Clouds gather as 'sulky' Musharraf retreats to bunker
Despite US support, president is isolated in battle for power
Declan Walsh in Islamabad
The Guardian, February 23 2008
In some ways life has changed little for Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, since Monday's election. The retired general still trots out for afternoon tennis, aides say, and enjoys a game of bridge a few times a week. In the evenings he pulls on a cigar and, although he can't admit it, nurses a glass of whisky.
Visitors still call to see him at Army House, the marble-floored Rawalpindi residence of Pakistan's military chiefs, even though he retired three months ago. "It has been renamed Presidential Lodge," said spokesman Rashid Qureshi. "The normal routine is functioning."
But outside clouds are gathering. The spectacular rout of his Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party at the polls has shorn the retired commando of his political base, leaving him isolated and exposed.
"He's been sulking," said a senior party official. "He's retreated into a mental bunker, which is not healthy. He thinks everyone is out to get him and only listens to a small circle. It's a dangerous mindset to be in at this point in time. He could decide to hit back."
Musharraf's bad mood stems from the prospect of Nawaz Sharif, the rotund prime minister from Punjab he ousted in a 1999 coup and banished to Saudi Arabia a year later, returning to power. Sharif, who controls the second biggest party in parliament, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) has vowed to oust Musharraf at the earliest opportunity. "The nation has given its verdict. The sooner he accepts it the better," said Sharif.
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