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Pakistan: Poll leaves Musharraf cornered
Mohammad Shehzad
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February 20, 2008

The 2008 elections were the greatest surprise not for the people of Pakistan, but for President Pervez Musharraf [Images] and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid.

The PML-Q has suffered a humiliating defeat, which made Pakistanis think that elections were fair. But the fact is, the elections were adequately rigged -- both before the election and on the election day. However, the rigging did not help the pro-Musharraf party to win a majority. There are a few reasons as well. The major reason is Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Her murder made her a martyr. Those who were set to vote for PML-Q either abstained or they exercised their right in favour of the Pakistan People's Party or the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Rigging follows a formula. It is never done in a constituency where the victory or defeat of a certain candidate is obvious. It is done in such constituencies where there is neck-and-neck competition.

The "planned rigging" was done for every pro-Musharraf candidate where the competition was neck-and-neck among candidates. But Pakistan voters upset the establishment's plan. They proved the assumptions wrong by casting votes in favour of the PML-N or the PPP or the Awami National Party.

For example, the number of voters that were assumed to cast their votes in favour of the PML-Q did not. They cast votes against PML-Q. The rigging formula did not fail 100 per cent. It worked at some place as a result of which Chaudhry Parvez Ellahi could win a seat. Chaudhry Shujaat's brother was able to win a seat from Gujrat. Aftab Sherpao and Maulana Fazlur Rehman could also win.  Had there been no polling day rigging, the PML-Q could not have bagged 55 seats.

The most vulnerable person after the elections is President Musharraf. His future is extremely uncertain. Rigging has saved him from impeachment. To impeach him, two-third majority is required -- that means 228 seats against him.

But his election as President can be questioned in the Supreme Court. If the government formed by the three parties restores the judiciary then there is a real danger to Musharraf. There is a strong possibility that Musharraf could be declared ineligible to be the President. But there is still a solution. Musharraf can dissolve Parliament using his constitutional power as President to save his skin. The country will have new election. But in this case, a massive movement can emerge against Musharraf that could lead to his dismissal.

But, luck seems to be on Musharraf's side. Only the PML-N is insisting on the restoration of judiciary. It is not the PPP's priority. In fact, it is nowhere on its agenda. Asif Ali Zardari has said that his party has suffered due to some judges in the past.

The PML-N cannot form the government alone. Musharraf's special aide Tariq Aziz has become active. He met Zardari on Tuesday and suggested that Musharraf and the PML-Q will cooperate with him fully if the PPP agrees to form government with the PML-Q and the MQM.

Together they have enough seats to form the government. Although, Zardari has ruled out political cooperation with the PML-Q, saying it was never a political party but in politics no stance is considered final.

Politicians have a track record of changing stances and views. Musharraf does not want to see Nawaz Sharif in power. It is possible only if Sharif yields to Musharraf's terms and in return the President can allow him to contest in the by-elections. Thus Sharif could at least become the chief minister of Punjab. But so far, this is not acceptable to Sharif.

The establishment is working on bringing the PPP, PML-Q, MQM together. It is quite possible that they form a coalition government leaving PML-N and ANP as opposition parties. 

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