Although Pakistan’s President Musharraf has denied rumours about his impending resignation, it seems impossible for him to stop them. After the papers “The News” and “Jang” predicted on Thursday that the president was about to step down, in their Friday editions, several other newspapers advised the Head of State to leave office, among them the English language publications “The Nation” and the “Daily Times”.
People rallying to observe May Dayin Karachi also called for Musharraf to resign
It was a late night meeting this week between Pervez Musharraf and his successor as army chief, General Kiyani, which fuelled speculations that the president was on his way out. Pakistani TV channels quickly picked up the newspaper stories and kept the president’s spokesman busy dismissing all such talk as "nonsense".
Yet political analyst Nasim Zahra, like many others, thinks there is some truth in the rumours: "At this time it seems that General Musharraf is left with few options. It has become clear that his political support is getting less all the time. His path is getting more and more narrow, and there is no exit point to be seen!"
Losing support in all quarters
Anti-Musharraf Slogans such as "go, Musharraf, go!" have been resounding during demonstrations all over Pakistan for more than a year now. The parties supporting Musharraf were routed in the February 18 elections. And the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in particular, the very man deposed by Musharraf’s coup in 1999, has been calling for the President to quit.
Nevertheless, it seemed until now that Musharraf could rely on several other influential political forces who still wanted him to stay on: first of all the United States, who have counted on him as an ally in the "war on terrorism" ever since 9/11; then the army, whose chief he was until last November; and finally even the biggest political party, the Pakistan People's Party or PPP of Prime Minister Gillani.
The PPP kept blocking Nawaz Sharif’s demands for the reinstatement of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, it seemed – precisely because they did not want to provoke Musharraf.
The role of the People's Party
But meanwhile, PPP chief, Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Zardari, has also begun criticizing Musharraf in public and demanding that his powers as president be cut. Under the constitution, the president can, for example, dissolve parliament.
Questioned by journalists on Friday when Musharraf’s future would be decided, Asif Zardari chose to give a diplomatic answer in his usual joking style: "To your, well, innocent question, let me answer that it will happen when you want it, when your parliament, the people of Pakistan want it."
But in reality, most Pakistanis feel that one thing certainly hasn’t changed since February 18: The really important decisions are not taken in parliament and in public, they tend to be taken somewhere beind the scenes, behind closed doors.
Wasting time on a lame duck?
Ayaaz Amir, a lawmaker for Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League, does not think that Musharraf deserves all the public attention he is getting these days.
„To some extent this talk is obscuring things, because after February 18 General Musharraf is no longer a problem for anything," notes Amir. When he goes, we’ll celebrate for a few days more, but these celebrations are not going to remove the real problems!"
Many commentators in Pakistan are frustrated that the ongoing tussle with Musharraf is keeping the politicians away from addressing real issues such as economic development and public safety.