August 9, 2007

Musharraf: No State Of Emergency

Rumors swirled yesterday that Pervez Musharraf would declare a state of emergency, postponing upcoming elections and ruling even further by decree to deal with the rise of radicalism in Pakistan. Agence France-Presse now reports that Musharraf has decided against that declaration, despite pressure from key aides to do so:

Embattled President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday decided against imposing a state of emergency in Pakistan to cope with growing security and stability concerns, a senior government official told AFP.

The military ruler, facing the greatest challenge to his leadership since he seized power in a 1999 coup, decided against the move -- which would have postponed next year's elections -- after conferring with aides, he said.

"The president has rejected the suggestions to declare a state of emergency as proposed by his political allies," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Musharraf had been working towards a deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, now in exile, to ally with her and the moderate democrats. Musharraf needs that power base to oppose the radical Islamists that he once courted. However, Bhutto and the moderates have insisted that Musharraf has to resign as either Army leader or as head of state. Given his popularity at the moment, he's unlikely to be re-elected to power, and if he resigns from the Army, he will lose all power.

An emergence decree would also be seen as an extension of his attempt to oust a leading jurist -- a bid for tighter control that already has backfired on him. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry was handling the application for a return from exile for another former PM, Nawaz Sharif, when Musharraf tried to sack him. Sharif wants to participate in the upcoming elections that Musharraf's declaration would have canceled, and clearly Musharraf wants the conservative Sharif, who head the Muslim League, out of the way.

Now, though, Musharraf says that he will not delay elections as an emergency decree would have mandated. He will not give his rivals that kind of edge in their next campaigns, which would have to come at some point, and which would have ended Musharraf's power in any case. It looks like Musharraf wants to start building a case for his re-election now and has accepted that as his only long-term chance at legitimately remaining in power. It's also the only chance of forming a large enough coalition to beat the radical Islamists looking to kill him at the first opportunity.


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Comments (1)

Posted by KW64 | August 9, 2007 1:43 PM

90 + comments on an underage drinking chage and 0 comments on the possible loss of a nuclear armed ally in the war on terror? Interesting priorities.

I think Musharraf is playing the only game he can. Support for a 3rd term for Bhutto and resigning the army leadership in exchange for reelection by the current parliament to another term. Bhutto may not be able to do it already. Stirring up more public oppositon by an emergency decree could undercut Bhutto's ability to make the deal. The military may also question such a move. Since they already face an Islamist violent threat, they may not wish to deal with widespread public insurrection as well.

If Pervez is president he will probably be able to control the military even after the next round of parlimentary elections unless it is wildly adverse.

Musharraf and Bhutto are the best the US can hope for. Any US politicians that undercut them now may come to regret it later.

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