Thursday, October 4, 2007

In Pakistan, Bhutto gives in to Musharraf ?

One day ahead of his bid for re-election, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has got the legitimacy he was seeking – a deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The government and Bhutto’s party said they had both agreed on a national reconciliation accord which would be made public later Friday, according to a report from AFP in Khaleej Times.

It appears however, at this point, that with Bhutto’s blessings, Musharraf will seek re-election on October 6 from a Parliament whose term is running out. This is just what Musharraf wanted, although his opponents wanted him to seek re-election after a new Parliament and provincial assemblies were elected.

The accord gives an amnesty for politicians active in Pakistan between 1988 and 1999 -- effectively clearing Bhutto of the corruption charges that forced her into exile eight years ago, according to AFP.

That clears the way for Bhutto, but it is not clear yet whether another former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also in the clear. Will the Pakistan government still insist that he finish his 10 year term of exile ? That would leave the field open in the next parliament elections to Bhutto.

It also appears that the President will seek re-election even as he holds the post of chief of army staff. He has indicated that he will quit his army post if re-elected. Either way this ensures Musharraf stays in power.

From available information the deal seems one-sided, and unless it includes all the parties including that of Nawaz Sharif, it will look like a desperate Bhutto struck a deal with the President to further her own interests, rather than that of the country. It could also strengthen extremist elements in the country.

An agreement to be durable must also work out the modalities to send the army back to the barracks, and keep them out of politics. Else this deal will be one of many abortive and short-lasting moves by civilians to get power from the country's military.

Musharaff is still not in the clear as Pakistan's Supreme Court has to still rule on new petitions challenging his re-election. The agreement with Bhutto has to still be promulgated by the President.

Related articles:

Theatre of the absurd in Pakistan
In Pakistan, army rule legalized by Supreme Court
US policy in Pakistan hypocritical

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