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Musharraf Re-Elected: What's Next

Amid significant protest, Musharraf won Parliamentary re-election on October 6 to a new 5-year term as Pakistan's president. Only 252 votes were cast among the National Parliament and the four provincial assemblies in the provinces of Punjab (Lahore), Balochistan (Quetta), Sindh (Kirachi), and the North West Frontier Province (Peshawar). Most of the missing votes were due to opposition mass resignations. These resignations were symbolic, as they would not have had enough votes to defeat a Musharraf candidacy. Also missing were the votes from former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistani Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) after they abstained from voting rather than resign along with other opposition parties.

The opposition parties are expected to gain a parliamentary majority as a result of the upcoming national elections in January. It is for this reason that Musharraf asked for and received an early presidential election ahead of the January national vote from a still-friendly parliament. Had he waited, he most likely would have had no chance at winning another presidential term.

Going forward, there are several key dates within the next 45 days to keep an eye on as they approach.
  • October 13-17 - While several legal petitions challenging the legality Musharraf's candidacy (due to his concurrent service in the military as the Army Chief of Staff) have been dismissed, several still remain on the Pakistani Supreme Court's docket. They have promised to rule by October 17. They are expected to rule in favor of Musharraf, and can also likely be expected to rule as late as possible.
  • October 18 - Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto announced that she will return to Pakistan from exile on this date. In self-exile to avoid prosecution on charges of corruption, Pervez Musharraf granted her immunity several days ago in as part of efforts to reach a power-sharing agreement.
  • November 15 - This is the day that Musharraf said that he will retire from the military and cede his post as Army Chief of Staff if he is re-elected and confirmed as Pakistan's president. The election was won in parliament. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will dismiss the challenges to his candidacy.
  • January ?? - The national elections for selecting a new parliament were announced by Musharraf to take place in January. Perhaps not coincidentally, he also announced that there will be no Pakistani Army troop deployments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by January as well. These duties in the area largely controlled by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance will be handled exclusively by the Interior Ministry's Frontier Corps and constabularies' less-capable and less professional paramilitaries.
There are clearly significant known events expected between now and January inside Pakistan. What remains expectedly unknown are the actions, attacks and maneuvers of the ongoing al-Qaeda insurgency now expanding beyond the FATA and creeping ever closer to Islamabad.

Regardless of unforeseen events unfolding between now and January, Musharraf's decision to disengage his most professional forces from increasingly more dangerous and capable al-Qaeda and Taliban within their FATA havens looks to accelerate direct US action against them in one form or another - be it via airstrikes, covert actions including the use of potential proxies, or (not at all likely in the near to mid-term) overt US military ground operations.

In a nutshell, even with Musharraf remaining Pakistan's president, the al-Qaeda problem inside Pakistan grows and must be dealt with one way or the other. One of the only things that remains clear is that the defeat of al-Qaeda inside Pakistan will not come at the hands of the Pakistani military. It certainly will not come at the hands of paramilitary Interior Ministry forces who are out-manned, out-gunned and out-classed by a fighting force of terrorists who maintain superior motivation.

3 Comments

Thanks for this update, Steve. Do you think that the dis-affected opposition will now find some common ground with the Taliban and al-Qaeda against Musharraf?

Quite welcome, Jeffrey.

As to common ground between AQ-Taliban and the opposition, no insofar as any new development.

Caveat: The MMA (religious parties alliance) always has had common ground and in many respects can be considered AQ-T's parliamentarian representation already.

But aside from pushing for 'democracy' - albeit to achieve vastly different ends - there will likely never be much common ground between, say, Bhutto's PPPP and AQ-T or the MMA.

The fact that they are all opposed to Musharraf's rule is where the similarities do and will end.

unfortunately, the added vociferous opposition to Musharraf from moderate circles of power are feeding the Islamists whether they like it or not. Each side believes it can control post-Musharraf. One will.

If I were a betting man, I'd bet on those with the guns in a domestic political crisis. Currently, the Army and Interior Minstry have guns, as do the Islamists through the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance.

This is precisely why AQ has been targeting the Army with their PSYOP (to get them on their side when the time comes) and unleashing bloody attacks on Interior Ministry forces including FC and police (to neutralize the weaker as much as possible).

In a full blown internal political crisis, I can't seem to find one historical reference where the moderates - at least initially - came out on top of the parties with the guns.

The Army's in a tug-o-war between AQ and Musharraf (and, increasingly, us).

Hope that answers your question satisfactorily. I'm glad you asked it.

Another thing: Nawaz Sharif's PML-N Party is a curious stone. It must be considered that, while perhaps not a reflection on all its members, Sharif was reported to have been given 3 Billion rupees from bin Laden in his first national election attempt.

It should also be noted that he lost then, indicating that AQ is entrenched in Pakistani politics but is by no means all-powerful or invincible.