Rather than face a damaging process of impeachment, President Pervez Musharraf should resign. He has become a divisive figure in Pakistan’s politics, a part of the problem rather than that of the solution. By quitting, Mr Musharraf would set a new and healthy precedent. But the former army chief isn’t the kind who goes gently into the good night. So we should expect the old battlehand to put up a fight.
Mr Musharraf had the opportunity to run Pakistan from 1999 to 2008. From a near bankrupt nation, he and his handpicked Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were able to turn the economy around, ably anchored by post-9/11 American aid. His ‘guided democracy’, however, ended in chaos after he ‘sacked’ Chief Justice Ifthekar Chaudhry last year. Most of 2007 was lost in agitation even as fundamentalist forces gained strength, posing a robust challenge to a tottering State. Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted as PM in October 1999 in a bloodless coup, is now baying for the President’s blood. Mr Sharif is powerful — and angry — and he has managed to convince the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Zardari that the time has come to get rid of Mr Musharraf.
Whatever issues Mr Zardari might have had with Mr Musharraf, these are all very minor compared to Mr Sharif’s differences with the President. In fact, Mr Sharif is the real driving force behind Thursday’s announcement that Mr Musharraf will be impeached through a parliamentary process. And along with the driving force there’s always the deciding force — in this case, Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. We won’t be surprised if Mr Kayani chose to sit on the fence on this one.
Given half a chance, Mr Musharraf won’t hesitate to use the dreaded Article 58(2)(b) to sack Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. But the President knows that without Mr Kayani’s backing, this won’t be tenable. Will the latter pull the plug and lead Pakistan to more agitation and anarchy? Or will the government, six months after elections were held, start governing Pakistan in earnest?