Musharraf facing pressure on several fronts. By Rob Terpstra


President Pervez Musharraf is in a very difficult situation.
This is a gross understatement in the unfavourable conditions that the embattled leader now sees himself facing. Consider the manner in which the army chief and president, a delicate subject to begin with, wakes up, scanning the morning news headlines, and finding his fingerprints in a trail throughout both domestic and international affairs.
Musharraf’s fiercest battle at the moment, and one could select from a plethoric range, seems to lie in the chambers of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. To be honest, the reign of the president literally ends at the decision to either alter the constitution in its current state or flatly reject General Musharraf and side with Pakistan’s constitutional framers.
Those familiar with both recent Pakistani history and early American history should have no qualms in siding with Chaudhry, if, or more appropriately, when, he rejects Musharraf’s challenge, “against the system”, as his team of lawyers have so poignantly pointed out. The petition has little chance in succeeding and within Chaudhry’s Supreme Court, perhaps nil.
If one were to look for a precedent, certainly the most marked example would be that of the United States. After Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat in the White House’s presidential office for four terms in the World War II era, an amendment was made in the U.S. constitution that stated a president would no longer be able to remain in office for more than two terms. It is also important to note that Roosevelt was not an average president. He is widely considered by many to be a formidable president and diplomat in the most difficult of times.
If even Roosevelt, certainly more popular, relatively speaking, cannot prevent the clause of an additional presidential term, how can a president falling out of U.S. power avoid the ‘guillotine’?
Certainly conservative Reaganites, and perhaps hardline Bush Republicans, wish this amendment had never entered into the dialogue of Congress, but it did, and now it looks like Musharraf will in fact face the same fate. Ultimately, this will be good for Pakistan. With the current cabinet and head of state (and army chief) ruling for more than 10 years, a minor shake-up in the political sphere may instigate a forward-thinking movement. Even though Musharraf, and he emphasizes this consistently throughout his memoirs, his cabinet has been painstakingly chosen to rid itself of its past - nepotism and deceit to name a few â€" change is now necessary. However, when we look at the options, i.e. Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif, perhaps not. But more about this later.
Critics of Musharraf, and certainly the U.S. is near the top of this list, have blamed the general for ineffectiveness in the mountainous passes along the countries’ border and more generally speaking, the struggle in Afghanistan. However reading between the lines reveals that Pakistan, more than any other country, has negated the ability of al-Qaeda to blossom in its terror struggle. This is a watershed achievement of the Musharraf army, and one that is often overlooked or worse, criticized.
Regardless, one must point out that Musharraf is less regarded than President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and should, and this is a quite unlikely scenario, Musharraf win another term, do not put it past the newly inaugurated U.S. president in January 2009 to lead a guerrilla-type coup, something similar to what occurred in the 1973 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Chilean Allende incident or more recently the Haitian Aristide ousting. By this time, 16 months away, ‘Afghanistan’ will have subsided, Iraq may be in its last throes and the time will be ripe for Musharraf to announce his ‘resignation’. This will not occur now, as Bush and his less than stellar 30 per cent approval rating are already in danger of handicapping the Republicans in the upcoming election. However a year and a half from now, a CIA-led coup will finally rid the world of Musharraf and the U.S. can wipe its hands clean of the incident â€" at the present time satisfied with simply pressuring Islamabad into making acceptable policy.
Another scenario includes a Tony Blair-esque victory in the upcoming election for Musharraf. As Blair achieved in England, he was able to convince voters to elect his Labour party to power and then a couple years later resign, with little or no harm done to the party. This move would sever all chances of either Bhutto, a woman who is getting her way, or Sharif, a man who is getting his way, from creating a coalition government or once again retaining power within Pakistan.
Furthermore, the trouble with Musharraf’s sensitive talks with Bhutto is that in the future, there is no guarantee that the current president will win the election and be granted political asylum. He may soon find himself suffering the same fate of previous leaders, either by being exiled and worse yet, hung.
The next couple of weeks are extremely crucial for the future. This is a gross understatement, not just for General Musharraf, but, and more importantly, for Pakistan.

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