a strong political challenge to the party that backs the president and to Ms. Bhutto’s party.
Sharif is regarded as a bridge figure to the Islamist factions of Pakistan. His Wikipedia profile says:
Nawaz Sharif's downfall coincided with his secular actions such as abolishing Friday holidays, distancing him from the conservative religious right wing establishment without endearing him to secular opposition, which preferred the PPP of Benazir. Even now his frequent assurance to the west about continued cooperation is diminishing his popularity at home in conservative circles who are looking for an alternative candidate to counter the secularism of Musharraf-Benazir in the next elections.
Like many of the major players in Pakistan, Sharif tends to blur the distinction between God and Mammon. In fact, is career profile is one that any sleazebag would be glad to have: if the allegations are true.
Nawaz Sharif was also involved in corruption at the highest level during his tenure which brought further mistrust of the people towards his government. The Nawaz government launched a scheme called "Karz utaro, Mulk savaro" whose intent was to pay off debt of the nation through the Pakistani people's pockets. Pakistanis took part aggressively and emotionally to help Pakistan pay off the debt. Many Pakistanis living abroad took part in this scheme extensively and sent millions (maybe billions) to help pay off the debt. Even the poor living in the country helped, to the extent that women sold their jewelery to help the cause, but to no avail. As of this date, it is not known what happened to the funds and the national debt never decreased. It is widely believed that the scheme was to benefit Nawaz Sharif & family, and not to pay off the country's debt
In Pakistan not everything is as it seems. Recently, the man who prosecuted Nawaz Sharif was himself charged with corruption.
A Pakistani investigator whose report formed the basis of corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has himself been charged with misconduct. Rehman Malik, the former second-most senior police officer in Pakistan, stands accused not only of unwarranted vilification of the prime minister, but also of abusing his official position.
Mr Malik's 200-page report formed the basis of corruption allegations published in a London newspaper, The Observer, last Sunday. The paper claimed that a five-year investigation into Mr Sharif had revealed that he had massive hard currency assets abroad and had failed to declare some of them in the manner required by Pakistani law.
Mr Malik is currently thought to be in London.
The personalistic and shadowy character of Pakistani politics was illustrated in a November 11 New York Times article which suggested that the secret plan in place to secure Pakistan's nukes in case of turmoil were in effect, a personal arrangement between Musharraf and the United States. (emphasis mine)
Two years ago, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf still seemed secure in his rule over Pakistan, he was asked a question that is now urgently coursing through Washington: Are his country’s nuclear weapons safe from Islamic radicals? ...
He also talked about new physical controls over Pakistan’s many nuclear facilities, including the laboratories that were once the playground of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the national hero who established Pakistan as the hub of the biggest proliferation network in nuclear history. ...
If General Musharraf is overthrown, no one is quite sure what will happen to the team he has entrusted to safeguard the arsenal. There is some hope that the military as an institution could reliably keep things under control no matter who is in charge, but that is just a hope.
“It’s a very professional military,” said a senior American official who is trying to manage the crisis and insisted on anonymity because the White House has said this problem will not be discussed in public. “But the truth is, we don’t know how many of the safeguards are institutionalized, and how many are dependent on Musharraf’s guys.”
So if Nawaz Sharif or Benazir come into power, does that mean a new contract has to be drawn up, and secretly too to avoid scandalizing Western publics? Musharraf is hardly a class act. But since the other featured players on Pakistan's political stage are Osama Bin Laden, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf's change of costume may be the best number in a sad revue. But that's about all you can say.