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Aijaz Ahmad: New coalition government challenges US backed Musharraf

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AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: Events in Pakistan are moving fast. And President Musharraf, whose position seemed to be fairly secure until quite recently, may now be facing a day of final reckoning fairly soon. His strength, of course, comes from the fact that he has been backed from Washington and London, as well as by the headquarters of the armed forces within Pakistan. It is well known in Islamabad that both the American and the British embassies have been very active on his behalf, arguing that the Parliament has to work with President Musharraf. In the middle of last week, Admiral Mullen, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, visited Islamabad, held highly publicized meetings with the top corps commanders, as well as with President Musharraf, and the visit was seen all across Pakistan as an indication of US backing for Musharraf even at this late date. While all of that was going on, the election commission has notified the final results for the National Assembly, except for the ten seats, which are either under litigation or for some other reason, elections had been postponed. What now seems quite clear is that the three political parties which have come together to form a coalition government are barely three seats short of a two-thirds majority, which is what they need if they wish to override the constitutional amendments which President Musharraf had put in place in days of his power, and even to impeach him if they so desire. It is in this context that General Ashfaq Kayani, now the chief of the Pakistan armed forces, issued a remarkable statement after he had held a meeting with his top corps commanders. In the meeting, he made essentially three points: that the army had not distanced itself from the president; that there must be no schisms between what he called the pillars of the state, meaning between the presidency and the Parliament; and that the army should not be dragged back into politics. Across the board in Pakistan, among politicians as well as media, this statement was seen as a veiled threat and something of an intervention on the part of the armed forces already, because what it seems to suggest is that if there is what they call a “schism” between the president and the Parliament, the army may feel itself compelled to get dragged into politics, that is to say, it may step in to resolve that schism. On the same day, Mr. Musharraf, President Musharraf, General Musharraf, who is still the ex-officio head of the armed forces in his capacity as president, said elsewhere in Pakistan that he was willing to convene the new National Assembly in ten days or so if peace prevailed. In other words, if what he deemed to be peace did not prevail, he may not be willing to call the National Assembly into session at all and may postpone it as long as he wishes. He is, of course, armed with the amendments he has introduced into the constitution, which gives him the power to dissolve Parliament, and we simply do not know what this man may do in desperation.


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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.