Friday, February 29, 2008

Musharraf on the Skids -- or Not

As Pakistan's political parties trade and barter to form provincial and central governments that will accommodate egos and interests long muffled under military rule, former strongman Pervez Musharraf is the subject of much speculation. Is he on the skids or not? Indications that his role and future are in play come from all directions.

The main opposition parties would love to see him go softly into the good night, and that might happen even without a formal move to impeach him. For one thing, the military is reported to have made clear to the politicians that they are not wedded to Musharraf. So has the United States. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that it was Pakistan and not Musharraf that was "indispensable" to combat terrorism. Dawn reported that with the headline "Bush govt distancing itself from Musharraf: New Pakistani govt in two weeks: Negroponte."

Anwar Iqbal reporting from Washington focused on Mr. Negroponte's view that: "We cannot tell the precise colouration or individuals” who will be included in the new government but “we hope that they will be inclined towards moderation. ... We hope we will be able to work with them as well as, if not better than, we have worked with those in the past." It was, Iqbal noted, "the first time since the Feb 18 elections" that Washington had "signaled the Bush administration’s desire to distance itself from President Pervez Musharraf."

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