If anything can be said with certainty about developments in Pakistan, it is probably this: President Pervez Musharraf doesn’t have too many options on the table. By declaring Emergency rule, the besieged General has obviously bought himself some breathing space. He must have known that he was taking a huge risk by waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on his re-election as President. The court had stayed the official announcement of the result till it ruled on several petitions filed by Opposition parties against General Musharraf. This included a challenge to the validity of the ‘special dispensation’ he had helped himself to four years ago, which allowed him to continue in power as both the President and the army chief.
An adverse judgment, as seemed very likely, would have made his presidency illegal, and that’d have made it impossible for him to proclaim an Emergency. In that sense, the Emergency is a point-of-no-return for the General, whose only option is apparently to have his re-election endorsed by the newly-constituted apex court. He could then try to carry out the deal he had made with Benazir Bhutto. He still requires Ms Bhutto and her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — which continues to enjoy huge popularity — as an insurance policy to give legitimacy to his position. Ms Bhutto, on her part, is unlikely to readily give up this opportunity to return to power for a third time, just for the sake of opposing the General. In fact, she probably knows that without the General, she stands little chance of achieving this. Never mind if the PPP had once signed up to the so-called ‘charter of democracy’ with Opposition parties led by former PM Nawaz Sharif. Going by signals from Washington, the West, too, is disillusioned with the General.
The general feeling, though, appears to be that he should be around at least till a proper political process replaces him, rather than being overthrown by a sudden revolt. Which perhaps is not a bad idea, given the tinderbox that Pakistan is fast turning into.