Monday, May 5, 2008

PPP Cutting Deal With Musharraf

A few weeks ago PPP's senior leader and current Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar described President Musharraf as a "national asset". Now a report in the Wall Street Journal is describing the details of secret negotiations underway between the President's men and Zardari's representatives.

Let us not forget how we got where we are. It all started with President Musharraf signing the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordnance) that gave the PPP leadership blanket amnesty. This arrangement between General Musharraf and late Prime Minister Bhutto, brokered by the Bush administration, paved the way for the PPP leadership to return to Pakistan, participate in the elections and share power with Mr. Musharraf. It was only later that the Saudis insisted on Pakistan allowing Nawaz Sharif's return that apparently displeased the US and the PPP leadership. But Sharif's remarkable showing in the elections in Punjab has made him a very important player that the PPP has to deal with.

According to the Wall Street Journal report today, the terms under discussion are as follows:

1. The President is willing to agree to a constitutional change that would restrict the president's power to dismiss Parliament.
2. Mr. Musharraf isn't prepared to relinquish his power to appoint the chiefs of the armed forces.
3. The former judges would be returned but the new judges appointed by Mr. Musharraf after their dismissal would be retained.
4. Mr. Musharraf will be legitimized by the current parliament as Pakistan's president for a five-year term.

The talks involve Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, head of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence, and close presidential aide Tariq Aziz. The two emissaries have been in regular contact with top PPP leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower who leads the party. PPP leaders have publicly declared that they are willing to have working relations with Mr. Musharraf.

The strains between the PPP and the PML (N) have given Mr. Musharraf's supporters a cause for optimism.

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