Sunday, July 29, 2007
The Reality about BB-Musharraf Deal?
BBC: Bhutto lays down Pakistan terms: July 29, 2007
Bhutto ready to share power if Musharraf drops military role
· Joint rule seen as best way to beat extremists
· Deal could rescue beleaguered general
Declan Walsh; July 30, 2007, The Guardian
Pakistan's exiled opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, has said she can share power with President Pervez Musharraf, but only if he quits as army chief.
Ms Bhutto's comments, in a television interview, followed a secret meeting with General Musharraf on Friday in the United Arab Emirates. Confirmation of the encounter by a cabinet minister intensified media speculation on the future of Pakistan's troubled government. "Deal done, sealed," said one newspaper headline.
But there was little hard information about what transpired in the meeting, which followed months of quiet negotiations. The sticking point appears to be whether Gen Musharraf can retain his dual role as president and head of the army. In an interview with the local KTN station late on Saturday, Ms Bhutto said: "We do not accept President Musharraf in uniform. Our stand is that, and I stick to my stand."
In theory, a deal would make sense for both leaders. Gen Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, wants to remain as president after elections due within the next six months. But after a series of political bungles and rising Islamist violence, he is unpopular and isolated.
Ms Bhutto, considered Pakistan's most popular politician, has been in exile since 1997. She finds her return to power blocked by longstanding corruption charges and a bar on anyone standing as prime minister three times - she served as prime minister in the late 80s and the mid-90s.
Gen Musharraf's woes have intensified since the Red Mosque siege this month and a wave of suicide attacks that have killed almost 200 people. The latest, in Islamabad while he was meeting Ms Bhutto on Friday, killed at least 14 people.
In recent weeks several mid-ranking parliamentarians from Gen Musharraf's political vehicle, the PML-Q, have defected to Ms Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples party (PPP). Gen Musharraf has previously derided Ms Bhutto as corrupt and ineffective, but her left-leaning stance is close to his in Pakistan's conservative political spectrum. Supporters of a deal say the two could mount a united front against Islamism - a prospect likely to please western allies.
But in Pakistan, opinion is split between idealists calling for an unconditional exit of the military from politics, and pragmatists who say compromise is necessary.
"We are trying to show Musharraf that civilians have to play a role in this country," said a senior PPP figure.
"I don't think Pakistan will move towards democracy if Musharraf remains as chief executive," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political commentator. "It will only strengthen the military's role in politics, because it shows what they can get away with."
There are many potential hurdles before a deal. The recent supreme court verdict in favour of chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry signalled the emergence of an assertive judiciary that could scupper Gen Musharraf's plans. The ISI intelligence service, which rigged several polls in the 90s, remains a mercurial presence. And Ms Bhutto's dalliance with Gen Musharraf could cost her support within her own party.
Then there is the issue of ego. Gen Musharraf has a bluff, militaristic style; he recently said his uniform was his second skin. Ms Bhutto has a reputation for being domineering, and in previous governments shared power only grudgingly.
See Daily Times Story on the subject: Pakistan faced with threat of Islamist revolt: No deal with uniformed president: BB
at 11:04 PM