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Nawaz Sharif kicked out of Pakistan again

Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister in 1999 when he attempted to prevent the plane carrying the Army Chief, General Musharraf, from landing in Pakistan. Getting wind of this, the army carried out a coup, removed Nawaz Sharif and installed General Musharraf in power. At that time, many sections of the country welcomed this move, since Nawaz Sharif was seen as acting as a dictator without any check. Benazir Bhutto had already fled the country, and there was no effective opposition to the strong arm tactics of Nawaz Sharif and his men.
Soon, Nawaz Sharif was in jail, threatened with a number of cases and sentenced to life in prison. In a deal brokered by the Saudis and the Lebanese Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif along with brother was taken from the jail, and sent to exile in Saudi Arabia for a period of 10 years in lieu of their prison sentence.

However, as it became clear that Gen Musharraf was losing support and Benazir Bhutto threatened to take the initiative, it must have occurred to Nawaz Sharif that he would lose out, sitting in exile; hence the pressure to come back. It was worth a try, if he succeeded, he would succeed in being projected as the alternative while Bhutto continued her discussions.

As Pakistan’s latest political theatre unfolded today, one question loomed larger than ever: is this the endgame for President Pervez Musharraf? After eight years of rule, the commando general has never been more vulnerable. His popularity is plummeting, his friends are getting cold feet and the political fires that have slowly burned for six months are licking at his ankles.
To curry favour with the electorate, he needs a power-sharing arrangement with Benazir Bhutto, the other exiled premier and one of Pakistan’s most popular figures. But the deal being thrashed out in Dubai is in serious jeopardy. Key supporters on both sides are in quiet revolt. Some Benazir officials consider Gen Musharraf to be politically toxic; the general’s political lieutenants realise that in any compromise, their party – composed largely of opportunists and sell-outs – will be unceremoniously sacrificed. Mr Sharif exile to Saudi Arabia also means that Ms Bhutto must extract a high price to retain her credibility. Not only must Gen Musharraf resign as army chief, she says, but he must also abandon the right to fire the prime minister. This may be too much for Gen Musharraf to stomach.

In all, this General can only lose. He does not have much political support; the Islamists despise him, the Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif don’t like him too much either. The main query is as to how long he can survive.

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