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Disadvantage Musharraf

The latest suicide bombing in Islamabad, apparently targeted at Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, is yet another indication of President Pervez Musharraf?s growing unpopularity.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2007 00:28 IST

The latest suicide bombing in Islamabad, apparently targeted at Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, is yet another indication of President Pervez Musharraf’s growing unpopularity. Mr Musharraf prides himself on his ability to walk the political tightrope. But even he seems unable to deal with the serious internal problems he faces today. The political parties, at present, are not in a position to do him any significant damage. But, there are rumblings of unrest in the Pakistani army over his attempts to stay on in power even if it means extending the life of the National Assembly by a year through imposing emergency. He has also played a dangerous game by signing several controversial peace deals with tribal militants. They are united in their opposition to his cosying up to Washington, especially in the light of the airstrikes that the Americans have carried out against militants in the border areas. All this is bad news for the peace process between India and Pakistan. With the joint anti-terror mechanism due to meet on March 6, can we expect any progress? As things are at present, we cannot get our expectations up.

The main reason is that no one seems sure who is calling the shots in the Pakistani political establishment. Mr Musharraf expresses helplessness when confronted with the export of terror into India. Yet, at other times, he tries to convey the impression that he is fully in control. It is no secret that the shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of which sections are deeply fundamentalist, has a significant say in the course of Pakistan’s politics, especially dealings with India. Mr Musharraf knows that he cannot spin out the America card indefinitely. The Americans have been openly critical of him, with top officials like intelligence chief John Negroponte openly alluding to Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorism. His best bet would be to try and strengthen democratic institutions and processes.

The Pakistani economy is doing fairly well and Mr Musharraf should capitalise on this. Seven years after he took over power, he should endeavour to take a back seat and give Pakistan a system of governance that will bring lasting benefits to the people. Unfortunately, he does not appear to be able to get beyond his own petty concerns. This could have disastrous consequences for Pakistan.