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Musharraf future hangs in balance

Political observers say that an alliance between the PPP and the PML-N may not last long if key issues are not decided, reports Kamal Siddiqi.
By Kamal Siddiqi | Hindustan Times, Karachi
UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2008 10:54 PM IST


While there is speculation that it may be the end of the road for President Pervez Musharraf, political analysts here are saying the opposite may, in fact, be the case. A hung parliament means a coalition government will come into office by March, and such a n arrangement needs a push from the President.

“It may be very easy to say that Musharraf has to go but the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) may need his help if they are to form a government at the Centre,” said analyst Hasan Nisar.

Political observers say that an alliance between the PPP, headed by Asif Ali Zardari and the PML-N, headed by Nawaz Sharif, may not last long if key issues are not decided. This is a fact many within both parties also realise. “Let us sort out our outstanding issues before we come to some agreement,” said PPP leader Aitezaz Ahsan, who fears if things are not settled, the situation could be like what the PPP government saw when it was voted into power in 1988.

Benazir Bhutto was the then Prime Minister, leading a PPP-led coalition government, while Nawaz Sharif was the chief minister of Punjab province, and her biggest detractor. This time too, the PPP is looking at heading a coalition government while Sharif’s PML-N will form the provincial government in Punjab, Pakistan’s most important province politically.

An offer by Nawaz Sharif at a news conference to PML-Q MPs to “come back to their mother party” has raised eyebrows. There are those within the PPP who say Sharif may be trying to garner some sort of an alliance with the help of the smaller parties.

In all this, the President has taken a back seat. At the same time, Musharraf may end up having a role when it comes to pushing through a national coalition government. And with the army and bureaucracy on his side, Musharraf’s influence may help in MPs changing sides as well as being bought by one party or another. “This makes him the kingmaker in the proper sense”, an analyst said.

On Wednesday, Musharraf had said when asked whether he would resign: “No, not yet. We have to move forward in a way that we bring about a stable democratic government to Pakistan.”

What many in Pakistan see is that once the rhetoric dies down and the fight starts for a share of the pie, the political alliances that are being talked about now will start to crack. This is when Musharraf’s role will further strengthen.

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