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Pakistan faces the mother of all polls
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | February 16, 2008 00:58 IST
Last Updated: February 16, 2008 12:36 IST
For the first time after his bloodless coup in 1999, the balance of power is being challenged with the help of a democratic mechanism.
As 112-member European Union Election Observation Mission reached
The issue of rigging has become a catchphrase for the Opposition leaders and voters are sensitised like never before.
As the possibility of rigging has been highlighted even in international media, it has directly increased the level of uncertainty in
But Pakistan experts in India opine that Musharraf is not as weak as is portrayed. Notwithstanding his low-approval rating of 15 per cent, Musharraf is very much in the game . Once a soldier, always a soldier, that sums up the man. He will not hang up boots just because the 'so-called democracy' is round the corner.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal tells rediff.com, "As far as I can see, Musharraf is not looking for an exit policy. If he were, he would have handled the deteriorating situation in
M K Bhadrakumar, former diplomat and a
Sibal says the problem with military dictators is that because they take over power by force and they have to be forced to give it up.
"Musharraf still feels he is indispensable and will try to manipulate the developing political situation as much as he can. Yes, a massive public movement can force him out, but there is no sign of that," he said.
Experts point out that Musharraf's utility for the
Importantly, in a given situation he remains important for the
He thinks that his way of exit will be detrimental to the outcome of the war against terrorism. "The US' first preference will be to work for his continuance in power through a system of co-habitation with the elected prime minister with mutually agreed conditions."
"As things stand now, Musharraf's exit is a possibility, but not inevitable. His position may, however, become untenable if his opponents in the
A New Delhi-based expert believes that Zaradari is more vulnerable than Nawaz Sharif. The PPP's unity is fragile and Zardari himself is a soft target of the "hard poachers" of
Only a simple majority to Sharif's party, PML- N, can push Musharraf to the wall. But reports so far do not show such a possibility.
But Bhadrakumar thinks, "A coalition government is likely to emerge. Musharraf will play a balancing role. Pakistani politicians in power are not exactly an inspiring lot. Therefore, Musharraf shouldn't have difficulty in carving out political space within the emerging equation."
If some unexpected results do come in and the situation descends into further chaos, then the
Sibal said, "Ultimately, the army will have to decide whether a change should occur, should the so-called democratic process that has been set in motion heads towards a political crisis, with the successful opposition asking for the general's scalp."
He adds, 'The US wants orderly transition in
In the elections, besides Musharraf's rule, his role in the
Commodore C Uday Bhaskar, a strategic analyst, says, "Musharraf's future will depend on the poll outcome. The post-election stance of Army Chief General Kiyani will be crucial, like how he supports Musharraf. If the post-election scenario brings internal turbulence, then it will test
Asked about Musharraf's future after the elections, Dr Shireen M Mazari, Islambad-based analyst says, "I don't know. It depends on how he adjusts to new political regime. As a person, he means well. With his military background sometime, he speaks off the cuff and without thinking that causes a lot of problem."
"I hope we have a peaceful future. I would like that. We have seen too much violence in