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Note: This interview took place before the declaration of emergency in Pakistan.

Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: What exactly is this deal that’s been worked out between General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto?

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: This is like many deals. The main issues are not in the text of the deal. The deal we hear was actually done several weeks ago. They waited to sign the deal until an earlier crop of generals had retired, and a new crop of generals had been put in place, and the man that the Americans trust the most had been appointed to a position from where he will take over from Musharraf. This is not in the deal. The heart of the deal is that General Kayani, who has been the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan, who was actually Musharraf’s representative in the negotiations with Benazir Bhutto and who is the trusted general of The Pentagon, he will become the head of the armed forces, Benazir will become the prime minister, Musharraf will become the president. These three of them together will run the show. This deal can be undone by a number of factors. In the case of Benazir, there are major criminal cases pending against her. The other part of the deal is that Musharraf has issued an ordinance which promises to drop all criminal cases against all the politicians that were registered before Musharraf took over in 1999. So Benazir Bhutto is made to go scot-free, despite all her Swiss accounts, her villas in Spain, her country houses in Britain, and so on and so forth. So this is a laundry bag that she’s bringing back and she’s being laundered to become the prime minister. For Musharraf, the deal is that he will take off his uniform and cease to be the head of the army. But as president of Pakistan, he will have control both over civilian prime minister and basically over the armed forces as well.

NKWETA: So has he lost power in this deal? By making this deal, has his power been taken away? Has it been diluted?

AHMAD: Well, to a certain extent you can say that, in the sense that he will now have to share power with Benazir, who will be the prime minister leading the biggest party in the country. He’ll have to share power with the head of the army, chief of the army, the new chief of the army, General Kayani. General Kayani is the man through whom the United States will basically coordinate the war. And if Musharraf’s future behaviour is not to their liking, he can always be removed by General Kayani. So to that extent he has lost some power. But the very fact that he has been elected for another five years means that he can potentially remain the head of the state. The problem, however, is that this election in the parliament is being challenged in the Supreme Court, and he may yet be disqualified by the Supreme Court. The national reconciliation ordinance, which promises to make Benazir Bhutto free of these criminal charges is also being challenged in the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court may yet reject that ordinance, in which case the whole deal falls through and there is complete chaos. So this is very unstable. Things are open. We don’t know where it is going. And the worst-case scenario is if the Supreme Court gives such judgments, there might actually be a move towards the martial law.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Based in New Delhi, Aijaz Ahmad has appeared many times on The Real News Network; he is Senior Editorial Consultant, and political commentator for the Indian newsmagazine, Frontline. He has taught Political Science, and has written widely on South Asia and the Middle East.