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Bhutto’s legacy and Musharraf’s future

Aijaz Ahmad: Who will fill the vacuum after Bhutto’s death? Will the Army turn on Musharraf?

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: The elections in Pakistan will take place on February 18. Aijaz, tell us what’s likely to happen in the elections.

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: Well, the immensity of the tragedy is such now, Paul, that whatever decisions the PPP makes, all other political parties are going to follow that decision. And the question will be whether or not this combination of parties can now create a government which will have two-thirds majority to take drastic steps to overhaul much of the constitutional amendments that Musharraf has put in place.

JAY: How has Pakistani opinion received the kind of coronation of Benazir Bhutto’s son, nineteen year old son, is going to be the leader of the PPP? His father, who has corruption charges against him in England and in Pakistan essentially running the party? It’s this family handover. How has it been received by people?

AHMAD: Well, Paul, it’s a feudal entourage. What has happened is that Benazir herself named her husband as the one who will become the head of the party in the case of her own death or assassination. Zardari’s, her husband’s, coming to absolute power in the party would have been greatly resented by a vast majority of the Pakistani population in any other circumstances. But as the aggrieved husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, much of that sentiment has been muted because of the sympathy factor.

JAY: Once the shock of her death begins to reduce, will that also begin the reduction of support for her husband? And does this play in favour of Sharif and Sharif’s party?

AHMAD: They were very keen to have the elections as soon as possible, so that the elections are held before the sympathy wave dies down. Even February 18, all that sympathy is not going to disappear. I don’t expect much of a shift of vote from the PPP to Nawaz Sharif, which is indicated by Sharif’s own behaviour. He, I think, feels that it is really the PPP’s moment, and he can hold onto his own base, not by competing with them, but by cooperating with them as much as possible.

JAY: Now, the candidate that the PPP would put forward likely to be prime minister is the vice chairman of the party, Amin Fahim. Who is he? Is he someone who can emerge as a real player?

AHMAD: Makhdoom Amin Fahim is a man of feudal background. He’s an old, seasoned figure in Pakistani politics. He certainly is much more respected than Benazir’s husband, Asif Zardari. He could become a credible prime ministerial candidate, but certainly not of the stature of Benazir Bhutto, and he’s unlikely ever to have that kind of following.

JAY: Is the real power in Pakistan now in Kayani’s hands, the current head of the army?

AHMAD: Well, there’s General Majid, who is the chairman of the joint chiefs. There is Kayani himself. There’s Musharraf, who has kept a very elaborate military establishment surrounding himself. So there are different centers of power, I think, even within the military establishment. But I have always emphasize that the military institution in Pakistan attaches an extraordinary degree of importance to the unity of the institution. They are very reluctant to take action against one of their own, so long as that one of their own is in a position of power. So I don’t really expect Kayani to make any dramatic moves against Musharraf, unless circumstances force him to do so, which may happen if there is a coalition government after the elections commanding more than two-thirds of the majority, and that coalition somehow discards Musharraf’s election as a president. I don’t believe Kayani will step up to save Musharraf in a situation like that. But I doubt if he’ll make coup against Musharraf, unless the Americans tell him to do so.

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