President Pervez Musharraf, it seems, has lost his most important political battle within two months after taking off his army uniform.
February 18 was a historical day. The people of Pakistan tried to defeat terror and tyranny by vote power. There were many incidents of bombings and sniper firing just a day before polling. The targets were the anti-Musharraf parties. One candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was gunned down in Lahore on February 17.
Musharraf assured a British newspaper one day before polling that his PML-Quaid-e-Azam will win the election. The writing on the wall was that polls would be rigged. There was also a fear that a big number of voters will not come out from their homes on polling day.
Election Day started with two bombings in Quetta. But democracy lovers risked their lives. They were determined to defeat the bombs and bullets by the ballot. They came out from their homes. Voter turnout was not big but it was close to past turnouts. More than a dozen people sacrificed their lives for democracy on election day.
By the evening of February 18 it seemed clear that Pakistan People's Party, PML of Nawaz Sharif and Awami National Party have swept three provinces and the PML-Q performed well in Baluchistan.
Musharraf is no more in a position to change the victory of the opposition into defeat. The army will not help him in rigging. People are ready to resist. The pro-Musharraf PML-Q seem to have vanished in at least two provinces -- Sindh and the North West Frontier Province. The PPP and the PML-N have created cracks for PML-Q in Punjab, which was a political fort for pro-Musharraf forces.
The PPP and the PML-N have already decided to cooperate with each other against Musharraf. The most trusted friend of the US in Pakistan will have no other choice but to leave office.
Febraury 18 is the beginning of the end of Musharraf Raj in Pakistan. The credit of this victory goes to the great sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto on December 27. The PPP got votes out of a big sympathy wave. Nawaz Sharif did well because of a very offensive and organised election campaign. He emerged as the champion of the independent judiciary and free media.
Musharraf was rejected mainly due to his bad strategy in the war against terror. He killed more Pakistanis in this war than the Indians killed in the wars of 1965 and 1971. He is heading towards a very bad and painful end.
Now the question is who will be the next President of Pakistan.
The PPP and the PML-N can agree on a new prime minister but it would be great challenge to agree on a new President. Some diplomats in Islamabad were stunned few days ago when Nawaz Sharif announced that disgraced nuclear scientist Dr A Q Khan will be their presidential candidate. It will not be acceptable to the US and the West. PML-N sources said that party has not formally nominated Dr Khan as their candidate for presidency.
The PPP and the PML-N have to face many challenges in the coming days. Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif will meet soon and will try to resolve all issues, including the names of new prime minister and President.
It is expected that if the PML-N supports a PPP prime minister, the PPP will support a President named by the PML-N. There are no doubts that both the parties will restore real parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. The President will have no power to dissolve the national assembly.