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Musharraf's PM hopes a distant dream?

world Updated: May 21, 2010 19:04 IST

That former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is eyeing the Prime Minister's post is not surprising considering that the sweeping powers he had taken away from the office have now returned to where they belonged.

At the same time, it is early days yet for the mid-term elections he is hoping for and through which he hopes to ride to power, analysts here say.

Before all this, the basic question analysts say the Pakistani government will have to answer is: Will it guarantee Musharraf's safety if he returns home from the year-long lecture tour of the US and Europe that he has been on?

Given the tremendous pressure that compelled Musharraf to step down first as army chief in December 2007 and then as president in August 2008, the government would be wary of doing so and, without his security guaranteed, Musharraf would be extremely loathe to return.

Musharraf, in an interview to CNN Thursday, said he plans to return home to re-enter politics and indicated he wants to be the Prime Minister.

Musharraf initially declined to say whether he was eyeing a particular office, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "The question... of whether I am running for president or Prime Minister will be seen later."

But his subsequent remarks clearly implied he wants to be the Prime Minister.

"We run a parliamentary system there" Musharraf said, adding: "So you have to -- your party has to win in the election. Then only do you decide to run."

"Basically, you are heading the party, you are running for the Prime Ministership," he declared.

"Because in Pakistan, the chief executive is the Prime Minister, not the president," he added.

Musharraf certainly didn't think that way in 2003 when, thanks to a pliant Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, he compelled parliament to pass the controversial 17th constitution amendment transferring sweeping executive powers to the presidency.

These included the powers to dissolve the lower house of parliament and the provincial assemblies, as also to appoint the service chiefs and the Supreme Court chief justice.

In April, the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, passed the 18th amendment to overturn that.

Then, analysts point out, Musharraf is groping in the dark when he speaks of the possibility of mid-term elections possibly next year.

The ruling coalition, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, is in a comfortable position in the National Assembly with 163 of 272 seats. The opposition is much too fragmented to offer any real challenge and if push comes to shove, the ruling coalition can count on the support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The PML-N, in fact was part of the coalition formed after the February 2008 general elections that saw it winning 91 seats, second only to the PPP's 124.

The PML-N, however, walked out after President Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP co-chair, began soft-pedaling on two key issues that had been agreed on in their charter of governance: restoration of the judges Musharraf had sacked after declaring an emergency in November 2007 and repealing the 17th amendments.

With these two issues now resolved, there is every possibility of the PML-N returning to the coalition. As of now, there is little possibility of the government falling and if the PML-N returns it would be even more strengthened.

Finally, with the army fully occupied with battling the Taliban in Pakistan's northwest, the possibility of it toppling the government is remote, given the cordial relations between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Gilani cemented this further Thursday when he hauled up Defence Minister Mukhtar Ahmed for suggesting that Kayani, who is due to retire in October, would not be given an extension.

The issue would be decided at the appropriate time, the Prime Minister said.

Thus, the possibility of Musharraf becoming Pakistan's Prime Minister, let alone returning home seems to be a distant dream, analysts say.