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Deal between Benazir and the Musharraf: Not a done deal

Pakistan is in the midst of a major crisis. One would not have thought even a few months back that the all-powerful President and General Musharraf, who leads the army and is also the President, would be quivering at the thought of the return of two has-been former Prime Ministers who were essentially exiled from the country. At the time of the coup, the General was all-powerful. He had Nawaz Sharif under lock and key, in fear of his life; another former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was already in exile, being threatened by the power of corruption cases. And the President has had a long period after that with being in power for 8 years now. In addition, as per the constitution, both the former Prime Ministers were ineligible to stand again for power because of a clause limiting the Prime Ministers terms to two.
And now everything seems to have turned down. Benazir Bhutto seems to be calling the shots in terms of a deal that will make Musharraf stand again for President. She actually laid down conditions and deadlines for him to give up his army uniform, something that the former commando would be unwilling to accept. But he has been so weakened by the campaign against him, by the reversal of his sacking of the Chief Justice and the reversals against the Taliban and tribals in Pakistan’s wilder areas, that he is no longer as popular as he thought. It is also widely suspected that many elements of the army are not in favour of him, and that is the biggest weakness that he has.

Pakistan’s government is still interested in seeking a power-sharing deal with former prime minister and key opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, an official said Sunday, after Bhutto said months of talks with the government were at a standstill. Bhutto said on Saturday in London, where she lives in exile, that the talks — aimed at gaining her support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s bid to win a new five-year term — had failed to reach an agreement.
Azim said any agreement between Bhutto and the government should also have backing from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which staunchly supports Musharraf. Musharraf and his emissaries have been negotiating with Bhutto to get her party’s backing for the army general, as he prepares to seek another presidential term in a vote by lawmakers likely in September or October.
In return, Bhutto wants the government to drop corruption charges against her and to support a constitutional amendment that would allow her to serve a third term as prime minister.

There are several stumbling blocks to this deal. If Benazir agrees to a deal, she risks alienating her support base since they are opposed to the General. If the General agrees to this deal, it means that his support base of parliamentarians have agreed to give up power and sit in the opposition, something that they are not expected to be comfortable with.

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