Saturday, July 28, 2007

Musharaff And Bhutto Fail To Agree Deal

By Cernig

In another sign of the weakening position of Pakistani dictator General Musharaff, he has failed to secure a deal with ex-PM Benazir Bhutto which could have bolstered his regime for another term.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf held secret talks with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a government minister said Saturday. Media widely reported that the once-bitter rivals had discussed a power-sharing deal.

The president, who is struggling with twin upsurges in Islamic militancy and calls for democracy, ``held a successful meeting'' with Bhutto in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on Friday, Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. He would not elaborate, but said ``hopefully'' Bhutto's secular, socially liberal Pakistan Peoples Party - Pakistan's largest opposition party - would decide to back Musharraf.

Pakistani media reported that Musharraf and Bhutto discussed a possible power-sharing deal for nearly an hour but ended without agreement.

Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, a minister in the coalition government that backs Musharraf, said it appeared the two were trying to strike a deal to secure another term for the general while paving the way for Bhutto to return as prime minister.

For that to happen, the government would have to change the constitution that prohibits anyone from becoming prime minister more than twice. Musharraf also faces constitutional hurdles if he wants to cling onto his position as army chief while staying on as president.

...The Abu Dhabi talks faltered when Bhutto, who leads her party from self-imposed exile in London and the United Arab Emirates, refused to agree to support Musharraf if he did not resign from the military, Geo television reported, citing unnamed sources.

Musharraf is in the weakest position of his political career. He recently attempted, and failed, to oust Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, an independent-minded judge who could rule on expected legal challenges to Musharraf's plans for re-election.

Musharraf's move against the judge reinforced perceptions of an overbearing military and triggered rallies by tens of thousands of lawyers and opposition activists, including from Bhutto's party.
Bhutto knows she has a strong hand right now, but she must be careful of over-playing it. If the military decides Musharaff is a spent force it will just install a new dictator and roll on regardless. I still think that's the most likely outcome of the current Pakistani turmoil although I hope otherwise. As BigTentDemocrat says, this situation bears watching.

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