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Will Musharraf go public with his plans?

world Updated: Jul 02, 2007 13:34 IST
IANS
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Will Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf announce a poll timetable? Will he make public his own plans for a second term as president, and will that be with or without his army chief's uniform?

The media is rife with speculation over what the "important announcement" would be when he addresses the nation sometime this week.

Chipping in from London is The Sunday Telegraph that predicts that Musharraf may step down from the army chief's job when that term expires in October and go for the jugular by seeking a second term to the presidency as a civilian.

To do this, he must first choose a military commander from among the lieutenant generals and also strike a deal with exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was quoted by the newspaper as saying that that it was difficult to be sure of what the president would do next.

"The situation is fluid, uncertain and unpredictable," she said.

She is also worried about the transparency and credibility of the elections.

"The military dictatorship has undermined the constitution, the civil institutions and the parliament. It is one-man rule and hence there is an unpredictability of what might happen," she told the London newspaper.

The Pakistani daily Dawn said in a detailed report that timing was of the essence for Musharraf who is at risk of losing if he does not play his cards well.

It dwelt on the possibility of a caretaker government taking office.

"What is at stake here is not only the general elections but the general's own political future. More than anyone else, the president knows full well that just one error of judgement could be disastrous for him and some of his key policies of the last few years," the newspaper said.

"Time is of the essence in this tricky game, and most pundits and constitutional experts see July 15 as the cut-off date when it will become clear if the president wants early polls or is considering other options," it added.

It disclosed that Musharraf was to retreat for a break in the Murree hills early this week, mainly to mull the suggestions received from different sections of the establishment and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid (PML-Q).

"That trip was put off at the last minute, indicating that he still feels more consultation is needed before a final decision," it said.

Different lobbies within the establishment have been advocating all kinds of options - from early elections to polls in phases and holding elections a year later, by December 2008.

Highly informed sources say that the president was, until last week, seriously considering the early elections option, though it is not clear if he was convinced about holding polls in phases.

These sources say that another strong voice within the establishment, one that favours General Musharraf's election from the present assemblies, has prevailed in the last few days, indicating that general elections may now take place "in December or thereabouts".

But there are also some who want elections postponed for a year. Musharraf not making an announcement by July 15 could mean that the elections would be postponed, the newspaper said.

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