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'Pak Prez to rule for 10 more years'

Musharraf plans to consolidate Islamic democracy for five years and economic growth for another five.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 12:44 IST

Pervez Musharraf is likely to rule Pakistan for another 10 years amid signs that the country could become more and more Islamic, according to an Indian strategic expert.

With the army backing him, Musharraf is determined to win the 2007 general elections.

"This means that India will have to deal with him for at least a decade more," Vikram Sood told a gathering.

"Musharraf being the general that he is, he would eventually want to make sure that he wins (the election) hands down," Sood told a discussion at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

"A general who has given the impression that he is the saviour of Pakistan cannot afford to lose," he said. "I don't think the army wants to lose either.

"At the same time, he also has to give the impression of holding a free and fair election. How he is going to fine-tune this has to be seen."

Sood quoted some Pakistani analysts as saying that Musharraf planned to consolidate "Islamic democracy" for the next five years and economic growth for another five.

"If that is the agenda, Musharraf is going to be our neighbour for the next two parliamentary elections in our country," said Sood, a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's external intelligence agency.

"Barring a bullet or a massive upheaval, he will be around for 10 years."

Sood, however, warned that if there was no decisive verdict in favour of any party in Pakistan's elections, the vacuum could get filled by rightwing parties of the Islamic variety.

He said that Pakistanis might not want Islamists in power, but they could end up electing an Islamist government like it happened in Palestine.

"So we need to reckon the fact that Pakistan is going to be get more and more Islamic," he warned, adding that the idea of jehad was getting ingrained in that country's rural areas.

And despite the peace process, Pakistan remained obsessed with the aim of neutralising India's military superiority, Sood said.

"This obsession will not change unless Pakistan's rulers realise or are made to realise that Pakistan may need to pay a price."

He also poined out that Pakistan's anti-India phobia had deprived it of a one billion-strong market and the chance of tapping the booming Indian middle class eager to visit the country.

Sood said that the US was getting somewhat impatient with Pakistan because it felt it was not doing enough for the war against terror.

At the same time, Islamabad distrusted New Delhi's growing ties with Washington and was trying to get further close to Beijing as a counter.